Regis Prograis: regression, ring-rust or overreaction?

For a little over a half-decade Regis Prograis has cemented his spot in the sport of boxing at the 140-pound division as one of the best. With a fighting style closer to Jack Dempsey than the fighter of the modern era, the rhythm fighter that is Prograis, has a likable fighting style only rivaled by his likable persona outside of the ring. Prograis is in every sense of the word, a student of the game.

Yet, when he came back to his hometown of New Orleans, La, as a world champion, hoisting the WBC junior welterweight title above his waist proudly, and armed with a major promoter, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, his performance was befuddling. It wasn’t bad, but it also felt closer to Richar Abril versus Brandon Rios than it did Mike Tyson versus Larry Holmes.

In a world of 24-hour news coverage bad performances now get magnified. Reasonable takes often are the ones that go to the background, as doom and gloom will flood the world about this event.

If we are honest, the split-decision win from the WBC junior welterweight Regis Prograis over Danielito Zorrilla was a disappointment given the high-profile nature of his recent signing and some of the match-ups he could have in the future.

That said, let’s look at this deeply and reflect.

Hometown Nerves

Prograis hadn’t fought at home since his three-fight stretch of bouts from 2018-2019 that saw him fight on a Top Rank card in New Orleans, and concluded with him becoming a unified champion, defeating Kiryl Relikh in the World Boxing Super Series.

That was four years ago. Prograis was an eager and willing fighter looking to be loud in all ways possible, but mostly his performances. That Prograis was looking to be seen and respected by the world. Enter 2023, most pundits have Prograis as the best junior welterweight, or right up at the top. As he returned to New Orleans this time, Prograis was a legend. A folk hero for the people of Louisiana. Though he had world title fights at home, this one felt like a victory lap - a moment where Prograis could receive his flowers during his career.

From his Monday night jog through the city that his coach Bobby Benton, and 2020 Olympian and LSU grad Ginny Fuchs took part in a presser in which Regis Prograis promised to beat up his opponent Danielito Zorrilla. It felt like the storybook ending for a fighter who had to earn everything in the sport of boxing. Prograis has had a very hard road - from b-side fights to issues the general public and myself are unaware of.

Maybe just, maybe part of the issue with the tense, and at times predictable Prograis in this fight was that he wanted to perform too well. He wanted this to be too perfect, and what ended up happening was a performance that was criticized.

Prograis seemed to be doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the result to change, but it didn’t

Zorrilla Got No Love

Zorrilla before the COVID-19 pandemic was a prospect with some level of buzz who was being brought up on Golden Boy Promotions undercards. When he fought Arnold Barboza Jr as an undefeated fighter he was written off as a substantial opponent and in this fight, he was viewed as mostly a tune-up, at least to some.

Part of the problem with this bout was, Zorrilla was far too good to be looked at as a random person fighting a local legend. Zorrilla has pedigree, and also dreams and aspirations in the sport of boxing. Zorrilla entered the fight on house money and left with a notable name in the sport, because he made a big puncher at times look foolish - as Prograis struggled to cut off the ring against him.

Sure, you could say he was being risk-averse, and avoidant. I believe timidity is the word in the rule book that is used to discourage that, but Zorrilla fought a fight that made the fight competitive and close. Despite getting his name out there, and having a great performance, on a night in which he needed to show a lot of mental strength to not cave to being a B-side fighter, Russ Abner put it best on Twitter, when he felt Zorrilla will struggle to get a fight after this.

Zorrilla might just be a hard-luck fighter, who is known to be able to punch and box a bit, but came out and made Regis Prograis struggle, but now given the lack of excitement this fight generated might occupy a weird space in boxing. In short, Zorrilla was disrespected prior to the fight, and now he might not get a phone call to fight a prospect or contender for a great while after this outing. Such is the nature of the sport.

Ring Rust

Prograis is not fighting that often. Hopefully signing a deal with Matchroom Boxing will keep him more active. Since the pandemic, Prograis has fought five times, which seems decent. Now let’s look at the competition. Juan Heralded on a pay-per-view undercard in 2020, Ivan Redkach in 2021, Tyrone McKenna on some fight card that was hard to find, and Jose Zepeda for the WBC junior welterweight which was on an internet pay-per-view service, and now Danielito Zorrilla

With all due respect to Prograis and his opponents, that is essentially the only two top-ten opponents Prograis has fought in the last four years. A good case could be made that Prograis was avoided given he has a lot of power and is a solid rhythm fighter who does more than brawl, which could cause some trepidation when it comes to signing up to fight him.

That said, you have to fight the best fighters to have the best habits. You can’t fight a slew of world champions without taking damage in the process, but boxing is not unlike life - you have to guide your journey as best as you can for the outcome you want.

Prograis has fought on a PBC card, a Triller card, two internet-based cards, and now Matchroom Boxing. Part of the problem could simply be stability. Outside of his fantastic coach, Bobby Benton, Prograis hasn’t seemingly had that as he has moved around over the past few years despite being one of the best of his era.

Could this performance be a sum of the parts that are involved in that?


The worst possible scenario is something I got flashbacks of in the round of this fight. When Prograis hit the canvas and referee Ray Corona ruled it a slip, it sent me back to the Josh Taylor versus Jack Catterall fight.

Taylor looked off in the Catterall fight, and Catterall also was heavily disrespected in the lead-up to that fight.

Something about the reckless nature that made Regis Prograis so successful was missing. It could be as simple as the man in front of him not allowing him to be himself, but when looking at the CompuBox numbers they are chilling.

In a twelve-round fight, Prograis landed 42 out of 497 punches whereas Zorrilla landed 42 out of 310 punches. Compare this to the 252 punches out of 739 thrown over twelve rounds against Josh Taylor in a very obviously different type of fight. Yet, that is literally a regression of half if not slightly more than that.

Regis Prograis has been in some hard fights and has a style in which he believes in his offense so much he is not opposed to getting hit from time to time. This is something to think about and to also track with punch output over his next few fights.

We all get old, and despite Prograis being 34-years-old, which is young in life, but starting to get old as an athlete. It isn’t hard to believe that his prime might be closing.