Regis Prograis’ goal of bringing his World Boxing Super Series semifinal to his hometown of New Orleans appears unlikely.
And Prograis’ continued participation in the 140-pound division of the tournament could be in jeopardy.
Ring Magazine reported Friday that Prograis would meet Kiryl Relikh on either May 11 or 18 in Glasgow, Scotland, the home country of Josh Taylor who would meet Ivan Baranchyk in the other super lightweight semifinal.
The cruiserweight and bantamweight semifinals also would be contested as doubleheaders instead of separate sites as had originally been announced by the Swiss-based WBSS.
That’s also three months later than had been projected. It would push the championship bouts until late this year or even early 2020.
Leon Margules, the promoter for the American portion of the WBSS, including Prograis’ quarterfinal victory against Terry Flanagan in November in New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, said Saturday that a final decision would be made either Jan. 24 or 25 at a board meeting of Comosa AG, which owns the WBSS, in Basel, Switzerland. But Margules acknowledged that the expense of staging the cards on six separate sites made consolidating them three more practical.
“It’s up to the board,” said Margules, who had earlier reserved Lakefront on Feb. 22. “There’s the matter the TV contract because it would mean reducing the number of shows from 15 to 12.
“There are a lot of proposals out there.”
Prograis’ manager, Sam Katkovski of Churchill Management, said that having the semifinals in Scotland was acceptable even though Prograis has never fought outside the United States. But that as the No. 1 seed in his division and the top-ranked 140-pound fighter in the world, Prograis (23-0, 19 KOs) would not agree to return there to face Taylor in the final should both advance.
On top of that, Katkovski said Churchill promoter Lou DiBella and Prograis himself were “extremely frustrated,” by the delay in the tournament and other aspects of the operation, including what they called poor promotion of Prograis’ previous bout.
The Prograis-Flanagan bout drew less than 2,000 paying fans, about half of the turnout for his July bout in Lakefront against Juan Jose Velasco which was promoted by Bob Arum’s Top-Rank Productions.
Other WBSS quarterfinals held in Orlando, Florida, and Chicago also drew poorly.
Prograis, who trains in Houston, could not be reached for comment Saturday, but last week he told boxingtalk.com, “I don’t know what’s going on.
“I’m just kind of still in limbo. From what I hear, it’s supposed to go on as planned, but it’s been taking so long that I’m starting to wonder if it’s going to happen.”
Katkovski said pulling Prograis out of the tournament, even before the upcoming board meeting, is a possibility. But any legal action could result in Prograis’ not being allowed to fight anywhere for some time, so letting things play out is preferred.
“Regis is a fighter; he’s training now and he wants to be in the ring,” Katkovski said. “That’s why we’re still debating and assessing what to do.
“Knowing they’re meeting on Jan. 24-25 is great and we’ll see what comes out of that. But it doesn’t help me sleep any better at night."
The Ring story said that some of the participants in six quarterfinal shows which were held in October and November did not get paid by the agreed dates because of financial issues faced by Comosa after one of its principal investors, MP & Silva, a London-based sports agency, filed for bankruptcy last year.
Margules said Saturday that all of the fighters had now been paid and that cancelling the rest of the series would not be on the table at Comosa’s upcoming meeting.
Katkovski said Prograis was paid as scheduled for the Flanagan fight, but that going forward there were concerns about guarantees for the future, especially since Prograis put on hold potentially lucrative bouts against WBC superlight champion Jose Ramirez. WBO champion Maurice Hooker and WBO welterweight champion Terrance Crawford to participate in the tournament.
Now, if Prograis remains in the WBSS, none of those bouts could take place until mid-2020 at the earliest, and Prograis, who turns 30 on Jan. 24, would not want to waste prime months, or even years of his career on bouts that never take place or in legal limbo.
“Regis can still make weight at 140, but he’s also said he wants to move up to 147 one day,” Katkovski said. “He loves to train, he lives clean and we’ve put him with a nutritionist to make sure he eats right.
“But the clock is ticking, and that’s a concern.”
Margules, who will not be attending the Comosa board meeting, said that any new sports enterprise should be expected to have some growing pains (the WBSS is in its second year) and that there were several sites under consideration for the semifinals and championship bouts, including ones in Russia, Germany, Latvia and Puerto Rico along with New Orleans.
“We had 27,000 in Moscow for the cruiserweight championship last year,” he said. “You’ve just got to put everything together right, which is the way it always works in boxing.”
He also pointed out the DAZN, an English-based streaming service, had guaranteed the TV rights for the tournament.
That was cold comfort to Katkovski.
“It sounds like they’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen,” he said. “Regis isn’t able to build his brand when he isn’t fighting, and we sure don’t want him training for something that might now happen.
“We just need some clarity.”
Prograis would appreciate that as well.
“I’m always in the gym,” he told boxingtalk.com. “But some days it’s hard to go and be motivated.
“I can’t keep waiting like this. Something’s got to happen soon.”