Home bird Prograis struggled with the "jitters" ahead of Hearn's meeting with Haney

Regis Prograis has revealed that he struggled with the “hometown jitters” in the build-up to and during his unconvincing victory over Danielito Zorrilla in New Orleans.

The WBC super lightweight champion was fighting in his home city for the first time in five years, and for the first time ever in a fight for a world title. 

In the weeks leading up to the occasion at the Smoothie King Center among the recurring narratives were that it had been 23 years – and Roy Jones Jr defeating Eric Harding – since New Orleans had hosted a world-title fight and even longer since Willie Pastrano’s peak in the 1960s when a local fighter had contested a world title in the city.

That Prograis was also fighting so unambitious an opponent – Puerto Rico’s Zorrilla had regardless only been given a month’s notice, following the Achilles injury suffered by Liam Paro of Australia – would also not have helped, nor would the pressure he was under to excel in his first fight under Matchroom and DAZN in the week after Teofimo Lopez was so impressive in defeating Josh Taylor.

After being fortunate that the referee Ray Corona didn’t recognise that he had been knocked down in the opening round and then dropping Zorrilla in the third, Prograis consistently struggled to cut down the ring. 

Bill Haney, the father, trainer and manager of the undisputed lightweight champion Devin, was ringside observing the 34-year-old Prograis’ performance ahead of his son’s potential move to 140lbs, and Prograis, speaking with more bruising and swelling around his right eye than was perhaps expected, explained: “The last two days I felt the hometown jitters. 

“The hometown fights are the worst – and I felt it going into it. I kept my belt and I’m happy for that but I’m not happy with the performance.

“Everybody you ever know is here. Dealing with tickets and so many different things – it will get to you.That’s a natural part of it.

“My last fight, when I fought [Jose] Zepeda [and won via 11th-round knockout in November], I felt like Zepeda was a way better fighter, and I fought in LA and I was way more comfortable. When I fought here in New Orleans the pressure gets to you.

“[Zorrilla] didn’t want to get knocked out and he came to survive. It was just like I was chasing him for 12 rounds.”

Asked about being dropped in the opening round by a right hand from the 29-year-old Zorrilla, having by then been awarded scores of 118-109, 113-114 and 117-110, Prograis said: “When it happened I was like, ‘That was not a knockdown’. In the ring it didn’t feel like a knockdown at all.

“It looked like it [was a knockdown on the replay].

“[But] I wasn’t never hurt in the fight at all.

“I have so many big opportunities in front of me for so much big, crazy money. I was looking past it.

“[I should have] cut him off more. A lot of times I was throwing the jab but I should have been stepping with the jab instead of just trying to throw a setup jab. After I dropped him I should have cut him off more; [I also needed to] throw more shots to the body.”

His promoter Eddie Hearn – who tempted Prograis to Matchroom over Top Rank – later revealed that he has plans to meet Devin Haney in New York in the coming week.

“They want the fight,” Hearn said. “[Bill Haney] looked over at me in the 10th round and went [waves], and I like Bill. They’re talking to us; they’re talking to the Middle East. I told them, ‘If you want to fight in the Middle East, you better make us a big offer’, and we’ll consider that as well. It’s not just a case of him coming on our show.

“I’m seeing Devin in New York next week.”