Jose Zepeda hopes that the third time is the championship charm Saturday night.
The 140-pound contender understands, too, that it is unlikely he’ll get a fourth opportunity to fight for a world title if he doesn’t make the most of his third championship chance. Zepeda, the WBC’s number one-ranked contender in the 140-pound division, will face second-ranked Regis Prograis for the unclaimed WBC super lightweight title in an intriguing battle between powerful southpaws.
Their 12-round bout will headline a four-fight pay-per-view event that’ll take place at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California (9 p.m. ET; 6 p.m. PT; $59.99).
“This is the third time for an opportunity for the world title for me,” Zepeda stated during a press conference Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency LAX in Los Angeles. “And that’s why I keep saying this is the time for me to get this belt. I am in my prime and I have all the experience I need. Regis Prograis is gonna be fighting the best version of Jose Zepeda, because I really believe it’s now or never in my career to get [at title]. You know, [it’s] my third time [fighting] for [a title], so I have to do it.”
The 33-year-old Zepeda lost his first two championship matches, but neither defeat was conclusive.
The La Puente, California resident suffered a separated shoulder in the second round of his fight against England’s Terry Flanagan for the vacant WBO lightweight title in July 2015. Flanagan (then 27-0) won that bout by technical knockout because Zepeda couldn’t continue at Manchester Velodrome in Manchester, England, Flanagan’s hometown.
Three-and-a-half years later, Zepeda dropped a controversial 12-round majority decision to Jose Ramirez, then the unbeaten WBC super lightweight champion. That February 2019 bout was contested at Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California, near Ramirez’s hometown of Avenal.
In accordance with WBC rules for vacant championships, the Zepeda-Prograis winner will be obligated next to make the first of two mandated title defenses against Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs), who is ranked third by the WBC in the 140-pound division.
After entering enemy territory the first two times, Zepeda (36-2, 28 KOs, 2 NC) is the hometown fighter in his third world title fight. He resides in the greater Los Angeles area, whereas Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs), a New Orleans native, calls Katy, Texas home.
“It’s nice, to be honest. I always fight in my opponent’s backyard,” Zepeda said. “And this is the first time that I’m gonna be fighting in a big, big fight in my backyard. So, I think it’s gonna be a great night. It’s gonna be a great night for boxing and a great night for the WBC and for whoever wins, man. Like I say, it’s an extra motivation for me to fight in my backyard. And I keep saying, this is it for me. This has to be it, so I’m a hundred percent.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.