When the late, Regis Prograis great Marvelous Marvin Hagler got his first world title shot against Vito Antuofermo in 1979, it was in his 50th pro fight.
Let that sink in for a second. Regis Prograis, as old school as we have in the modern era, has.
“Especially these days with people fighting two or three times a year,” he said when asked if he could imagine anyone today, especially someone of Hagler’s caliber, not getting a shot at a title until his 50th fight. “When you’re under 10-0, you might fight four or five times a year, but I couldn’t even see that.
I won my first title, I had 24 fights, and what he did was more than double that, so I couldn’t even imagine it. Those fighters back in those days, they were just different. And I go way back to the 1900s to Joe Gans and Joe Louis and Henry Armstrong and those men were just different. There was a different breed of fighters back then and that’s what I look up to.”
So it was no surprise that while the boxing world was hit hard by the passing of Hagler on March 13 at the age of 66, it was an even tougher blow for Regis Prograis, who counted the middleweight great as one of his fighting heroes.
“Marvelous was definitely one of my favorites,” he said. “Especially as a southpaw, he was just amazing. Marvin Hagler, he is every fighter’s favorite fighter. When you talk to people, talk to old school trainers and talk to good fighters, he’s one of their favorite fighters, and that speaks volumes about him. As far as boxing, everybody loves Marvin Hagler.”
Hagler was a fighter who could have competed in any era, from the early days of the gloved era to today, and he would have still been a hall of famer. There aren’t too many fighters that can earn that praise, but given his attitude, work ethic and talent, you get the impression that Regis Prograis could have made some noise in whatever era he found himself in.
Unfortunately, there is no time travel, so we’ll never find out, but Regis Prograis would have loved to find out how he would fare with the greats of the sport.
“I think I would have been better back in those days,” he said. “Take me and my mentality – I’m not the most talented and I know that, but I’m gonna outwork everybody. I’m gonna work until I will almost pass out. And that’s my mindset every day, so I know if I was in the gym back in the days with those fighters, it would only make me better.
If I was in the gym with a Henry Armstrong or a Ray Robinson, I feel like it would only make me better because I’m just so hungry and I’ll work until I pass out. Hopefully, I’m still alive when time travel happens (Laughs), and then I can travel back in time and test myself against one of them.”
With time travel off the table at the moment, the 32-year-old New Orleans native will have to settle for whoever is available in 2021, and for now, that’s Ivan Redkach, who the former 140-pound champion will meet on the Jake Paul-Ben Askren pay-per-view card on April 17, presented by the new kid on the block, Triller.
Many questioned Regis Prograis-Redkach being on the same card with Paul-Askren and a bout featuring former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, but a) it’s smart business for both Regis Prograis and Triller, and b) it exposes Regis Prograis to a whole new audience. And at this point, Regis Prograis knows the only way he gets the big fights he wants is by getting the fans to demand them while the right outfit puts up the money.
“One thing about me, I know what I am,” said Regis Prograis. “I’m high risk, low reward. So what I have to do is, I have to build my own profile. I’m glad this fight is happening because the top names, they don’t want to fight me. I’m too dangerous and I will beat most of them. And I really mean that when I say I’ll fight anybody. I’m just too hungry and I’m too little of a reward and too high of a risk, so people won’t fight me unless they’re forced to fight me.
This opportunity on Triller is perfect for me because it will definitely build my profile to the world and get my name out there and get me more exposure. I think that’s what I need more than anything. I was already a world champion with one of the highest knockout percentages and people didn’t even know who I was. So I have to work on getting more exposure so I can get those big fights.”
What Regis Prograis also needs is a belt. Hagler didn’t win the belt in his first title fight, as he had to settle for a controversial draw with Antuofermo. He then had to win three more fights before getting a crack at the man who beat Antuofermo for the belt, Alan Minter. In less than three rounds, Hagler took the belt by force and now the boxing world had to deal with him.
What followed was an epic championship reign that didn’t end until a disputed decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. When it was over, Hagler walked away and never looked back, disgusted by the business that rarely treated him with the respect he deserved, and unwilling to be in it anymore.
“It’s very difficult to not get caught up in it,” Regis Prograis said of the boxing business. “I heard that Leonard wanted the rematch and Marvin told him, ‘Man, go get a life. I ain’t fighting no more.’ And they could have made so much money, but Marvin stuck to his guns and I definitely respect that.
Hopefully one day I can be the same way because a lot of the fighters, they come back and come back and then they get annihilated and get embarrassed, and it happens to most of them. Marvin was the one of the few who called it quits and he meant it and he went about his life. It’s hard to do that, but everybody should strive to be like a Marvin Hagler.”
Prograis is trying to do just that by keeping his integrity in a dirty business and continuing to win until he can’t be ignored any longer.
“My job now is that every time I go out there, look spectacular and keep building my profile,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Collect By: boxingscene.com