Regis Prograis misses boxing and the beach as COVID-19 threatens second world title run
There are two things in life Regis Prograis self-professes to be scared of but loves at the same time. Boxing and the ocean. Living out in California, though born in New Orleans, Prograis usually sees a lot of the latter. He likes to free-dive and spear-fish. But he can’t at the moment.
“I’m a big beach head,” the former WBA super-lightweight world champion tells Express Sport. “I’m always in the water, I can’t do any of that. The beach is closed. The water is closed.
“I went to Malibu about two weeks ago for a run on the beach, then I went spear-fishing in the water. It was a nice day, so clear, I could see all the way down to the bottom but they put up signs to close it up on my last day there.”
And what about boxing? After all, Prograis was set to take on Maurice Hooker this weekend in somewhat of a final eliminator for another world title shot.
WBA and IBF belt-holder Josh Taylor, along with WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez, beat Prograis and Hooker, respectively, in unified world title bouts last year.
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Prograis hasn’t fought since his narrow loss to the Scotsman at London’s O2 Arena back at the end of October, but he saw no sense in taking a tune-up bout to prepare for a potential rematch with Taylor, or a meeting with Ramirez.
“My training camp is too damn hard for me to take tune-up fights,” he adds.
“I want the belts again, I want a rematch or a fight with Jose Ramirez so I can be a champ at 140lbs again.
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“For me, I don’t want to take easy fights and stuff like that. I hung with Floyd Mayweather in New Orleans for a little while once and at the time I was 19-0.
“And he was saying ‘but who have you beaten?’ And in the last two years I’ve been fighting undefeated fighters or former world champions or world champions. I want to keep fighting those good fighters.”
And why would Prograis lower his level for now? He still believes, after all, that he beat Taylor.
“I didn’t think I lost the fight, I know it was a close fight but I still don’t think I lost,” he explains.
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“I out-landed him, out-worked him and out-punched him. It was close and after I just thought ‘it’s his time’. If you’re into religion and faith and stuff… I just thought it was his time. It was his night, I can’t take it away from him.
“You think about all the things that went on in his training camp, his girlfriend’s father died, Shane McGuigan’s sister died… Luke Campbell had just lost against Lomachenko.
“Sometimes when you got all those things going against you, his win was sort of meant to be. And I congratulated him for that, he deserved it.”
Globally, times are tough for a lot of people at the moment. The coronavirus pandemic continues to grow. There are over two million confirmed cases worldwide, with over 135,000 deaths.
Prograis has been through hardship before. A much-discussed topic during his time in London last year was the way he spent his formative years as a teenager through the tragedy and heartbreak of Hurricane Katrina.
He admits that back then he stood in ‘a lot of lines’ waiting for ‘food, shelter and clothes’ from the government. Life couldn’t be any more different now. But in the U.S., unemployment is sky-rocketing because of the pandemic.
“Me and my family we didn’t have any money,” Prograis says. “Now I’m okay, I’m good. I feel for all the people right now, though. I been there already. Now it’s a big difference, my family’s okay and we don’t have to worry about food, shelter or nothing.
“In my head I knew my fight would be cancelled, the whole world is going through a pandemic.”
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Prograis’ trainers have headed back to Houston, Texas, where Rougarou used to train. It was there that he came up in the gym with boxing icon Evander Holyfield. But Prograis takes all his traits, in and out the ring, from various ring legends.
He tweeted last month ‘I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs’, much like Bernard Hopkins, a man who took care of himself so well he won a world title aged 49 in 2014.
“I’ve been around Bernard Hopkins, Evander Holyfield, Shane Moseley, Oscar De La Hoya… you get snippets from all of them,” Prograis says excitedly.
“Being around these giants of the sport, it does something to you mentally, internally. Hopkins’ main thing is just stay clean, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, he ate clean, kept his body right. He’s always told me that.
“I was around Sugar Ray Leonard once and people know me, I don’t really get starstruck, I’ve been around all that stuff for a while but when I was around Leonard or Marvin Hagler it’s like ‘wow, that’s Sugar Ray Leonard, wow, that’s Marvin Hagler’. That’s crazy.”
And so Prograis continues to wait. Like everyone else in the world. Waiting for that call to get back to work. He flirted with the idea of fighting on a private island after Dana White revealed his plans for the UFC last week and believes that if boxing promoters thought of it first, they’d have gone through with it too.
“I saw Eddie [Hearn] kind of shoot him down. Listen, if Dana White does it, all these other promoters would be trying to do it as well. Dana White is gonna be making money,” the 31-year-old says.
“You can watch Tiger King and Ozark on Netflix but after a while people want to watch live sport. People love fights!”
Prograis just wants to scratch the itch he’s had since moments after stepping off the canvas in London nearly six months ago. He holds a gym key and trains alone, waiting for the phone call.
He says: “I miss it tremendously, I’m still training, I have that itch. This is the time that will prove who really wants to be up there in the sport.
“Once they say we can go, I’m gonna need a few weeks and that’s it. I’ll be ready.”
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