Regis Prograis’ power eventually was too much for Jose Zepeda on Saturday night.
Prograis became a two-time 140-pound champion by knocking out Zepeda early in the 11th round of their fight for the vacant WBC super lightweight title at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Referee Ray Corona stopped their 12-round championship match 59 seconds into the 11th round, right after Prograis’ left hand finally sent a stubborn Zepeda to the canvas.
Prograis won the WBC 140-pound crown that Josh Taylor vacated earlier this year in the main event of a five-fight pay-per-view show.
The 33-year-old Prograis, a New Orleans native, became a 140-pound champion for the first time in three years. Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) lost the WBA super lightweight title to Taylor by majority decision in October 2019 at O2 Arena in London and hopes to entice Taylor into a rematch.
Prograis, who boxed and slugged at times Saturday night, became the first fighter to knock out the 33-year-old Zepeda (36-3, 28 KOs, 2 NC), of La Puente, California. He also prevented Zepeda from finally becoming a world champion in the third title fight of Zepeda’s 13-year pro career.
Prograis expressed respect toward Zepeda during his post-fight interview with Raul Marquez in the ring.
“Listen, first off, before I say anything I wanna congratulate Jose Zepeda,” Prograis said. “That dude is tough, tough, tough. Bro, he came to fight. He probably gave me one of my hardest fights. I’m not even gonna lie. Like, this dude is tough. Bro, you so tough. Bro, I got so much respect for you. And you prepared me to get this belt, and to hold this belt. So, I congratulate you. All the best to you, bro. Don’t stop. I feel like you still gonna be a world champion. You good, bro. You real good. I’m not even gonna lie. You good.”
The beginning of the end came 50 seconds into the 11th round, when Prograis stunned a depleted Zepeda with a left hand. Zepeda backed toward the ropes and Prograis unloaded power punches on him.
Prograis’ overhand left sent Zepeda into the ropes and then to the seat of his trunks. Corona stopped the fight immediately after Zepeda went down.
A thudding right hook by Prograis made Zepeda hold him with just under 15 seconds on the clock in the 10th round.
Prograis landed a left to Zepeda’s body that forced Zepeda to hold him with just over 2:15 remaining in the 10th round. They exchanged hard punches in the center of the ring just before Prograis backed Zepeda into the ropes with that body blow.
Prograis’ left landed over the top of Zepeda’s jab with just under 50 seconds remaining in the ninth round. Several seconds later, Prograis backed Zepeda into the ropes and landed two body shots.
Prograis was more active and accurate in the eighth round. He also slipped Zepeda’s shots for the most part during those three minutes.
Prograis got full extension on a left hand that blasted Zepeda with 15 seconds on the clock in the seventh round.
A left hand by Prograis backed up Zepeda with just over 1:20 to go in the seventh round. Prograis stung Zepeda with a left hand as they stood in the center of the ring barely 30 seconds into the seventh round.
Zepeda stayed away from Prograis at times in the sixth round and tried to tie him up toward the end of it. Prograis drilled Zepeda with a stiff jab a little less than a minute into the sixth round.
Zepeda and Prograis exchanged for much of the fifth round, but Prograis’ punches appeared to have more of an impact. Zepeda did, however, land a right on the inside late in the fifth round that prompted Prograis to chase after him.
Prograis’ left hand appeared to open a cut around Zepeda’s right eye with around 30 seconds to go in the fourth round. Once Prograis noticed blood, he clipped Zepeda with a flush right hook.
Prograis nailed Zepeda with a left hand that landed with just over 20 seconds to go in the third round. A left by Prograis caught Zepeda with just over 1:40 on the clock in the third round.
Prograis connected with two left hands as Zepeda backed into a corner 20 seconds into the third round.
With just over a minute remaining in the second round, Prograis drilled Zepeda with a counter left hand. Zepeda’s left landed just after the halfway point of the second round.
A right hook by Zepeda connected with about 50 seconds on the clock in the opening round. A little later in the first round, Prograis landed a left to the body, but Zepeda responded immediately with an overhand left to Prograis’ head.
Zepeda landed a left hand with just under 1:20 to go in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.