By Jake Donovan
Never one to renege on a promise, Regis Prograis was always prepared to stick around until the bitter end of the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament.
The unbeaten top-rated super lightweight was well aware of the threat over the tournament being canceled. Event handlers ran into financial issues during the quarterfinals round, with several participants threatening legal action in order to receive contracted compensation.
While others have run to the media with their concerns, Prograis—whom defeated former lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan last October to advance to the semifinals—simply kept his head down and mouth shut. His professionalism led to a relatively drama-free buildup to his upcoming clash with unbeaten 140-pound titist Kiryl Relikh this weekend in Lafayette, La.
“At first, it was kind of frustrating” Prograis (23-0, 19KOs) admitted during a recent media conference call of the delays in the tournament. “They told me it would be a quick turnaround with the tournament, then it wasn’t happening. I kept bugging my manager Sam (Katkovski) asking what was going on.
“I had a bunch of stuff planned. But I just stayed busy, stayed ready in the gym and now we’re glad that it’s happened. That’s why I stayed silent on everything that was going on. I told Sam, my first choice was to stay in the tournament. The dates lined up and I’m glad we stayed with it.”
The approach was in stark contrast to that of other tournament participants, namely one on the other side of the 140-pound bracket. Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12KOs) saw his career stuck in limbo as manager David McWater took to the media to air out dirty laundry while insisting for much of 2019 they were done with the tournament.
The unbeaten Russian—now training with Freddie Roach after having previously worked with Pedro Diaz—only recently resolved all lingering issues with the WBSS, receiving an undisclosed settlement to proceed with a May 18 title defense versus Josh Taylor on the road in Scotland. The winner will take on whomever prevails this weekend in Lafayette.
While there is plenty of sympathy to be found of Baranchyk’s plight, Prograis never saw such measures as an option in his own career. His showdown with Belarus’ Relikh (23-2, 19KOs) may have come roughly three months later than expected, but nevertheless always remained on the schedule.
“In my mind, I wanted it to continue,” notes Prograis. “I was adamant about staying in the tournament, not pulling out. If it was canceled due to financial issues, I couldn’t do anything about it.”
The bout will mark Prograis’ first crack at a full title, currently serving as the WBC “Diamond” 140-pound titlist—a chip which he can’t cash in until the conclusion of the tournament, at which point he can chase a fight with WBC full titlist Jose Ramirez.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s semifinals clash versus Relikh—whom outpointed former titlist Eduard Troyanovsky in their quarterfinals pairing last October for his first title defense—marks the first of a two-step process for the unbeaten 30-year old southpaw.
“I was promised an opportunity to fight for two belts, and that’s what I’m chasing,” points out Prograis, the number-one seed in the 140-pound bracket. “This tournament has two world titles, that’s why I joined – collect those belts along with the Ali Trophy.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox