Regis Prograis has been waiting more than three years for this.
It was October 2019 when the talented 140-pounder traveled to London only to lose a majority decision to Josh Taylor in a title-unification matchup. Taylor went on to become undisputed champion, leaving Prograis as an after thought.
Now, after Taylor gave up three of his belts, Prograis will have a chance to reclaim a piece of the championship – the now-vacant WBC version – and his place atop the division.
The 33-year-old southpaw from New Orleans faces Jose Zepeda on Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California (pay-per-view).
“When people introduce me, they do so as ‘the former champ,’ but I want to be the current champion, and not only that, I want to be known as the best in the world in my division,” Prograis said.
“That is even more important to me than being a champion, it’s to be the best in the world in my division.”
Nov 26th Tune in to PPV battle of the best on FITETV pic.twitter.com/t6wWw3FddL
— Rougarou (@RPrograis) November 20, 2022
Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs) bounced back from the setback against Taylor by stopping three solid opponents, Juan Heraldez, Ivan Redkach and Tyrone McKenna.
Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs) is a next-level challenge. The 33-year-old from the Los Angeles area is a former title challenger, losing a close decision to then-champ Jose Ramirez in 2019, and he has victories over Jose Pedraza, Ivan Baranchyk and Hank Lundy.
Prograis believes that none of the above fight at his level.
“Zepeda’s never fought a southpaw this elusive, a southpaw that is strong like I am, a southpaw that has defense and a southpaw who has a chin on top of that,” Prograis said. “I feel like you can hit me with anything, it’s not going to do anything. But the main thing is he hasn’t fought a workhorse like me, it is one of my strongest suits.
“I work so hard in training camp, I kill myself. And on top of that, there is my hunger.”
Of course, the unbeaten Taylor, who still holds the WBO belt, can make a strong case that he remains the top junior welterweight until someone dethrones him or he moves up to welterweight.
However, Prograis believes a victory over the tough Zepeda would be a significant statement.
“There will always be debates but after Saturday, my name will be really, really high on the list,” he said. “You have other fighters that are good, but I think after Saturday, my name should be at the top of the 140-pound list.”