LESS than an hour after he had been declared the victor of his fight with Danielito Zorrilla via split-decision, New Orleans’ Regis Prograis began to explain that he had suffered with the “hometown jitters”.
The fight, for his WBC super-lightweight title and in front of a crowd of 6,319 at the Smoothie King Center, had come against an unambitious opponent he had had a month to prepare for after an Achilles injury had forced Liam Paro’s withdrawal. It was on May 6 when Prograis was officially unveiled as a Matchroom fighter; it was therefore also only shortly before then when the date of June 17 was agreed.
That seven days earlier one divisional rival, in Teofimo Lopez, had been so outstanding in outpointing another in Josh Taylor also perhaps did little to help the 34-year-old Prograis’ focus. Above all else, however, for all of his nerves and the pressure he felt to perform on the occasion of his first fight in his home city for five years, against Zorrilla he demonstrated that despite his undoubted talent he is not a fighter who can convince when needing to cut off the ring.
There came a moment in the fight between David Haye and Audley Harrison in 2010 when Haye chose to run towards the challenger who had been so reluctant to engage with him. When Floyd Mayweather, on the night in 2017 of his equally farcical fight with Conor McGregor, realised that McGregor was in survival mode, he, too, abandoned his instincts to walk McGregor down.
When it became clear that Zorrilla was equally committed to remaining on the back foot, Prograis instead proved either incapable of, or unwilling to, attempt anything differently. At his finest he is a stylish, athletic, and charismatic fighter, but if he is to be matched with Lopez, Devin Haney – whose father, trainer and manager Bill was ringside to watch him – or Jack Catterall he will have to demonstrate considerably more if he wants to be taken seriously when he insists that he is the world’s finest fighter at 140lbs.
He had been considerably less willing to recognise that he had been knocked down in the opening round – which in turn contributed to his performance. He had hurt the 29-year-old Zorrilla with a left hand narrowly before Zorrilla threw a right, causing Prograis to fall at the Puerto Rican’s feet while, when reaching his arms around him in the process of falling, also dragging his opponent to the canvas. The referee Ray Corona wrongly ruled that Prograis had been pushed, but Prograis knew otherwise – as was demonstrated when he chose to take the second round off.
It was in the third when he briefly demonstrated how good he can potentially still be. From almost nowhere he landed an explosive left hand to Zorrilla’s chin, which proved enough to drop him heavily even without him having landed cleanly. When his opponent returned to his feet and retreated Prograis attempted to force the stoppage by unloading on him in the corner, but as quickly as he realised Zorrilla wasn’t again about to fall, he showed his experience and patience by instead backing off.
Through Zorrilla, from Toa Baja, was fighting with little conviction and Prograis was attempting to probe his defence, it still took until the sixth round for him to again impress. After reaching and landing with a left hand he succeeded in narrowing the distance between them and let his hands go to his body. His success in then briefly reading Zorrilla suggested that he would gradually come closer to making the statement he had targeted, but instead, until it was officially confirmed that he had won in front of his home crowd, that was as positive as his night became.
There were further instances of him launching and missing with further left hands, such as in the seventh, and in the ninth he fell short with both a right and a left aimed at the body and then with a jab. In the 10th he attempted to counter a right with a left but again fell short of the type of contact that might have threatened the stoppage he needed; as much as his inability to regularly close the distance between them, he also struggled to judge it when forced to fight at range.
For all that he didn’t convince, Boxing News regardless struggled to identify how Craig Metcalfe had scored Zorrilla, close to a passenger, a 114-113 winner. Josef Mason’s 117-110 and Robert Tapper’s 118-109 were at least just.
The welterweight fight between Shakhram Giyasov and Chicago’s Harold Calderon was even less entertaining. Giyasov had “Wonder Boy” emblazoned across his shorts and Calderon an even bigger “King” but at no point during those 12 tedious rounds did it become clear why. Under the supervision of the referee Rafael Ramos, respective scores of 120-108, 118-110 and 116-112 were awarded by Javier Alvarez, Robert Holy and Octavio Rodriguez in favour of Giyasov, the Brooklyn-based Uzbek.
On the otherwise entertaining and competitive undercard, Ramla Ali lost for the first time when she was knocked out in the eighth round of a bruising affair with Julissa Alejandra Guzman, of Sonora, Mexico. The fifth round had been her most convincing until Ali, the Somalian who fights out of Greenwich, was dropped by a well-timed right hand and fortunate that the bell rung shortly after she returned to her feet. A left to the chin, which followed another, dropped her so heavily in the eighth it was immediately obvious she wouldn’t recover. The stoppage, under the referee Keith Hughes’ instructions, was timed at 42 seconds.
Jeremy Hill, another fighter from New Orleans, also recorded an eye-catching stoppage when he stopped Baton Rouge’s Mark Davis 89 seconds into the fourth round. Three successive hurtful right hands forced a knockdown and the intervention of Terry Boudreaux, the referee.
Boudreaux also oversaw Ginny Fuchs, of Houston, Texas, being awarded respective scores of 79-73, 80-72 and 80-72 from Larry Berger, Keith Hughes and Keith Thibodeaux in her fight with New Orleans’ Indeya Smith.
Hughes, in turn, was the referee when Albuquerque’s Xavier Madrid earned a split decision over Aaron Aponte, of Hialeah, Florida, via Berger’s, Boudreaux’s and Thibodeaux’s respective scores of 73-78, 76-75 and 76-75 after Aponte had been deducted a point for repeated low blows. LA’s Criztec Bazaldua earlier defeated Elroy Fruto of Surrey, Canada via unanimous decision. Boudreaux was the referee; Berger, Hughes and Thibodeaux all scored 40-36 in his favour.
Verdict: Prograis can still compete at the highest level – he just needs the right opponent