Interim WBC champ Regis Prograis, a true student of boxing, is only going to get better

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Terry Flanagan (L) and Regis Prograis in the ring on Saturday in New Orleans in a quarterfinal match in the World Boxing Super Series’ 140-pound tournament. (Courtesy of WBSS)
Terry Flanagan (L) and Regis Prograis in the ring on Saturday in New Orleans in a quarterfinal match in the World Boxing Super Series’ 140-pound tournament. (Courtesy of WBSS)

Please, Regis Prograis said, excitement pulsating in his voice. Please say Pernell Whitaker.

Prograis, the interim WBC super lightweight champion, was discussing his victory over Terry Flanagan on Saturday in New Orleans in a quarterfinal match in the World Boxing Super Series’ 140-pound tournament.

It was a dominant, runaway victory for Prograis, and one got the feeling he could have stopped Flanagan, a solid professional, had he really wanted to do so.

But after his July 14 eighth-round stoppage of Juan Jose Velasco, Prograis wasn’t satisfied. It was a one-sided bout from start to finish, but his performance left him unsettled.

“I got hit too much,” Prograis said of the Velasco fight. “I was a little nervous. I was kind of wound up, fighting at home. There was a lot of pressure on me. I mean, it was a good performance, but not as good as it could have been. I just needed to relax more.”

So, in the days and weeks after that fight, Prograis did what he often does. He plopped in front of his computer and watched vintage bouts. There are few active fighters as conversant about the past greats or as eager to sit down and watch a classic as the 29-year-old burgeoning superstar.

“I watch them very, very often, pretty much on a daily basis, especially when I’m home,” said Prograis, who improved to 23-0 with the win over Flanagan and will face WBA champion Kiryl Relikh in the semifinals. “Pretty much all the time on a daily basis, I’m watching fights. I’m just a student of the game and I just love it. My favorite fighter was Mike Tyson and I’m a little younger so when I started watching, he was almost done and wasn’t in his prime. But that’s who I grew up watching, Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Tyson was a big-time student of the game and that’s the main thing I got from him. He loved to study film, and that’s something I’ve adopted and done a lot, too.

“I just love watching boxing. I watch it because I love fights and I watch because I can pick things up from those guys. You can’t ever stop learning and growing in this sport.”

That passion is why Prograis was so desperate to hear a reporter invoke Whitaker’s name. Prograis watched plenty of Whitaker’s fights, notably his 1997 welterweight title fight with Oscar De La Hoya, and tried to incorporate Whitaker’s moves in his fight with Flanagan.

Whitaker was a southpaw, like Prograis, but Whitaker is regarded as one of the great defensive fighters in boxing history. Prograis is highly regarded, but he’s seen as an offensive dynamo.

He’s offended, though, at the thought he’s one-dimensional. He takes bits and pieces from all of the fighters he watches.

“I can look like all those dudes, but one of my favorites was [Roberto] Duran,” Prograis said. “If I could mimic my style to be just like one fighter, it would be Duran, even though I’m a southpaw. I’m slick, too, though, and I watch Pernell a lot also. I’m a combination of a few different things, basically. My style is kind of like a bumblebee, mixed in with all kinds of stuff.”

Regis Prograis celebrates after defeating Juan Jose Velasco during their WBC Diamond Super Lightweight Title boxing match at the UNO Lakefront Arena on July 14, 2018, in New Orleans. (Getty Images)
Regis Prograis celebrates after defeating Juan Jose Velasco during their WBC Diamond Super Lightweight Title boxing match at the UNO Lakefront Arena on July 14, 2018, in New Orleans. (Getty Images)

Prograis carefully watched the replay of his win over Flanagan and believes he was hit cleanly no more than five times over 12 rounds.

He was focused on controlling the ring and boxing, and didn’t open up like he has so often done, which would have made him more vulnerable to Flanagan’s shots.

“In the eighth round, he was hurt real bad, and I could have gotten him out of there if I wanted to do that,” Prograis said. “But I stayed calm and stayed composed and I just boxed. I had four more rounds to go and I wanted to go those four more rounds. I wanted to show people that I can box. …

“People talk about how much I get hit, so I looked at the tape and I got touched three times in 12 rounds, to be honest with you. Maybe five, but as far as flush shots, it was just once or twice. I just wanted to show people that if I want to be, I can be unhittable.”

He’s as complete of a package as there is in boxing today, and he’s only going to get better.

He’s his own harshest critic and insists he’ll never be satisfied.

“There is no such thing as a perfect fight,” he said. “You can always be better. But what I do is, I love this game and I want to leave a mark, a legacy, for the people coming up behind me. Just like I looked at Tyson and De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard and Pernell and Sugar Ray Robinson and all them guys and tried to take bits of what they did, I want that to be part of my legacy, where people are looking at my tapes one day and say, ‘Man, look at what this dude could do in there.’ So for me, it’s a never-ending thing.

“It’s my job, but I love it. I have so much fun watching boxing and when you love to do something, you’ll stay committed. And I’m committed to being the best I can possibly be.”

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