NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t the feat Regis Prograis wanted to pull off in his hometown, but he did successfully defend his WBC junior welterweight title on Saturday night.
Prograis defeated Danielito Zorrilla by split decision Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center. Prograis won by two cards, 118-109 and 117-110, while a scorecard went down to Zorrilla with 114-113.
Prograis (29-1, 25 KOs) was honest about his performance and felt he could have put on a better show for the local crowd.
“My performance was S—. I can admit that it wasn’t a good performance,” said Prograis. “In the last two days I felt the nervousness of my hometown. The fights in my hometown are the worst I’m definitely not happy with my performance.
Zorrilla (17-2, 13 KO’s) took the fight less than a month in advance as he was a late replacement for undefeated Australian fighter Liam Paro who retired from the fight through injury.
After the fight, Prograis sat with Matchroom boxing promoter Eddie Hearn while the two spoke to reporters about what options could be next at £140. Bill Haney, Devin Haney’s father, was in attendance Saturday, but Hearn said there are many options for Prograis’ next fight.
Hearn mentioned Haney, Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis as all great fights possible for Prograis.
“For me, it’s up to Regis,” Hearn said. “I mean, I think the great thing about tonight is that a lot of people are going to be lining up to fight. I haven’t heard any of those big names mention Regis’s name tonight, except for Devin. But now I think.” You’ll see that people are actually targeting Regis Prograis so maybe he’s beatable now.
“As we know, Regis Prograis will have a very different performance. I think that’s the only thing I’m happy about and I think Devin wants this fight.”
It was the first successful title defense in Prograis’ career. After winning the 2019 WBA 140-pound title from Kiryl Relikh, Prograis ceded the belt to Josh Taylor in a majority decision later that year. It remains the only loss of his career.
This time Prograis defended his crown.
In the third round, Prograis dropped Zorrilla with his left hand and began building that momentum for the rest of the fight. That quickly evaporated, however, as the two danced and intrigued each other for the remainder of the fight.
“He came to survive,” Prograis said of Zorrilla. “He didn’t want to be knocked out. He came to survive. I was after him. I just had to chase him for twelve laps.”
Prograis went to the mat three times, but none were counted as knockdowns by referee Ray Corona. In the first round, Zorrilla stunned Prograis with a right punch that knocked him off balance and both men went down as Prograis tried to pin Zorrilla, who fell into the champion. However, it was counted as a push. In lap 10 Prograis’ fall was called a slip and then he touched the mat again in lap 12 in a jab.
He admitted after the fight that he felt the first-round crash didn’t feel like a knockdown at the moment, but looking back at the replay it could have.
This was the first major championship fight at Smoothie King Center since 2000, when undisputed light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. defeated Eric Harding at what was then the New Orleans Arena (Derrick Gainer also defeated Freddie Norwood for the WBA Featherweight title on the same card) .
It was the third card Prograis headlined in New Orleans. His last two bouts were at Lakefront Arena on the University of New Orleans campus.
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However, due to the “hometown unrest” mentioned by Prograis, there’s a good chance his next fight won’t be in the city.
“Next time I don’t think so,” said Prograis. “We’ll probably hit the road and then come back here later. But not in the next fight.”
Hearn said there are options for Prograis that could lie in Las Vegas or the Middle East for his next fight.
The undercard caused a major upset as Ramla Ali lost her first pro fight when she was stopped in the fourth round to Julissa Alejandra Guzman.
Guzman (13-2, 7 KOs) dropped Ali early in the fifth round and finished in eighth with a left counter that caused Ali to buckle in the middle of the ring. When Ali (8-1, 2 KO) tried to get up, she tripped and referee Keith Hughes waved it off, giving Guzman the win.