Former junior welterweight world titlist Regis Prograis will get the chance to fight for another world title that he has wanted for the past three years.
The WBC on Sunday night ordered Prograis to face Jose Zepeda for the organization’s vacant 140-pound world title when former unified titlist Jose Ramirez withdrew from his position to face Zepeda for the belt.
With Ramirez promoter Top Rank and Zepeda promoter Zanfer Promotions failing to make a deal for the bout, a WBC purse bid to auction off the promotional rights was scheduled for Monday afternoon. However, that was canceled when Ramirez, who narrowly outpointed Zepeda by majority decision in a WBC title defense in February 2019, withdrew from consideration on Sunday. That paved the way for the next available WBC contender — Prograis — to fill the slot.
“Serve this letter as the beginning of the free negotiations period for the fight between Jose Zepeda and Regis Prograis for the vacant WBC (junior welterweight) title,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman wrote to Zanfer promoter Fernando Beltran and to Richard Schaefer of Probellum Promotions, which promotes Prograis. “If there is no agreement during this period, the WBC will hold a purse offer pursuant to the WBC Rules and Regulations on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.”
Ramirez would get the first shot at Zepeda-Prograis winner. His camp issued a statement on Sunday night explaining that Ramirez withdrew from consideration to fight Zepeda because of his fall wedding plans.
“Jose Ramirez is set to marry longtime girlfriend Marisol Lopez this October,” the statement said. “Jose and Marisol have been together for over 10 years. From this loving relationship they have produced two wonderful children, Matteo and Katalina, whom he honors on his boxing shorts when he fights. Jose and Marisol have been planning their dream wedding for a year. They cannot wait to share their love for one another with God, family and friends.
“Heading into 2022, Jose had planned to fight twice this year in March and August. Jose fulfilled the first part of his plan defeating Jose Pedraza in March. Due to the (junior) welterweight division being held hostage by champion Josh Taylor, as he eventually declined to fight the mandatory challengers for the WBA and WBC, Jose was unable to secure a fight that did not conflict with his wedding.
“Through no fault of his own, Jose is unable compete for a vacant title this year. He has an obligation to his fiancé and children that boxing should not interfere with. He has contracts and deposits secured in preparation their October wedding. Jose has proven from the quality of opponents he has fought. But for the delay by Josh Taylor, Jose would be able to compete this year for the vacant title.”
Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs), 29, of Avenal, California, and Zepeda were ordered to meet for the vacant WBC title in early July, but Ramirez waited until the eve of the purse bid to withdraw even though the wedding was being planned.
Taylor held two titles and Ramirez had the other two when they met for the undisputed championship in May 2021 in Las Vegas. Taylor scored two knockdowns that proved to be the difference in a 114-112 victory on all three scorecards.
Taylor defended the undisputed crown by highly controversial decision over Jack Catterall in February. Rather than make mandatory defenses of the WBA and WBC belts that were ordered, Taylor instead is pursuing a rematch with Catterall and those titles became vacant.
Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs), 33, a southpaw from New Orleans, won the WBA title by sixth-round knockout of Kiryl Relikh during the World Boxing Series tournament in April 2019 but lost it by majority decision to Taylor in his first defense, a unification fight in the October 2019 tournament final.
Prograis has wanted another title shot since and been vocal about it, especially when he was initially passed over to fight for the vacant WBC and WBA belts. Since the loss to Taylor, Prograis has won three fights in a row, all by knockout. Most recently, he stopped Tyrone McKenna in the sixth round on March 19 in Dubai.
Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs), 33, a southpaw from La Puente, California, will be getting his third title shot. Besides the disputed loss to Ramirez, he suffered a dislocated left shoulder that caused a second-round stoppage loss to Terry Flanagan for the vacant WBO lightweight title in 2015.
Zepeda is riding a five-fight winning streak, including a highlight-reel fifth-round knockout of former titlist Ivan Baranchyk in the unforgettable 2020 fight of the year in which they were each knocked down four times and there were knockdowns in every round. In his most recent fight, Zepeda crushed Josue Vargas in the first round in October.