Crawford: Regis Prograis got hit too much by Velasco
By Dan Ambrose: Former light welterweight unified champion Terence Crawford wasn’t all that impressed with what he saw from interim WBC 140 lb. champion Regis ‘Rougarou’ Prograis (22-0, 19 KOs) with his 8th round knockout win over Juan Jose Velasco (20-1, 12 KOs) last Saturday night in the main event on Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Prograis got hit a lot in the first three rounds against the 31-year-old Velasco before pulling away from the 4th round on to get the stoppage. Prograis knocked Velasco down three times I the fight with vicious body shots in rounds 5, 7 and 8. In fairness to Prograis, his promoter Lou DiBella had said in an interview on Friday that he wanted to get hit because it makes him feel more engaged in his fights. It’s quite possible that Prograis let himself get hit by Velasco to get motivated to do damage to him.
”For one, he got hit too much,” Crawford said to Fighthype about Prograis. ”He didn’t use his jab enough. He didn’t move his head, but he got the job done, so congratulations to him.”
It really didn’t matter that Prograis was hit a lot in the first quarter of the fight. He made Velasco pay dearly for each of his shots that he was hit with. Once Prograis got his offense in gear, there was no looking back. Velasco had no chance of winning, and he was just soaking up terrible punishment from the 4th round on. The fight should have been stopped as early as 6th, because that was when Velasco started to get heavily shelled by the 29-year-old Velasco.
Fighting in front of 3,615 boxing fans at the Lakefont Arena in New Orleans, Prograis dropped the over-matched Velasco three times with painful punches to the midsection. The fight was stopped in the eighth round when Velasco was finally pulled out of the fight.
It’s too bad Crawford isn’t fighting at 140 any longer, since he would have a good chance of proving himself against Prograis. I think a lot of boxing fans would love to see Crawford and Prograis mix it up at some point. If Crawford fails to get the big fights that he thought he was going to get when he first moved up to 147, then it would be a good idea for him to drop back down to 140 so that he can compete against the likes of Prograis, Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez, Sergey Lipinets, Alex Saucedo, Maurice Hooker, Kiryl Relikh, Anthony Yigit, Ryan Martin, Terry Flanagan and Eduard Troyanovskiy. Crawford moved up in weight to welterweight at the exact wrong time just when the World Boxing Super Series light welterweight tournament is beginning. However, even if Crawford had remained at 140, it’s unclear whether his promoters at Top Rank would allow him to compete in the WBSS tournament or not. Fellow Top Rank fighters Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, Alex Saucedo, Jessie Hart and Jose Ramirez aren’t taking part in WBSS tournament competition in their respective weight classes.
Prograis’ performance showed that he’s still considered the best fighter at light welterweight, and the guy to beat in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series tournament. Prograis looked like he was slapping Velasco in the early going of the fight, and not going after him in a serious manner to try and get him out of there quickly. It looked like Prograis was letting Velasco hang around so that he let the fans at the Lakefront Arena see as him fight as long as possible. It looked like Prograis didn’t want to spoil it for the boxing fans that had traveled and paid their hard-earned money to see him fight. Having watched Prograis in fights in which he had his foot all the way down on the accelerator in looking for a fast knockout, it didn’t look like he was doing that against Velasco.
Prograis will move on now and take part in eight-fighter World Boxing Super Series tournament later this year. The fight the fans want to see move of all is Prograis vs. Josh Taylor. However, there’s no guarantee whether the two of them will face each other. Both guys will need to win long enough to face each other, as the WBSS tournament organizers are unlikely to match them up against each other in the quarterfinals match.
“I’m going in the World Boxing Super Series [but] maybe the [Manny] Pacquiao fight,” Prograis said via ESPn.com about the fights that he wants. “I would love to have that fight, or if [pound-for-pound king and lightweight champion Vasiliy] Lomachenko wants to come up to 140, I’ll take that fight also.”
