Jose Zepeda will be there but Regis Prograis will win handily.
Regis Prograis has always had that special look. Blessed with speed, athleticism, and power, the Louisiana native who became a Texan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been regarded as a future star since turning pro in 2012. For “Rougarou,” it seemed it was just a matter of time.
But sometimes, all it takes is one defeat to derail the dream for good. For every Canelo Alvarez that continues on the road to stardom after crushing defeats, there are fallen phenoms like Darrin Van Horn (from the 1980s), Meldrick Taylor (from the 1990s), and Kelly Pavlik (from the 2000s) who never recover.
We’ll see how far Prograis has progressed since his decision defeat to Josh Taylor in their 2019 140-pound unification showdown when he takes on Jose Zepeda for one of the belts Taylor vacated – the WBC junior welterweight title – at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA (9 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, FITE TV & PPV.com).
BATTLE FOR THE VACANT TITLE
Prograis, 27-1 (23 knockouts), has certainly seemed like his old self since the Taylor loss. He’s fought three times, stopping previously undefeated Juan Heraldez (TKO 3), tough Ivan Redkach (TKO 6), and Tyrone McKenna (TKO 6). A southpaw, Prograis flashed his right jab and boxed nicely in all three fights before meticulously moving in for the knockout. There is little to distinguish between Prograis’ post-and-pre-Taylor form when he destroyed Julius Indongo (TKO 2), Terry Flanagan (W 10), and Kiryl Relikh (TKO 6).
But this is clearly a fork in the road. At age 33, the boxer-puncher may not have many more opportunities to achieve his promise. The next fight has the potential to be his toughest since Taylor.
Zepeda, 35-2 (27 KO’s), La Puente, CA, is perhaps best remembered for his Rock’Em, Sock’Em slugfest with Ivan Baranchyk in 2020 – a fight that resembled a 140-pound Foreman-Lyle. When it was all said and done, Zepeda was down twice in the first and two more times in rounds two and five. Baranchyk was down in rounds two, three, four and finally dropped for good in round five of an absolute war. What the Californian lacked in defense, he made up for in guts. And excitement. But he did show a shaky chin. One that Prograis hopes to exploit.
“Chon” showed a shaky shoulder in 2015, as he was stopped in the second round by Flanagan after suffering a grotesque shoulder injury that forced the stoppage. He has fully recovered. And in 2019, he lost a decision to Jose Carlos Ramirez for the WBC super lightweight title. In a closely contested battle, he lost a majority decision on Ramirez’s home court of Fresno.
In his last fight, Zepeda, also a southpaw, took on Josue Vargas, who was named “The Prodigy” and talked smack like nobody’s business. Zepeda showed his class as a championship-level fighter, dropping Vargas in one round courtesy of one perfect left cross. The 33-year-old also has victories over Jose Pedraza (W 10) and Hank Lundy (W 10).
GO WITH PROGRAIS
With both fighters being southpaws, this one will likely come down to speed and who can land first. Zepeda has a three-inch reach advantage at a little more than 70 inches, so he will have to pump the jab and maintain distance. Both are the same height at 5-foot-8.
But Prograis is the more athletic of the two, and he has the quicker hands. He will have to move in and out, flash combinations and try to avoid the left that crushed Vargas. Zepeda will always have a puncher’s chance, but Prograis will meticulously pile up points and rounds with superior boxing ability.
Zepeda may land a punch here and there late, but Prograis has a good chin. He will have his hands raised at the end of 12 lopsided rounds. And will be back on the road to being the star we all thought he would be.
JOSE ZEPEDA VS. REGIS PROGRAIS PREDICTION
Prograis by unanimous decision.
Matthew Aguilar may be reached at email@example.com