The World-Boxing Super-Series continues on Saturday night as Regis Prograis challenges for Kiryl Relikh’s WBA World super lightweight title in the semi-final of the tournament.
Prograis, the Series’ number one seed, progressed to the semi-finals with a dominant display over Manchester’s Terry Flanagan, dropping the former WBO World lightweight champion heavily in the eighth round and cruising to win comfortably and unanimously on the judges’ scorecards.
Meanwhile, Relikh outpointed heavy-handed counterpart and former IBF World champion Edward Troyanovsky in what constituted the first defence of the WBA belt he acquired from Rances Barthelemy after avenging his loss to the Cuban in an immediate rematch.
In a competitive and spirited affair, Relikh ultimately pulled away – courtesy of his superior athleticism and composure – on the chief-support to bantamweight superstar Naoya Inoue’s chilling first-round decimation of Juan Carlos Payano in Yokohama.
Belarussian native Relikh – someone who accrued an outstanding record of 21-0 under the guidance of former manager Ricky Hatton before relocating to Miami-based Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz – is accustomed to dealing with vociferous home crowds as the away fighter; having suffered a controversial decision loss to Ricky Burns in Glasgow over two years ago.
However, Prograis has been heralded by promoter Lou Di-Bella as American boxing’s next big thing and accordingly the Louisianan – who will be soaking up the adulation on the night and is surely relishing the opportunity to showcase his skills once again in his hometown – is the favourite to win the tournament.
Expect ‘Rougorou’ to have too much firepower for the upright champion and to stop him in style, announcing himself on a big platform as another world champion for Americans to get excited about.
The WBO and WBA bantamweight titles will also be unified as part of a mouthwatering double-header between South African Zolani ‘Last Born’ Tete and legendary veteran Nonito Donaire.
Tete defeated amateur prodigy Mikhail Aloyan on away soil, potentially setting up what would have been a highly-anticipated Belfast showdown between him and then-WBA counterpart Ryan Burnett. However, these plans were cruelly scuppered when the latter sustained a freak back injury in his quarter-final defence against Donaire and was stopped in the fourth round.
A visibly distraught Burnett was at that moment resigned to the fact that his position in the tournament was no longer tenable and is now currently undergoing rehabilitation, while fans are naturally eager to see how much Donaire has left in another intriguing matchup – his third successive one as an underdog – following an illustrious Hall-of-Fame career and unsuccessful stint up at featherweight against Carl Frampton.
Tete, who has set a record for the fastest knockout ever in a World championship fight (11 seconds) and has wins over Omar Narvaez and then IBF super-flyweight champion Paul Butler on his resume, is a well-balanced, economical and accurate boxer-puncher who is positively huge for the weight and possesses devastating power in both hands.
Fans of Donaire – and there are many, especially following his unanimous decision defeat to Carl Frampton – are convinced that he can recapture his old form and that his speed, power, and combination punching at bantamweight can pose significant problems for Tete.
Whatever the case, the winner of the bantamweight title unification faces a somewhat unenviable assignment in facing the winner of the Glasgow’s semi-final between the destructive ‘Monster’ Naoya Inoue or the brilliant Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Article by: Navi Singh