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Regis Prograis Q&A: ‘Sometimes I can have a loud mouth and I can talk a lot of sh*t, so – I have to back it up’

Image: Regis Prograis Q&A: 'Sometimes I can have a loud mouth and I can talk a lot of sh*t, so - I have to back it up'

Exclusive Interview by Ian Aldous: On July 14th, Regis Prograis (21-0) will return home to New Orleans to defend his WBC interim super-lightweight world championship against Juan Jose Velasco (20-0). His homecoming main-event will see big-time boxing return to New Orleans at the Lakefront Arena on the campus of the University of New Orleans, live on ESPN. Impressive win after impressive win has seen Prograis build a reputation as one of the premier 140lbs fighters on the planet. Last week, ‘Rougarou’ took some time to talk with me over the phone about his career, the upcoming fight and the future.

IA: At the press conference to formally announce your fight, the mayor of New Orleans spoke passionately about what you as a fighter will bring to the sports fans and people of New Orleans. What was going through your mind when hearing such high praise?

RP: I’m cool with the Mayor and I met her before and she’s definitely supporting everything I’ve done and I’m supporting everything she’s gonna do. She made history as the first female and (first) black female that’s the Mayor of New Orleans. I was just super-excited to have support like that behind me.

IA: I know it’s not easy, but can you tell me a little about what life was like when you had to leave your home to escape Hurricane Katrina?

RP: We moved a lot. I think I counted, like sixteen or seventeen different times, we kept moving around. Originally I moved to Houston then I moved back to Mississippi and Slidell on the outskirts of New Orleans, then I moved back to Houston. We were staying with relatives and in peoples’ garages and basements, all that type of stuff. I went to five different high schools, so I had to adjust to that. When I went back to Slidell, I had a lot of fun with my friends and stuff because a lot of people I already knew from New Orleans (lived there). In Houston, I really didn’t like it at first, but it ended up being the best thing that happened to me because I found a boxing gym and it took me to where I am right now.

IA: Had it not been for Katrina, do you think your life could have panned out completely differently?

RP: Yeah, definitely different. I wanted to be a fighter for a long time, you know, even before Hurricane Katrina. If Katrina had never happened for me, I don’t think I’d be standing where I am right now. I’m in Los Angeles training and in Hollywood and stuff like that rubbing elbows with big-time people. If it wasn’t for Hurricane Katrina – I wouldn’t be here.

IA: Your opponent on July 14th is Juan Jose Velasco. Have you seen much of him and is he a worthy opponent for the ‘Rougarou’?

RP: First off, nobody is a worthy opponent for me right now because I’m destroying everybody. As far as being worthy, Julius Indongo was supposed to be a worthy opponent (and) Joel Diaz was supposed to be a worthy opponent. I don’t know anything about him. All I know about him is he’s undefeated and no matter what, I’m always gonna train my ass off no matter what. If I’m fighting somebody who’s 0-20 – I’m gonna train hard. It’s a fight and in the fight anything can happen – all it takes is one punch. Of course, I was playing around – he’s definitely going to be a worthy opponent. He’s a professional fighter that’s undefeated, for me, that’s all I need to know. This is the biggest chance of his life, so he’s gonna do stuff he’s never done before to try and beat me. This is his biggest opportunity and he’s gonna come to fight.

IA: You’re the interim champion – Jose Ramirez is the full WBC champion. Do you feel he’s avoiding you or are yours and his promoter just letting the fight build?

RP: I think he’s avoiding me. Bob Arum is a very, very smart man. He didn’t get where he is today by being a dummy. He knows that Ramirez cannot beat me. On my best day and his best day – he can’t come anywhere close to me, I already know that. They don’t want to fight me and they want to avoid me. But, Top Rank and ESPN has put me on my own fight in New Orleans, so it’s even better. I can’t complain about that. I got an even better opportunity. I’m entering into the World Boxing Super Series in September/October, and it’s for, I think, two belts. Whoever the winner is out of that tournament will come out a unified champion. So, I think I actually have a better route right now than him. He has the official belt, but the fans and the people know who the better fighter is. For me, that’s the satisfaction I get right now because everybody already knows I’m better than him. He can have the belt and sit on the belt right now and do whatever he wants. I’m entering into the tournament and if everything goes right, I’ll come out with two belts and if he still has the belt then I can go ahead and fight him for the WBC (title), if he still has it.

IA: That was going to be my next question, do you expect him to successfully defend his title on July 7th against Danny O’Connor?

RP: Yeah, I think so. He shouldn’t have trouble with Danny O’Connor. O’Connor is ok, I sparred Danny in the gym a couple of times, but Danny’s a little older and Jose Ramirez should be able to beat him. I can’t see Danny beating Jose Ramirez.

IA: If it was completely down to you and your choice, would Ramirez have been your opponent on July 14th?

RP: Yeah, of course, especially for the belt. If it was my choice, if I could fight him in July before I enter the tournament, he’d have definitely been my opponent. I would have picked up that belt then went into the tournament with a belt and then probably had three belts. So, yeah, if it was my choice, I’d have fought him on July 14th.

IA: To claim your belt, you scored a fantastic win over former unified champion, Julius Indongo – an awkward opponent with a longer reach and big height advantage. Not only that, but you stopped him even quicker than Terence Crawford did! How do you reflect on your performance?

RP: I went out there and basically had to make a statement. Of course, people know sometimes I can have a loud mouth and I can talk a lot of sh*t, so – I have to back it up. After my Joel Diaz fight, I called out Crawford and people was like ‘you crazy, Crawford’s way better than you’. We will never know until we fight, but I still want to fight Crawford eventually. As far as right now, he’s not on the radar because he’s at 147lbs. The only measuring stick (between Prograis and Crawford) was Julius Indongo. His last fight was against Julius Indongo and my last fight was against Indongo. If you want to compare me to Crawford, well, compare my performance against Indongo to his and I did better. I knocked him out a round earlier. Like I said, I had to go out and make a statement. I have to back it up when I say something and that’s what I did. I went out there and made a statement. I said what I said and I backed it up.

IA: Have you heard any more names that might be part of the WBSS?

RP: I think Ivan Baranchyk and Anthony Yigit, they’re gonna fight for the vacant IBF (title). (Kiryl) Relikh, who has the WBA (title), he’s gonna fight Eduard Troyanovsky. I think that’s all the names I know right now. I don’t know if Josh Taylor might be interested. He has to get past Viktor Postol first. He’s a real good fighter, so he might be entering. We don’t know yet. I just know about four names right now.

IA: Obviously, if you’re going to be part of that tournament, you’ll be in the division for a while, but is 140lbs your home for a long time or would you move up in weight for the right opponent?

RP: I definitely would move up. I actually want to go to 147lbs one day. I want to have some belts first. I wouldn’t say I would want to go to 147lbs now because I don’t have the big belts, you know. Most people think that I’m the best right now at my weight, but for me, I haven’t proven it yet. Once I have the big belts and I’m the unified champion or maybe undisputed if I stay around for that long – then I can go up to 147lbs. For me, there’s a lot of unfinished business before I even think about moving up.

Prograis vs. Velasco and Lopez vs. Silva will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 7 p.m. ET with soon-to-be announced undercard bouts to be streamed on ESPN+ beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with DiBella Entertainment, tickets, priced at $200 (ringside), $125 (floor), $75, and $40, are on sale now and can be purchased at the Lakefront Arena box office, and charge by phone at 800-745-3000. Discounts for military, students and New Orleans Police Department members ‑ $75 tickets for $50 and $40 seats for $25 – are available when presenting valid ID at the UNO box office.

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