WBC junior welterweight champion, Regis Prograis, will not be facing his mandatory challenger, Jose Ramirez. Mike Coppinger of ESPN reported a couple of nights ago that Ramirez -- a former unified champion at 140 -- will instead face Richard Commey in late March.
The reality is that Prograis-Ramirez was never going to occur next.
In the wake of Prograis dominant victory over Jose Zepeda for the vacant title on Thanksgiving weekend, it was made clear beforehand that 'Rougarou' would have to face Ramirez in his upcoming bout. Ramirez and his team stated to Coppinger that they balked at the 65-35 split in favor of the current champion that was set by the WBC.
You can argue that validity of that argument, but here's the bottom line: Prograis isn't aligned with Top Rank and entirely too dangerous for their taste. The last thing they want is for the native of New Orleans to go in and knock off one of their fighters on their network, and then seek opportunities elsewhere. Which is why Ramirez will face Commey, a natural lightweight, who drew in his last bout versus Jose Pedraza.
Mikey Williams for Top Rank
See, professional prizefighting is all about risk-vs-reward. The reality is that Prograis is simply not worth the risk (especially at just 35-percent of the pie) to those on the other side of the table. Which is really the modern boxing business in a nutshell: you don't have promoters, but protectors, who protect their own fighters and their networks interests.
What Terence Crawford was to PBC welterweights while with Top Rank, is what Prograis is to them while under the Probellum umbrella.
It's a vicious cycle.
Another factor, Top Rank simply didn't want to deal with Richard Schaefer, who heads up Probellum. The fact that there were no negotiations between the two sides shows you that there was no real attempt to make this bout a reality. You could argue that the WBC split was unfair to Ramirez, who has shown to be a legitimate draw in the Central Valley, but why was there no attempt to find a middle ground?
Ramirez says he would have been willing to fight at a 40-percent split. So why not find out if Prograis was willing to give him that five from his end? But it must be noted, Prograis earned this percentage by facing Zepeda, something that Ramirez passed on as he focused on his wedding. Prograis earned the favorable percentage.
Unfortunately for Prograis, he isn't with the entity with the exclusive network deal. The boxing fans wanted a real fight, which Prograis-Ramirez certainly would have been. Instead, they will be fed network content from Fresno.
Sam Katkovski, who represents Prograis told SNAC.com, that they were, "Disappointed, I think after certain comments from Ramirez's side we were expecting them to fight us."
Now, Prograis is slated to face Teofimo Lopez (who struggled to get past Sandor Martin a couple of weeks ago) in what is another WBC mandatory. Lopez just happens to be another boxer represented by Top Rank, as is the recognized champion at 140, Josh Taylor. There is no guarantee the Prograis ever mixes with any of these guys.
"Look, I can play, 'who's avoiding who', all I know is that that's our next mandatory," Katvoski said in regards to Lopez. "Regis will fight anybody, any time. Regis wants those fights, he wants Ramirez, he wants Taylor, he wants all those fights."
It says here that Prograis and his team have to start to take the initiative and create their own business model, and that would begin by being more active in the upcoming year, and attempting to fight a few times in 2023. Since the ending of 2019, Prograis has fought on just four occasions, with the majority of those shows being on secondary platforms. He's made some good money, but hasn't had all that much mainstream exposure.
Probellum could start by staging a card in New Orleans, after all, that is their job to promote him. Just wishing, hoping and begging that Top Rank gives him the opportunity to face one of their clients is a disservice to him. As for Prograis, he should do his part by understanding his situation and how to better it.
His plight reminds me a bit of one Winky Wright, another gifted southpaw who for years was relegated to fighting in Europe to ply his craft. After getting the short end of a dubious decision versus Fernando Vargas, had to then work his way back up the ladder and faced the likes of Jason Papillion, Bronco McKart, Keith Mullings, Robert Frazier, JC Candelo and Angel Hernandez, on various platforms for what couldn't have been great paydays, but he kept at it.
Eventually in the back end of his career he earned millions against Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Jermain Taylor, Ike Quartey and Bernard Hopkins. His persistence and consistency won over the boxing fans and industry. Familiarity can breed respect.
I'm not totally sure Prograis is willing to do this, or if the platforms are available to make this happen. Much has changed in this business from then. No longer are there franchises like 'USA's Tuesday Night Fights' or 'Friday Night Fights' on ESPN, that would give wayward boxers an opportunity to showcase their talent while unattached to the brand name promoters.
But Probellum and Prograis can not just wallow and disappear. They have to control what they can -- which is their own destiny. Yet, this has to be made clear -- Prograis is being avoided. He is a victim of the current system that reward associations more than merit.
It reminds me of the line delivered by John Mutuszak in 'North Dallas Forty': "To you its just a business, but to us, its still gotta be a sport."
I'll say this again, if a boxer, for any reason, turns down a mandatory fight as the number one contender, they should be dropped from the rankings. Boxers should not be allowed to just squat on a ranking, while holding up the rest of the division.
Also, what's a mandate if it comes with no penalties?
Look up the word, 'mandate' and see what it says.
And a mandate without penalties is just a request.
Ask any parent, if you give your kids a weekly allowance that is based on completing certain chores that are mandatory, such as taking out the garbage every Thursday, and doing dishes, you can best believe that they will absolutely do these things if you withhold their money.
On February 3 from Glendale, Arizona, Emanuel Navarrete will face Liam Wilson for the WBO 130-pound title. Wilson replaces Oscar Valdez, who got injured recently while in training camp....Also on this ESPN broadcast is a junior welterweight scrap between Arnold Barboza and Pedraza.....Rest in peace to Steve Smoger, a world-class referee, and by all accounts, a great guy....Hope everyone has a good Christmas.... I can be reached at email@example.com.....