Boxers, the old adage goes, must train 1,000 hours for every round they’re actually in the ring.
If that’s so, Regis Prograis has a ton of time in the bank.
Prograis’ past five fights were scheduled for a combined 52 rounds. Instead, they’ve lasted 10, all knockouts by the undefeated native New Orleanian who will defend his WBC interim super lightweight title against also-undefeated Juan Jose Velasco of Argentina on Saturday night at Lakefront Arena.
The KOs came in the first, fourth, first, second and second rounds, respectively, the most recent against two-time world champion Julius Indongo in March to gain the title. Of Prograis' 21 fights since he turned pro in 2012, 18 have ended early.
Prograis’ last fight to go the distance was a unanimous eight-round decision against then-unbeaten Amos Cowart almost three years ago. He’s never been knocked down or in trouble.
It’s a major reason Prograis is the No. 2-rated 140-pounder in the world, behind only Jose Carlos Ramirez, with whom he shares the WBC title.
“I don’t want to say I go in looking for the knockout, but this is a rough business which is about hurting people,” Prograis said after a workout at the New Orleans Boxing Club on Wednesday. “Mike Tyson is my idol, and he didn’t waste any time.
“If I hit somebody early and I know I’ve hurt him, then I know I’ve got him.”
That’s what happened in the Indongo fight. Prograis staggered Indongo with a short right in the first round, keeping his taller opponent on the defensive for the rest of the round with body shots.
Then in the second round, Prograis slipped a jab and landed a big overhead right that Indongo down. After another knockdown, the referee stopped the fight.
And even though Indongo had been knocked out in the third round of his previous fight, a unification bout against Terrence Crawford, Indongo’s first defeat in 20 fights, Prograis still expressed surprise that he was able finish things quicker than Crawford, who has since moved up to welterweight and is considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
“I was able to get in close and knew I was hurting him with quick lefts,” Prograis said of Indongo. “But I never figured on getting to him that fast.
“I felt like I totally destroyed him.”
Prograis is an aggressive fighter, using balance, angles and punching power to maintain pressure on his opponents. If he can’t get to the other man’s head, then he’ll settle for the chest, ribs or stomach.
But he’s always there right in front of his opponent, denying him the space to jab.
It’s a style Prograis has developed since teaming up with Houston trainer Bobby Benton after his first few fights, even though they all ended in victory.
“He was still a raw kid when he came to me,” Benton said. “But he was tough as nails, and once I started working with him on things like head movement and not getting hit, he really came on.”
Les Bonano, who promoted two of Prograis’ early fights, one at the Landmark in Metairie and the other at the Gretna Heritage Fest, is the event coordinator for Saturday’s card. He has noticed the change, too.
“He’s just a different guy now,” Bonano said. “When he started, he was good, but not great.
“You’ve got to give Bobby credit for developing him so fast into a really good fighter. He had the power, but now he’s got the moves and pivots that let him stay close and get his shots in.”
Velasco, who is unranked despite his 20-0 record, acknowledged what he’s up against.
“He’s a southpaw, he’s quick, he’s got a sneaky punch you don’t see coming and he’s got power,” Velasco said. “You’ve got to assume that he able to live up to the hype.”
But Miami-based trainer Herman Cascedo, who has worked with Velasco for the past 12 weeks, said his fighter is not planning on fighting a purely defensive bout.
“If he starts out by backing up, then it’s lost already,” he said. “And he’s not going to stand in the middle of the ring, drop his hands see if the other guy can knock him out.
“I know that we’re the underdog and a lot of people look on this as a layup for Regis. But Juan has had a long, hard camp, and his record shows he can throw a good punch, too.”
For his part, Prograis said he is regarding Velasco like he has every opponent — as the toughest he’s ever faced.
“You never know who is going to push you to your limit, so you’ve got to go into every fight ready to go that limit,” he said. “I’ve never been in trouble in a fight, but when it happens, I’ll be prepared for it. That’s why you put in the work.”
And even though 12,000 hours for a 12-round fight comes out to more than four years when divided into eight-hour days without any off, it’s a good bet that Prograis — and Velasco — have put in the time for this one.