WBC Special Preview: Prograis vs. Zorrilla
By James Blears
World Boxing Council super-lightweight champion Regis “Rougarou” Prograis (28-1, 24KO) defends his title for the first time, and it'll be on home turf at the Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, against Danielito “Zorro” Zorrilla (17-1, 13KO) on June 17th.
Both boxers have a loss each on their records and boast a KO ratio of over 70%.
The original matchup was to be against Liam Paro, who had to withdraw, suffering from tendonitis in both Achilles heels. Louisiana man Regis was philosophical and stoic about the change of opponent saying: “I'm glad Zorrilla has taken the fight. Nothing changes for me. I'm still working hard to go out there, and prove that I`m the best fighter in the world at 140 pounds.”
The sentiment involved in this is unquestionably sound. Barrel chested Regis is a talented, subtle and seasoned southpaw warrior, fully confident in his abilities and will fight any opponent. Let them come!
But a change of opponent inevitably presents a different scenario, and it's always wise to account for variable change. Every fighter is different. Each brings a different main course to the top table. Unlike Paro, who is an Australian southpaw, Puerto Rican Zorrilla fights from a conventional stance. Aussie Paro remains undefeated, while Zorrilla has just one loss on his record.
That was against Arnold Barboza Jr over 10 absorbing rounds in July 2022. Although Danielito lost a UD, he wobbled Arnold with a counter right in the second, made the eighth torrid and also launched a blistering onslaught in the final round. In any fight he proves he's unpredictably dangerous from beginning to end. His career record of 17-1, 13 KOs proves that.
Promoted by the legendary Miguel Cotto, who is his boxing hero along with Tito Trinidad, 29-year-old Puerto Rican puncher Zorrilo is grateful for this surprise opportunity and is determined to make the most of it.
Standing five feet nine inches tall with a seventy inches reach, Danielito is big, rangy and robust for the super-lightweight category. He has marked up several notable notches in his career. Early on he dispatched former WBC super-featherweight Champion Gamaliel “El Platano” Diaz with a second round KO. In round one Gamaliel was down. A big right set him up for a clipping left hook which felled him. The bell saved him, but not for long. A massive counter left put him back on the canvass and, this time, he wasn't able to beat the count. Danielito took out Pablo Cesar Cano in two rounds. An overhead right stunned Cano, who took a knee and wasn't able to continue.
Danielito has been a pro since 2016, four years less than Regis. Danielito is strong, capable, technically proficient and can counter pop with aplomb, although against Barboza Jr, his punch output dipped significantly. He's efficient and competent rather than radiant. He's yet to set the world alight. However, he's relishing the role of the potential proverbial fly in the ointment, by illuminatingly stressing, “I know that people think that I have no chance to beat Prograis and that motivates me. I like this because I see it as a challenge. I'm not afraid of challenges. Boxers' careers are short, so opportunities like this cannot be missed.”
With the brevity aspect very much in mind and to the fore, Regis, 34, has recently signed a long term contract with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, explaining: “I had a gut feeling that this is the way to go and this is what I did. It's the right decision and this is where I need to be. This upcoming fight is my homecoming!”
This is Regis' second reign as super-lightweight champion. In the World Boxing Super Series he TKO'd WBA champion Kiryl Relikh in round six. A crunching left to the liver doubled up Kiryl in round one. He turned his back, scarpered and fled, as Regis swarmed. He went down, got up at eight, and the bell saved him. Towards the end of round two, a scything left split the bridge of Kiryl's nose which copiously bled.
In round six a left to the body numbed him, followed by a right to the head and a coup of a left uppercut. Referee Luis Pabon had seen enough and stopped the fight at one minute-thirty six. Regis in supreme overwhelming mode.
Then the Final of this Series was against IBF champion and also southpaw Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor. The WBC Diamond Belt was also at stake. It was a titanic to and fro tussle, in which Josh was just a smidgeon sharper, yet Regis landed a lot of effective body shots and came on strong towards the end. Scotland's Josh won by a majority decision, but what a fight it was!
Unabashed, unfazed and utterly undaunted, Regis roared back with a third round TKO of Juan Hernandez, a sixth round technical decision over Ivan Redkach and a sixth round TKO over Tyrone McKenna. Then the southpaw war with Jose “Chon” Zepeda for the vacant WBC Green and Gold Belt. What a battle royal it was!
Chon had his moments but… they increasingly became few and far between. Regis grimly, methodically, and ruthlessly piled on the pressure, and in so doing, he was remorselessly relentless. In round 11, a huge left hook to the head stunned Chon against the ropes, and an avalanche of punches dropped him to the canvass, where he remained slumped. Referee Ray Corona immediately stopped it at fifty nine seconds. Regis had become champion of this division all over again. But this time with an absolute Green and Gold sheen.
Regis carries his guard relatively low, but his hand speed is deceptively quick, his head movement is mongoose-like and his ring craft is intelligently elusive. Using his chunky Marciano-esque muscular legs, he can dip low and then surge up with great agility, with mustered power. This low slung guard might allow Danielito some possible counter punching opportunities. But Regis' work rate is ferociously prodigious, and to supersede, Danielito would have to match and then exceed.
Regis comes into this as a clear favourite, but Danielito does realistically have more than a puncher's chance. Yet, it would need, and he would require, the performance of a lifetime to overcome an at his peak Prograis, who possesses extraordinary confidence as the champion as well as iron willpower. Regis is just one inch shorter than Danielito but is outreached by three inches.
Prograis is the overwhelming favourite at the Bookies, with Betway rating him at 1/12 while Zorrillo is an 8/1 outsider. However, last weekend saw a defending champion that was favourite win, Josh Taylor, dethroned by the challenger, so this is boxing and anything can happen…
Tale of the Tape
REGIS PROGRAIS (US)
WBC Super-lightweight champion
PLACE OF BIRTH: New Orleans, Louisiana
RESIDENCE: Houston, Texas
RECORD: 28-1-0, 24 KO
KO’S: 82.8 %
TOTAL ROUNDS: 136
WORLD TITLE FIGHTS: 6 (5-1-0)
TRAINER: Hylon Williams Sr.
MANAGER: Eddie Hearn
PROMOTER: Matchroom Boxing
DANIELITO ZORRILLA (P. RICO)
PLACE OF BIRTH: Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
RESIDENCE: Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
NICK NAME: Zorro
RECORD: 17-1-0, 13KO
KO’S: 72.2 %
TOTAL ROUNDS: 69
WORLD TITLE FIGHTS: (0)
MANAGER: Miguel Cotto
PROMOTER: MC Promotions
WBC Top 10 super-lightweight champions
- JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ (MEX)
- KOSTYA TSZYU (RUS/AUST)
- OSCAR DE LA HOYA (US/MEXICO)
- ROGER MAYWEATHER (US)
- TIMOTHY BRADLEY (US)
- BRUNO ARCARI (ITALY)
- ARTURO GATTI (CANADA)
- DANNY GARCIA (US)
- DEVON ALEXANDER (US)
- SAENSAK MUANGSURIN (THAI)
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