Regis Prograis – ‘I know I’m the best, I just need to prove it’

Nine days before Regis Prograis has his biggest fight in years, he was desperately looking for a toilet – while driving.

Part of the weight loss process involves drinking two gallons of water a day in order to hit the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds. That day, he stopped at a Burger King for a quick stop, only to be told the restroom is for customers only.

“Obviously I can’t eat Burger King right now,” an angry Prograis told ESPN. “So yes.”

Having to relieve yourself outdoors is a problem Prograis is keen to tackle – given the past few years. Prograis is one of boxing’s former champions who highlights a unique problem in the sport. Talented fighters like Prograis, unattached to some of boxing’s most prominent promotions, are often caught in combative purgatory – too good for smaller opponents, too risky for big-name bouts.

On Saturday, Prograis will get his crack as a two-time champion when he takes on Jose Zepeda at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. (PPV, 9pm ET). A win gives him the WBC junior welterweight belt and a great chance to show why he deserves more brand fights in the future.

“I always tell people when it comes to boxing, it’s frustrating,” Prograis told ESPN. “I feel like people are trying to lock me out. I tell people I’m my own boss. People don’t lead me. i do my own thing I am my own boss.”

Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs) is in his biggest fight since losing a unified title fight to Josh Taylor in October 2019, which was also the final of a World Boxing Super Series tournament. Prograis lost a majority decision 115-113, 117-112, 114-114. After taking the IBF and WBA belts away from Taylor Prograis, he beat Jose Ramirez to become the undisputed champion.

Prograis was then promoted by DiBella Entertainment. But after the Taylor fight, he parted ways with DiBella and eventually found his way to Probellum, a burgeoning promotional outfit spearheaded by former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.

Prograis caused more problems for Taylor than Ramirez, who was stopped in his 2021 fight. But that didn’t help Prograis either. After that fight, Prograis’ lineup of opponents was overwhelming – Juan Herladez, Ivan Redkach and most recently Tyrone McKenna.

The New Orleans native said he was nominated for the undercard Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua II fight in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 20, but that fight was scrapped. There was also talk of a fight against ex-contender Viktor Postol.

However, when Ramirez pulled out of a fight against Zepeda for the WBC belt in July over a conflict with his wedding in October, Prograis jumped at the opportunity.

Prograis was training for the potential Postol fight, but when Zepeda became available, he broke camp with longtime trainer Bobby Benton, went to Colombia for a week to visit his father, and then started camp with Benton in preparation for new this weekend. Essentially, Prograis said he’s been training for the past six months.

“I’ve literally taken that same mindset with me for the past three years,” said Prograis, who has a gym at his home in Rosenberg, Texas, a suburb of Houston. “I just kept training, training, training.”

Prograis is not the only guest of boxing. Jaron “Boots” Ennis, signed to D&D Boxing, is ESPN’s No. 3 welterweight and in a similar situation.

Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs) defeated Custio Clayton in May in Carson, California. In his postfight interview on Showtime, Ennis cited his status as the IBF’s No. 1 contender and named champion Errol Spence Jr. sitting at ringside.

“It’s time to go fishing,” said Ennis, a play on Spence’s proclamation as the “big fish” in the division.

But for Ennis and Prograis, winning the big names has been a challenge. Top Rank has kept a stranglehold on the 140lb class (Taylor, Ramirez, Teofimo Lopez Jr. to name a few), while Premier Boxing Champions has completed the 147lb class (Spence, Keith Thurman, Yordenis Ugas) .

Zepeda is Prograis’ best opponent since Taylor. The Californian challenged Ramirez for the WBC belt in 2019 but lost in a majority decision. Like Prograis, Zepeda wants to establish itself at the top of the division.

“I wasn’t surprised at all that we got this fight,” Zepeda said at a press conference in October. “We both wanted it, we both want to be world champions. We both need this title, we are 33 years old and in our prime. Whoever wins this title will have a life-changing experience.”

Should Prograis win, he knows a potential fight against Ramirez is on the horizon as Ramirez is the mandatory challenger. But Prograis also wants another attack on the only fighter who beat him as a pro.

“First on my hit list is Josh Taylor,” he said.

He knows how important his chance on Saturday will be for the long-term arc of his career. And given the past three years’ struggles to steer boxing politics, it’s not one he wants to waste.

“My confidence has never dropped,” said Prograis. “I’ve always felt the same about myself.

“I know I’m the best, I just have to prove it. That’s all.” Regis Prograis – ‘I know I’m the best, I just need to prove it’

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