REGIS PROGRAIS put on a show for his hometown New Orleans fans, defending the WBC Interim super-lightweight belt with an eighth-round TKO over Juan Jose Velasco in front of 3,615 fans at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
Prograis, who was born and raised in New Orleans and moved following Hurricane Katrina, knocked Velasco down with a body shot in the fifth round and kept applying the pressure. It was all over in the eighth round when Velasco’s corner threw in the towel. The homecoming was complete, and it was a success.
“I couldn’t lose here in New Orleans,” Prograis said. “I told my father, if I lost, I couldn’t come back. I had to go out there and fight. I knew I had a hard fight. There was a lot of excitement, but I had to hide that excitement. I had a job to do.”
In the co-main event, Teofimo Lopez promised that it was time for “The Takeover.” And he delivered. Lopez knocked out William Silva in the sixth round to win the vacant WBC Continental Americas lightweight title, punctuating the victory with a home run trot and a backflip. Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs) dropped Silva (25-2, 14 KOs) three times, a veteran who had never been knocked out. Following the third knockdown, punctuated by a furious barrage, referee Bruce McDaniel immediately stopped the bout.
“My statement was I am not here to play games. Everything I say, I do. I talk the talk and I walk the walk,” said Lopez. “The ring celebration, I was talking to my father, and we said, ‘Let’s do celebrations like in football. Terrell Owens, he did the popcorn and things like that. Those are the things I want to bring to the boxing world, but I can’t bring popcorn out of the stands. It was a home run. Now it’s time to collect. It’s the beginning of ‘The Takeover.'”
Super-featherweight contender Erick De Leon survived a first-round knockdown and dominated the rest of the way, toppling Adrian Young via unanimous decision by scores of 97-92, 97-92, and 98-91. It was a bounce-back performance for De Leon (18-0-1, 10 KOs), who was held to a draw against Andy Vences in his previous bout back on March 10.
“I felt great during the fight. He caught me a little bit cold with a good shot in the first round. He came to fight. I basically fought the whole fight with one arm. I dislocated my right shoulder in the first round, but we made it work and got a good win against a tough opponent,” said De Leon.
Jean Carlos “Chapito” Rivera (14-0, 9 KOs) wasted little time in knocking out late replacement Angel Luna (12-5-1, 7 KOs), dropping the Dominican-born fighter with a right-left combination that forced the referee to stop the bout at 1-22 of the first round. Rivera, a Puerto Rican based out of Orlando, Florida, extended his knockout streak to three.
“The fight went way easier than I expected. I was prepared to fight 10 hard rounds, if necessary. I’ve been training very hard and now I want to take on bigger challenges. I want to face world-ranked fighters. I’m ready to step up my competition,” said Rivera.
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist from Uzbekistan, survived the toughest test of his pro career, scoring an eight-round unanimous decision over fellow unbeaten Kevin Johnson (78-74 3X). Gaibnazarov (5-0, 2 KOs) used his southpaw stance to keep Johnson (5-1, 4 KOs) at bay, but Johnson found a home for his straight right hands throughout the fight.
“He was a very tough, young fighter. He saw very good what I was trying to do. I hit him very hard in the liver and to the head, but he took all of my punches very well,” said Gaibnazarov.