Regis Prograis would like his next fight to be back in his native New Orleans.
“I want to be a franchise, just like the Saints and the Pelicans,” said Prograis, who’s undefeated in 23 fights (19 KOs). “And you always do better with the crowd behind you.”
But after a less-than satisfactory turnout for Prograis’ last bout, World Boxing Super Series organizers may have other ideas.
Prograis is scheduled to meet Kiryl Relikh of Belarus in the WBSS super lightweight semifinals early next year. The location, along with that of the other five semifinals, should be announced by the end of November.
And while Leon Margules, the Miami-based promoter of record for the WBSS’ American events, revealed that he has booked UNO's Lakefront Arena, site of Prograis’ previous two bouts, for Feb. 22, he cautioned that nothing has been decided.
“I can’t tell you exactly for sure that we’re coming back,” Margules, a Tulane graduate, said. “It’s a good possibility.
“Respectfully though, it’s not up to Regis. It could be another date in another city.”
Los Angeles, home of Prograis’ management group, and Houston, where he lives and trains, are alternative possibilities, Margules added. Margules said he doubted the fight being held outside the U.S., although Moscow and Ekaterinburg, Russia, have put in bids, which no one representing New Orleans has.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, has bid on the other super lightweight semifinal pitting Ivan Baranchyk, a Belarusian who has fought several times as a nearby casino, and Ryan Martin of Scotland. San Juan, Puerto Rico, has bid for a bantamweight semi featuring Emmanuel Rodriguez, whose quarterfinal bout was held in Orlando.
“We’re getting $1 million bids, but we know that no American city is going to do that,” Margules said. “We just have to see what works best.”
Ceding the site selection rights was understood to be part of the deal by Prograis’ handlers, Churchill Management and promoter Lou DiBella, entering him in the WBSS, a Basel, Switzerland organization now in its second year which is simultaneously staging eight-man super-lightweight, bantamweight and cruiserweight tournaments around the world.
The quarterfinal rounds, contested over the past six weeks, ended Saturday with a cruiserweight doubleheader in Chicago.
Prograis being the No. 1 seed in the super-lightweight bracket has no bearing on the semifinal site.
The WBSS also controls the local promotion rights. For the Flanagan fight, the WBSS used a different firm than DiBella’s, and the result was a decidedly smaller turnout than the 3,612 announced for Prograis’ DiBella/Top Rank-promoted July 14 bout against Juan Jose Velasco that ended with an eighth-round knockout.
That successful promotion was the principal reason Prograis’ quarterfinal bout against Terry Flanagan was held in New Orleans.
Margules said the turnout for the Flanagan fight was about 500 less than Prograis’ previous one, and that both shows included 600-700 tickets being given away.
“They really didn’t push the fight,” Prograis, who received a percentage of the gate for both bouts, said. “I think they were more worried about selling TV apps (the bout was streamed on DAZN) than how many people showed up, and they thought just putting up a couple of billboards and doing a little TV would be enough.
“They didn’t get though to the right people like we did the first time.”
Prograis made only one pre-fight week appearance in New Orleans, which was handled by DiBella rather than the WBSS.
DiBella had no comment on that, but did say, “We would love Regis to be able to come back to New Orleans for the next round and for us to have the opportunity to promote it into a really big show.”
If the fight is held in New Orleans, it would be at Lakefront rather than the larger Smoothie King Center, which is booked that weekend for two Pelicans games.
The following weekend is out because it is the one before Mardi Gras and neither Lakefront nor the SKC are available for any of the other four scheduled dates for the WBSS semifinals, which will have single headline events.
“Our parent company (Comosa AG) board will be meeting in a week or so,” Margules said. “They’ll ask me for my advice, but it’s going to be their decision.
“The live gates for the fights is obviously very important and Comosa has talked about wanting one in Basel. If I were a betting man, I’d say New Orleans has about a 50/50 chance.”
Prograis, who has a tattoo of the New Orleans skyline on his chest and several other reminders of the Crescent City elsewhere on his body, said he is hoping for a favorable outcome, but is more concerned about winning to advance to the tournament final.
“I wasn’t happy about the way things were the last time,” he said. “But I couldn’t do anything about it except complain.
“I love New Orleans and I’ve never had to fight in anybody else’s backyard. But my main job is to get back to working hard like I always do and win this fight no matter where it is.”