Regis Prograis-Devin Haney fight week diary: Day Two

At Thursday’s final press conference for Saturday’s WBC super lightweight title fight between Regis Prograis and Devin Haney, ringing in ProBox TV’s ears were the words, on Wednesday, of Prograis’ experienced press officer Bernie Bahrmasel. “They respect each other,” he said of the main-event fighters. “They don’t like each other.” 

On reflection it was inevitable that Prograis and his strength and conditioning coach Evins Tobler, and Haney and his father, trainer and manager Bill, would clash. Not only are Prograis and Haney entering a high-profile, competitive fight, they have been dismissing each other’s claims to the occasion of Saturday’s fight on geographical grounds. Prograis insists that Haney, a long-term resident of Las Vegas but one born in San Francisco, cannot consider himself, when he is at the Chase Center, to be fighting in his “hometown”; Haney simply dismissed the prospect of anyone in the northern Californian city having any interest in seeing the New Orleans-associated Prograis at all.

If he was an active fighter Tobler would be a heavyweight. Bill Haney would not, but he is also every inch the alpha male – and they also both had cause to be protective of their fighters. Between them sat Prograis, the blue collar fighter ProBox TV suspects would be fighting on the streets if he wasn’t a professional prizefighter, and Haney, the groomed-for-greatness boxer who in so many ways has modelled himself on Floyd Mayweather and who on Thursday wore dark sunglasses in a venue with no natural sunlight. If Tobler and Bill Haney are opposite sides of the same coin, Prograis and Devin Haney may as well be from opposite ends of the earth. 

Between the warring parties at the top table sat Eddie Hearn, clearly content at his responsibility of promoting Saturday’s fight close to being done on his behalf. He had earlier described it as the “fight of the year”, and while 2023 is nearing its conclusion, he is also promoting next week’s appealing flyweight contest between Jesse Rodriguez and Sunny Edwards, and perhaps should only – whether he is right or wrong – be allowed to use that line once (it’s almost certain he’s already done so repeatedly in the third and fourth quarters alone).

“Sometimes you’re trying to extract things from people, and then it’s like, when is it going to end?” he said to ProBox TV of the pissing contest he had just sat in the middle of. Said pissing contest had been provoked by the Haneys arriving with numerous posters depicting the Rougarou, the “legendary Louisiana ‘swamp monster’” Prograis has taken his nickname from, as captured on December 9 and taken to New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo, furthering their existing geographical discord.

There was a moment when Hearn attempted to get Prograis to offer a closing statement and Prograis, who has accused him from his role as their co-promoter of favouring Haney, demanded he ask Haney first. There was also an impression from Bill Haney of Hearn’s familiar Essex twang. ProBox TV later heard Bill Haney asked if the posters were his idea, and him essentially confirming they were by laughing out loud. Prograis had previously said that Bill Haney, more than Devin, was the one who indulged in mind games; his reading of his opponents on Saturday had ultimately proved correct.

“The fighters chimed in this time,” Hearn continued. “There was never any moment where I was thinking, ‘This could get nasty’, ‘cause I know Bill, and I know Evins, and deep down, it’s not jokey, but it’s kinda like, ‘We’re gonna talk our shit; you’re gonna talk your shit’. They’ve been around each other in the [fight] hotel. I’ve been in press conferences before where I’ve been concerned about the threat of violence. There’s none of that here. It’s just a case of are they gonna shut up, and at what point do I step in and go, ‘Alright, boys’. Bill gets the need to promote. Evins' just talking.”

When they faced off Haney – who notoriously struggled to make the 135lbs lightweight limit and benefitted from being able to weigh in earlier because of the ceremonial weigh-in organised on the eve of his fight in May with the vastly smaller Vasyl Lomachenko – was, ahead of his first fight at 140lbs, comfortably bigger than Prograis.

“Devin was massive at lightweight, and he’ll definitely struggle to make 140,” said the promoter. “That’s how much cut it was at 135. I do think he’ll be stronger. Will he punch harder? Will he be more robust? Or will he struggle with fighting a bigger guy? I think he could move to 147 quite quickly.

“It’ll be a ceremonial weigh-in [on Friday afternoon]. In the morning they’ll weigh-in at the hotel. I don’t think [earlier, private weigh-ins being healthier for fighters] is necessarily the reason [why]. The weigh-in is more of a commercial event to really sell the show, and the paperwork of the commission – they prepare not to do it with all the TV cameras and the, ‘Stand here, do that’. I feel, for the fighters, it’s so much safer. If you’re weighing in at 9am you’ve got an extra four hours to rehydrate. That’s massive. The British Boxing Board of Control should be doing that as well.

“You can see the doctor in one room, you can weigh in, and everything can be dealt with.”