Since relocating from his native New Orleans to Houston after Hurricane Katrina, boxer Regis Prograis has passed through Lafayette countless times, but seldom stopping there.
Now, Acadiana is increasingly appearing to be the site of the biggest fight of Prograis’ career.
The World Boxing Super Series announced Sunday that Prograis will meet WBA super lightweight champion Kiryl Relikh in the WBSS semifinals on April 27 “in the USA with the final site being finalized.”
Multiple sources said Sunday that Lafayette remains the most likely venue, although Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Fresno, California, are also under consideration. An official confirmation should come this week.
A WBSS bantamweight semifinal unification bout between Nonito Donaire and Zolani Tate would be the feature match for the show to be held at the Cajundome and streamed worldwide by DAZN. They would be the first world championship fights in Lafayette.
For Prograis (23-0, 19 KOs), it will be his first title shot. The 30-year-old is ranked No. 2 at 140 pounds by ESPN. Relikh (23-2, 19 KO) is a native of Belarus although he usually trains in Fort Lauderdale.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Prograis said Sunday from his home in Houston. “I’m glad we finally got the deal done and we’ve got a date.
“Now we’ve just got to find where it’s going to be. The biggest thing is that I’m finally fighting for the championship of the world.”
Longtime Lafayette boxing promoter Kerry Daigle, who would carry the title of “executive strategist” for the show, said that all of the arrangements have been made to stage it at the Cajundome, and it was now up to Comosa AG, the Swiss-based owner of the WBSS, to make the final call.
Leon Margules, the promoter for WBSS cards in the US who is also Relikh’s promoter, confirmed that Sunday, adding that he could see no last-minute impediment to Lafayette.
Prograis’ past two fights were in New Orleans at Lakefront Arena and he had expressed the desire to return there for the semifinals. As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, he should have had the leverage to make that happen.
However, Prograis’ last fight, a unanimous decision over Terry Flanagan on Oct. 27, drew fewer than 2,000 paying fans. Also, April 27 falls during the opening weekend of JazzFest.
“I told them I really wanted to fight in New Orleans again, and this time I’ve got my team out there making sure it would be promoted right,” Prograis said. “But they kept pushing it away.
“I don’t get it, but Lafayette is going to be a good place, too.”
For a time, it appeared that Prograis-Relikh would be held on May 18 in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a WBSS doubleheader featuring Josh Taylor against IBF champion Ivan Baranchyk in the other super lightweight semifinal.
However, Baranchyk pulled out of the tournament last month, citing financial concerns among other items. Prograis’ management then threatened to pull him out as well unless the Relikh fight was relocated, preferably to the U.S., and in April instead of May.
Margules, who is Relikh’s promoter, said his fighter could not be ready before April 27, which he viewed as making New Orleans problematic.
There was no suitable venue in Houston as well, so Margules and Daigle came up with the idea of Lafayette, roughly midway between the two cities.
Daigle was able to get help from local government and tourist commission officials, putting it ahead of other American cities with the added advantage of location.
“We’re ready to pull the trigger,” Daigle said. “It’s going to be a great night of boxing in Lafayette.”