Regis Prograis isn’t favored to leave Chase Center with his WBC junior welterweight title on Saturday if a boxing match breaks out between him and Devin Haney.

But a fight, well, that’s another story, and that may be what Louisiana’s “Rougarou” is counting on when the two meet in San Francisco this weekend. 

That deduction has little to do with the nuts and bolts of the sport, most of which favor the unbeaten Haney, 30-0 and most recently the undisputed lightweight champion of the world. Now, the 25-year-old has vacated his titles and is moving up to chase 140-pound gold, and in a very interesting division, he’s set his sights on Prograis, who wasn’t exactly in prime form when he defended his belt with a split decision over Danielito Zorrilla in June.

Perhaps that’s why Haney and his father, Bill, chose Prograis. Sure, it’s the most attractive championship matchup at 140 outside of a meeting with WBO titleholder Teofimo Lopez, but it could have hit all the right notes for Team Haney when it comes to name recognition, the style matchup and perhaps catching a fighter on the slide.

Unfortunately, that’s been the knock on Haney, something that Prograis and his team have harped on during the lead-up to the fight, that he’s had things a lot easier than most at this level, and that his career has largely been “manufactured.”

That’s quite the insult from one fighter to another, and Prograis, a student of boxing history, knows just how something like that can sting. Haney doesn’t seem to be bothered by the verbal jabs, but what happens on fight night may tell another tale. Yet whatever side you’re rooting for, know that Prograis has certainly come up the hard way…in the ring, and in life.

Of course, the tale of Prograis surviving the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has been well documented, with the New Orleans native telling me in our first interview in 2016, “You’re kind of excited to get out of the city (to evacuate). I was 16. Then you’re watching the news and seeing the city underwater, but you really don’t see your house. But they had a thing on the computer where you could type in your street, and our whole neighborhood was water. It was like a lake. All you could see was a couple of rooftops. That’s when it hit me. It was a vivid picture. Just seeing it, it was like, ‘Damn, we’re not going back home. That’s it.’”

Forced to move to Houston, Prograis made that city his home base and began chasing his dreams in the boxing ring. There would be a solid amateur background but no hype when he turned pro in 2012 or even as he paid his dues on the way up, literally.

“Out of my first ten fights, about four or five of those, I fought for free,” Prograis told me in 2018. “But they have to give you a check, so they give you a one-dollar check, and I still have them.”

Luckily, Prograis was good enough and hungry enough that he never had to cash those checks, and his approach to the game, old school mentality, and left-hand stopping power eventually put him on the worldwide radar. Throw in some key knockout wins over Joel Diaz Jr., Julius Indongo and Juan Jose Velasco, and Prograis was now a contender. And in April of 2019, he became a world champion when he halted Kiryl Relikh to take the WBC belt. 

He lost the belt in October of that year in a memorable scrap with Josh Taylor, and while relegated to one fight (and win) in 2020 and 2021, a knockout of Jose Zepeda in November of 2022 put a belt around his waist again, and while that put him in line for big fights like the one with Haney, money was never the motivating factor in his career, as he told me before the Zepeda bout.

“Just being at the top, that's the thing,” Prograis said. “It felt like when I was a champion, I was number one in the division, number one in the world, I was a world champion, and I was at the top. And now for the last three years, it's like nobody mentions my name. I know it's a high-risk, low-reward type of thing, but once I get the belt again, people will have to say my name again because I'll be the champion.”

Devin Haney said his name. Prograis believes it was because of his performance in the Zorrilla fight, Haney stated that he called out the champion before that fight. Whatever the truth is, it doesn’t matter now. On Saturday, they’ll be in the ring together to settle their differences. If Haney adjusts well to his new weight class and shows off the skills that have led him to 30 wins without a loss, he is likely to exit the ring with a new championship belt and a 31st victory. 

But if a fight breaks out and it becomes a battle between the boxer who was groomed for greatness and the one who used to fight for one-dollar paychecks, I’m going with the one who saved those checks so he never forgets where he came from and what he can’t imagine going back to.