The intent of the World Boxing Super Series Tournaments is to make a statement for the eventual winners, while providing a unique platform to all its participants. Fighters are either introducing themselves to fans for the first time, on a global scale, or they’re enhancing pre-existing brands, reaping tangible benefits from the planted seeds of potential. Saturday, April 27th embodied all the WBSS could hope for and a bigger splash could scarcely have been made than Regis Prograis’ (24-0, 20 KO’s) violently beautiful 6th round stoppage of Kiryl Relikh (23-3, 19 KO’s). The bout was shown live on DAZN from the Cajun Dome in Lafayette, Louisiana, Prograis’ home state. UFC heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier (himself a native of Lafayette) was in the building showing support and his Bayou brother certainly didn’t disappoint.
Prograis is nicknamed “Rougarou”, a fictitious Creole/Cajun/Bayou werewolf type of creature; a Louisiana swamp monster, if you will. Befitting, Prograis wears a mask depicting the character during his ring walks and even had a “Lil Rougarou” accompanying him for the Relikh bout. Prior to the opening bell, “Rougarou, Rougarou” chants filled the air and the beast was unleashed not long afterwards.
Both men are known for forcing the issue, but it was Relikh working off the lead foot from the outset. Showing new wrinkles, Prograis patiently moved his head and upper body, firing southpaw jabs, targeting Relikh’s body with left hooks and crosses. Just as Relikh landed a right hook upstairs, in an exchange, a harder left hook banged against his unprotected liver simultaneously. The tough Belarusian turned away, winced in pain and took a knee as Prograis moved in for the kill. Had there been even thirty additional seconds, it’s doubtful the defending WBA super lightweight champion would’ve made it out of the very 1st stanza.
It didn’t get much better for Relikh in the 2nd. He kept his right elbow glued to his side to fend off further body punishment, but this left his head unguarded. Smartly, Prograis shifted his attack to the grill, and before long a series of southpaw 1-2’s opened a cut on the bridge of Reklih’s nose. Visibly hurt, back to the ropes, trying his best to evade punishment, Relikh landed a desperation left hook that staggered Prograis. Unfortunately, the shot came several seconds after the bell rang and Prograis recovered rather quickly. It was a “protect yourself at all times” reminder, which should behoove Regis in later fights.
With Relikh’s one shining moment short lived and ineffective, the beating resumed. Kiryl’s face was a bloody mess from round 2 onwards, prompting his corner to express concern, offering one final round to change the fate of the fight, heading into the 6th. Admirably, Relikh responded to the urgency of his chief second, but it was to no avail; a left hook to the body hurt him and a hook to the head re-started the flow of blood originating from the bridge of Kiryl’s nose. A flurry of follow up bombs forced Relikh’s corner to wisely stop the contest seconds later.
In victory, Prograis earned a spot in the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound finale and the WBA super lightweight championship, his first legitimate world title (WBC Diamond belt notwithstanding). Josh Taylor meets Ivan Baranchyk in the other WBSS super lightweight semi-final on May 18th. Even with the tournament in his immediate future, Prograis’ mapping out plans beyond that also. Unification with Jose Ramirez and/or Maurice Hooker are priorities and by then, who knows what attractive options may have moved up or down to the division. Teofimo Lopez, Mikey Garcia and others are possibilities, but with that said, Prograis stated his dream fight is with Terence Crawford at 147, down the line.