It’s doubtful that Manny Pacquiao will ever agree to fight Prograis, as the Filipino star has other fights lucrative fights available against Amir Khan, Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford. As for Lomachenko, his promoters at Top Rank aren’t likely going to put him in with a heavy-handed light welterweight like Prograis. Lomachenko’s recent fight against Jorge Linares showed that he’s vulnerable against punchers. Whatever small chance that Prograis has of ever fighting Lomachenko will likely go down the drain if he wins the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
Some fans made too much about the shots that Velasco was landing in the fight, mistakenly believing that he did better than he actually did. Crawford is one of those. He obviously believes that Spence should have gone all out to make it a one-sided shutout. In other words, Prograis should have fought with fear rather than having fun with the fight. Prograis didn’t want to do that because he had nothing to fear from Velasco. Prograis wanted to let Velasco have his moments in the fight to make it interesting. Prograis dared Velasco to land his shots by fighting with his hands down by his waist at time, and yet the fight was still a one-sided mismatch. With the care free manner in which Prograis fought, he made the fight much more interesting than it otherwise would have been had he simply torpedoed Velasco in the 1st round to knock him out immediately. That wouldn’t have been nearly as fun for the 3,615 boxing fans that had come out to see him fight.
Prograis’ body punching was devastating to behold. While he wasn’t going all out with his head shots, Prograis seemed to put everything he had in his body shots, and this resulted in Velasco hitting the deck in rounds 5, 7 and 8. The heavy body shots from the southpaw Prograis had Velasco looking in bad shape from the 5th round. As I mentioned earlier, Velasco’s corner should had made a move to pull their fighter out of the contest by round 6, because he was really getting tattooed by the heavy blows from Prograis. For some reason, Velasco’s corner left him out there for an extra two rounds after he took a real shellacking in the 6th. The fight should have been stopped during or after the 6th, but it was allowed to continue. Prograis was having fun and teeing off on Velasco.
“This dude came in unknown and he’s going to go down to be known. I’m not gonna lie. He was one of my toughest opponents,” Prograis said. “I kept dropping him. He was super tough. He was actually really strong, but I pushed through. I couldn’t lose in front of my hometown.”
The fight was fairly close in the first three rounds. Prograis looked like he was in 1st gear, landing occasional hard shots that would snap the head back of Velasco. The body shots were landing with thudding impacts, causing Velasco to back off. Still, Velasco was fighting back with some good shots. He just didn’t possess the power to trouble Prograis in a real way. As Prograis’ promoter Lou DiBella pointed out on Friday, if Prograis feels he can’t be hurt by his opponents, he’s going to walk them down and take their best shots in order to land his harder punches. That’s what we saw from Prograis on Saturday night. He was willing to take the best shots from Velasco so that he could connect with his punches.
In round 7, Prograis knocked Velasco down with a hard left to the midsection late in the round. After the round ended, Velasco was ready to call it quits in the fight. However, his trainer chose to give him a pep talk to keep him out there fighting. It was a mistake because it let to Prograis shelling the hurt and tired Velasco endlessly with devastating shots in the 8th round. Early in the round, Prograis knocked Velasco down with a left to the body. After the hurt Velasco got back up, Prograis continued to tee off on him until his trainer decided he’d seen enough of the mismatch and had the fight stopped. Referee Lawrence Cole then stopped the fight.
Prograis now enters the WBSS tournament, which he is the favorite to win. The only competition that Prograis figures to have will come from Josh Taylor (13-0, 11 KOs), Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs) and (18-0, 11 KOs). Relikh is a bigger puncher than Taylor, but he doesn’t possess the same boxing skills. Taylor is also very hard to beat fighting at home in his native Scotland. If Prograis winds up facing Taylor in Scotland, he may need to knock him out for him to have a chance of winning the fight. Also in the WBSS tournament is former WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan, Ryan Martin and Anthony Yigit. This week on Friday, the scheduled match-ups in the WBSS tournament will be announced.