Prograis-Zorrilla fight week diary: Day One

The last time New Orleans hosted a world title fight the great Roy Jones Jr was at his remarkable peak.

On that occasion, on September 9, 2000, Jones was making the latest defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO light-heavyweight titles at the New Orleans Arena, against Eric Harding.

Jones Jr, the finest fighter of his generation, was fighting in New Orleans 20 years after the finest of the previous generation, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, had done so against the similarly great Roberto Duran when beating him in their rematch at the Superdome. 

Two years earlier Muhammad Ali, the finest of the generation before the Four Kings, recorded his final victory at the same venue in his rematch with Leon Spinks.

For the occasion of Regis Prograis’ first fight in his home city for five years, and first world title fight here, tickets for his defence of his WBC super lightweight title are still widely available.

That he is such a strong favourite against Danielito Zorrilla – the Puerto Rican who accepted Saturday’s fight at a month’s notice after an Achilles injury forced Liam Paro of Australia to withdraw – will have contributed. There is also the reality that the undercard is not particularly appealing, and that in the US late rushes to buy tickets are common. Eddie Hearn, whose organisation Matchroom are promoting Saturday’s fight, may have been able to help had he been arriving in the city before Wednesday evening.

In an attempt to publicise Saturday’s fight, Prograis on Monday evening ran through the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans with some of his local supporters. On Tuesday, he and Zorrilla were scheduled to face off outside of the Smoothie King Center, where on Saturday they will fight, but had to do so inside because of the torrential rain.

Both fighters made themselves available to DAZN and the media on Wednesday; on Thursday is their final press conference, and on Friday they weigh-in. By way of comparison, ahead of last week’s more appealing fight between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez – which eventually sold out at the theatre at New York’s Madison Square Garden – beyond time with broadcasters Sky Sports and ESPN, the two fighters were only committed to a press conference on the Thursday and Friday’s weigh-in. There had been minor pockets of media access earlier in the week.

The schedule for a big fight week in Vegas typically involves grand arrivals on the Tuesday, a public workout on the Wednesday, a press conference on the Thursday, and a public weigh-in on the Friday. If New Orleans is to regularly stage boxing again, more of Prograis’ supporters will have to invest in tickets.