Regis Prograis fights Kiryl Relikh this Saturday
By John J. Raspanti
Regis Prograis refuses to take anything for granted.
Though heavily favored to dispatch Kiryl Relikh this Saturday in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super junior welterweight tournament at the Cajun Dome in Layfayette, LA, Prograis,30, waxed wise for someone so young.
“I love going to training camp,” said Prograis during a teleconference a few weeks ago. “My job is to fight.”
Losing focus for a boxer can be as dangerous as underestimating an opponent.
In 1936, Joe Louis met former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. Louis entered the fight a 10-1 favorite. Reportedly, he didn’t train very hard. Some said he spent more time chasing his future wife, Marva, than sparring. Louis was undefeated in 24 fights, with 19 knockouts.
He had already destroyed former heavyweight champions Max Baer, and Primo Carnera. He probably figured that Schmeling would offer token resistance. Makes sense.
Schmeling hadn’t fought anyone of note since being knocked out by Baer in 1933. He was thought of as an “old” 30. Schmeling said he “saw something” in Louis’ style that he’d exploit. The pundits laughed. They stopped laughing when Schmeling floored Louis twice en route to knocking out the invincible Brown Bomber in 12 rounds.
Thirty-seven years later, Muhammad Ali traveled to San Diego to face hometown hero Ken Norton. Ali, winner of 10 fights in a row since losing to Joe Frazier, spent more time promoting the fight than in training camp. He knew little about the unheralded Norton.
That changed quickly in round two when a Norton right hand broke Ali’s jaw. Ali dug deep and fought as hard he could, but Norton, an ex-Marine, secured his upset victory by winning the 12th and final round.
Prograis, who was born in Louisiana but lives in Houston, is undefeated in 23 fights, scoring 19 big knockouts. He announced his arrival to the big time 22 months ago by knocking the stuffing out of Joel Diaz Jr, and six months later, former world champion Julios Indongo. He dominated Juan Jose Velasco, and last October, outboxed and outpunched England’s Terry Flanagan. Prograis, holder of something called the WBC Diamond belt, wants a world title.
“The WBA title is a full world title,” Prograis told Andrew Lopez of www.NOLA.com two weeks ago. “For me, this is the biggest fight on my career. When I started, when every fighter starts, they dream of being a world champion. For me, this is it. This is the beginning of something special for me.”
Relikh, 29, a native of Belarus, is a tough guy who can punch. He’s lost only 2 of 23 bouts, and, like Prograis, can punch, knocking out 19 opponents. The biggest win of his career came last year, when he avenged a controversial loss to Rances Barthelemy in San Antonio, TX. Relikh fought like a man possessed, outworking the defending in almost every round. He’s well aware of what he’ll be facing in the ring this Saturday.
“Regis Prograis is, without a doubt, a good boxer, “Relikh said. “But he’s not faced, yet, anyone like me. He’s in for a surprise."
Confidence isn’t a problem.
“There is not a single doubt in my mind that I’ll beat Prograis.“ added Relikh.
Prograis has too much game for Relikh. He likes to slug, but showed in his victory over Flannagan that he can box. He’s also been working on his defense, which he’ll need against the heavy-handed Relikh.
As long as he doesn’t get caught with something deadly, I see Prograis winning the fight by late stoppage or decision. He wants that belt.