Despite the sensational ratings that Manny Pacquiao got on ESPN for his WBO welterweight title fight with Jeff Horn, despite the enormous viewership for the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia fight on CBS and despite the massive hype surrounding the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor bout, boxers can’t take for granted that fans will know much about them.
The smart fighters are those who take matters into their own hands rather than simply letting their performances in the ring speak for themselves. Relying simply on performance is a fast track to anonymity.
Regis Prograis is one of boxing’s brightest title prospects. Born in New Orleans and living and training in Houston, Prograis is a must-see fighter. He’s 20-0 with 17 knockouts and is on the verge of a world title shot.
He told Yahoo Sports he hopes for a fight later this year with Viktor Postol which, if made, would be a senational television bout.
“That’s the name I’ve heard,” Prograis told Yahoo Sports. “I’m No. 3 now and he’s No. 2, so those are the guys I want to fight. The only guy above that is the champion, Terence Crawford. I’m waiting to hear, but that’s the kind of fight I want to get.”
Postal was in an outstanding title unification match with Crawford last year. Both entered the fight unbeaten and with high knockout rates, but the bout bombed on pay-per-view and sold well fewer than 100,000. Part of the reason is that they were relatively unknown to the public.
Prograis recognizes that and has hired a team to help him. They’ve put up billboards throughout New Orleans with his face, his name and his record and the slogan, “Who got next?” One of them is outside the Superdome in a high visibility spot.
It’s the kind of thing that helps build a local fan base, which is vitally important, and increase a boxer’s profile. That, in the end, results in higher purses. Prograis, 28, gets that.
“It’s important to do this kind of stuff if you want to bring your name out there and market yourself,” he said. “There are a lot of good fighters out there who don’t get the recognition they deserve and a big part of it is because they don’t get their stories out. Don’t wait for someone to tell your story; get it out there yourself.
“Doing the interviews and the media, it’s like another job. I work hard at my job, which is boxing, and it can be aggravating to have to do interviews and make appearances and that, because I’ve already put in a hard day’s work. But doing that comes with the territory and it makes a difference.”
If boxing enthusiasts learn more about Prograis, they’re destined to become fans of him. He’s got an exciting style and isn’t one to play it cautious and look for a decision.
He’s a hard puncher who is offensive minded enough to consistently put on good shows.
“I’m naturally strong, naturally athletic and naturally fast, but you still have to work on things to keep getting better,” he said. “I work on my power all the time. It’s good, but it can be better, and so I’m in the gym trying to be better, day after day.”
That power has led him to the brink of a title shot and a potentially lucrative career. He lost out on a spot on the 2012 Olympic team when he performed horribly in the Trials – “I fought bad, man, real bad,” he said of his two losses in the U.S. Olympic Trials. “There were some things going on with me and I was thinking wrong and so I fought bad, but I’ve turned that around and made it to my advantage.” – and it’s probably kept him a bit lower profile than he should have been.
Now, though, he’s ready for big fights and eager to introduce America to the power in his fists.
“Guys become more cautious when they feel my power and they try to box or get cute or whatever,” he said. “But it’s like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they’re hit in the face.’ I hit hard and I know when I hit guys, they’re in trouble. But I know how important it is to be a complete fighter and I am putting the work in to get myself where I want to be.”