Jose Zepeda was as battle-tested as a world-class fighter can be by the time he stepped into the ring with Regis Prograis last Saturday (Nov. 26) in Carson, California.
The Southern Californian ran then-unbeaten Jose Ramirez close in a bid for the WBC 140-pound title in 2019, dropping a majority decision in the defending beltholder’s home region while more than a few observers thought he deserved the nod. Zepeda outboxed skillful two-division titleholder Jose Pedra over 10 rounds later that year. He traded knockdowns with power-hitter Ivan Baranchyk in the 2020 Fight of the Year, which he won by chilling fifth-round KO. He blasted young New York City prospect Josue Vargas in one round last year.
But nothing Zepeda had experienced in 13 years of professional boxing could prepare him for the version of Prograis he encountered at the Dignity Health Sports Park. Anyone who had forgotten that Prograis is an old-school two-fisted punisher in the spirit of Henry Armstrong and Aaron Pryor was reminded by the New Orleans native’s crafty but relentless attack upon a game Zepeda, who was defiant until the fight was literally beat out of him by the 11th round.
Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw like Zepeda, had bided his time vs. three second-tier fighters on various platforms and undercards since dropping a majority decision to Josh Taylor in a sensational Ring championship fight in 2019. But while bouncing around in industry limbo, Prograis never took his eyes off the prize.
“Nobody believes in me more than me,” he said during the post-fight presser in Carson. “I didn’t lose my belief after the loss to Taylor. I never stopped training. I worked my ass off every single day for three years because I had to climb my way out of boxing hell.
“So, how I fought against Zepeda was not a surprise to me.”
Taylor, who hasn’t fought in 2022, is still the Ring champ. But Prograis, who entered the Zepeda as Ring’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight, now holds the WBC title and is firmly back in the consciousness of hardcore fans everywhere. Oh, and he’s also The Ring’s Fighter of the Week!
RING RATINGS UPDATE (as November 26):
Heavyweight – Dillian Whyte remains at No. 5 following a hard-fought majority decision over unbeaten but unrated Jermaine Kirkland.
Super middleweight – John Ryder remains at No. 3 after Zach Parker withdrew from their contender showdown with a hand injury. Parker, who suffered his first loss, drops to No. 8.
“Parker pulled himself out of the fight with Ryder at the end of the fourth round with a hand injury,” noted Anson Wainwright. “Big shame as this fight was taking shape. Ryder to stay at No. 3, Parker has to drop, I’d say a place or two.”
Junior middleweight – Charles Conwell advances to No. 9 with a hard-fought majority 10-round decision over unrated veteran Juan Carlos Abreu.
Wainwright suggested that Conwell (18-0, 13 KOs) remain rated No. 10, but Adam Abramowitz disagreed.
“I would move Conwell ahead of (Michel) Soro, who has been stopped recently and lit up in his last ‘no-contest’ against Madrimov,” said Abramowitz. “Conwell is on the ascendency.”
Junior welterweight – Prograis remains at No. 1. Zepeda drops to No. 5.