The story of the WBC Jr. Welterweight world championship bout between two-time world champion Regis Prograis and undefeated former Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world Devin Haney on December 9th in San Francisco, CA beyond what seemed to be legitimate bad blood between the two fighters was whether or not Haney, in his first fight in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division could defeat arguably the top fighter in the division, who because of his style a hybrid mix of hand speed and power, not all that unlike Haney’s, was also one of the more avoided fighters in and around the division.
A crowd of 16,000 spectators filed into the Chase Center for what was one of the more anticipated fights of 2023. What the crowd in attendance saw was a demonstration of a true master class with Haney giving a lecture. From the opening bell, Haney’s hand speed, lateral movement, angles, and timing were on full display. Such attributes kept Prograis at a distance where he simply could not get his punches off with consistency.
Haney’s accuracy was such that the question in this observer's mind became whether or not this fight would end inside the distance. A highlight came in the third round when Haney caught the champion with a perfectly timed right hand to the head that sent Prograis down to the canvas. To Prograis’ credit, he never quit trying to turn the fight in his favor, but to put things simply, he came up against an opponent, who was simply superior in every area, hand speed, defense, angles, timing, technique, and knowing what to do and when to do it.
Despite the tremendous heart that Regis Prograis showed in this fight in taking significant punishment, I did question as the fight entered the middle and late rounds, why it was being allowed to continue. While no one can take anything away from Regis Prograis, there does come a point as a fight progresses that if it becomes clear that one fighter has little more than a puncher’s chance, but said fighter is suffering a beating and is unable to land a fight turning punch, where a decision should be made regarding the long-term welfare of that fighter.
Although Referee Jack Reiss and Prograis' corner appeared to each br gradually moving towards stopping the fight, Prograis did make it to the final bell of the scheduled twelve round world championship bout. A fight that would be won by Haney in winning every round on all three official scorecards making him the new WBC Jr. Welterweight champion of the world and officially making him a two-division world champion as well.
The obvious question for Devin Haney is what will be next for him. It is too soon to say, but it is logical to think of a possibility excluding mandatory title defenses that Haney might attempt to become an undisputed world champion now as a Jr. Welterweight. A task that due to the political landscape in the sport is very difficult to accomplish in one weight division. It is even more rare when a fighter can duplicate that accomplishment in multiple divisions.
For now, Haney will likely spend the remainder of 2023 celebrating his latest career milestone before deciding on who his next opponent might be. As for Regis Prograis, he deserves all the credit in the world for the heart he displayed in this fight and for fighting on till the final bell. While criticism of why the fight was allowed to continue will probably continue for a time, no one can dispute that Prograis showed his mettle in defeat. The former two-time world champion needs time to recover from this setback and to potentially retool before he decides his next move.
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