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Regis Prograis faces Kiryl Relikh next

Image: Regis Prograis faces Kiryl Relikh next

By Mike Smith: Regis Prograis (23-0, 19 KOs) is heading towards the semifinal of the World Boxing Super Series 140 lb tournament to face WBA ‘regular’ light welterweight champion Kiryl Relikh (23-2, 19 KOs) following his 12 round unanimous decision victory over Terry Flanagan (33-2, 13 KOs) last Saturday night in their quarterfinal fight in the WBSS tourney at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The judges’ scores for the Prograis vs. Flanagan fight last Saturday night were as follows: 119-108, 118-109, 117-110.

The win for Prograis showed that he’s going to need to fight at a higher level in his semifinal fight against Relikh if he wants to progress to final of the WBSS tournament.

“Now the world is seeing what I can do. There’s nobody in this tournament who can beat me. The Ali Trophy is mine, it doesn’t matter who I fight,” Prograis said.

It would be well for Prograis not to overlook his next opponent 28-year-old Relikh, as this is a fighter that has the power to send him down to defeat. There were a number of shots that Flanagan landed on the chin of Prograis that caused him to back off. Prograis was getting caught with a lot of punches from Flanagan that he didn’t see coming. Relikh has the type of power that could take Prograis out if he lands his shots without him seeing them coming.

Prograis had Flanagan looking ready to go in the 8th round of the fight after putting him on the canvas courtesy of a left hand to the head. Flanagan, 29, had never been knocked down before or even hurt in his career. Flanagan got up and fought like a wounded animal, attacking Prograis with a ferocity that the New Orleans native wasn’t expected. The intensity of Flanagan’s response to being knocked down helped him back Prograis off and survive the round. A better fighter than Prograis would have recognized what Flanagan was doing, and they would have stayed on top of him and finished him. Prograis wasn’t mentally strong enough to get the job done when he had Flanagan ready to go. Prograis was able to dominate the remainder of the fight in winning rounds 9 through 12, but it wasn’t thrilling to watch. Prograis didn’t want to mix it up with Flanagan anymore after tasting some of his power in the 8th. With his response to being knocked down in the 8th, Flanagan had earned Prograis’ respect, making him hesitant to want to attack him hard for the remainder of the fight. Although Prograis won the fight, he wasn’t able to shine due to him not being willing to stay in the pocket and attack Flanagan the way he needed to for him to get the knockout.

Flanagan gave Prograis huge headaches in many of the rounds, making him pay for standing in front of him. Flanagan’s superior size and reach gave Prograis fits, keeping him from controlling the fight in the manner that he’s been accustomed to in the past. Prograis had hand-picked Flanagan, a former World Boxing Organization lightweight champion, with the likely idea of getting a fighter on the downside of his career. However, the fight turned out to be a harder one for Prograis than expected, and he had to be careful in every round to keep from getting hit by Flanagan’s hard shots.

Relikh has the punching power to give Prograis issues if he’s able to land his shots the way that Flanagan was able to. The 5’9″ Flanagan frequently beat Prograis to the punch in every round last night. Prograis fought like he was unable to lead in the way that you’d like to see from the number one seed in a tournament. Prograis looked like a follower than a leader against Flanagan, and that’s going to be a problem when he steps it up against Relikh in early 2019 in their semifinal fight in the world Boxing Super Series light welterweight tournament.

The Prograis-Flanagan was a chess-match rather than the slug-fest that many boxing fans expected it to be. Prograis, 29, got the victory, but it was uninspiring stuff.

Relikh has won his last two fights against Rances Barthelemy and Eduard Troyanovsky. Relikh beat Troyanovsky by a close 12 round unanimous decision earlier this month on October 7 in his quarterfinal fight in the World Boxing Super Series tournament to advance to the semifinal to face Prograis. Relikh won by the scores 115-113, 115-113 and 115-113.

Most boxing fans expect Prograis to beat Relikh to meet Josh Taylor (13-0, 11 KOs) in the final of the WBSS tourney in 2019. Taylor will be fighting Ryan Martin (22-0, 12 KOs) next Saturday night on November 3 in their quarterfinal fight in the WBSS tourament at the SSE Arena in Glasgow, Scotland. Taylor is viewed as a sure thing winnner of that fight.

“Flanagan was a tough fighter and I knew he would be hard to get to,” Prograis said. “But I had the most fun out there tonight than I’ve ever had from Round 1 to Round 12.”

While it may have been fun for Prograis in boxing his way to a lackluster 12 round decision over Flanagan, it wasn’t exciting for the fans that watched it. The major complaint the fans had was the lack of action in the fight. Both guys were playing it safe for most of the fight. Aside from the brief fireworks in the 8th round with Prograis dropping Flanagan, the fight was a slow affair with little action.

Relikh and Josh Taylor are the guys that could cause Prograis to fall apart with their power. Taylor is more of the complete package, with power, boxing skills and size. If Relikh doesn’t beat Prograis next, then Taylor could be the guy that does the job on him. Taylor needs to beat Ryan Martin, and then Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs) in the semifinal of the WBSS tournament for him to get a shot at facing the winner of the Prograis-Relikh fight in the final of the tournament

Prograis needs to fight with more of a sense of urgency for him to get past Relikh, as the Belorussian fighter doesn’t believe in fighting half-speed the way we saw from Regis last Saturday.

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