Prograis became a two-time 140-pound champion by defeating Zepeda early in round 11 of their fight for the WBC light-welterweight title at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Referee Ray Corona stopped his 12-round championship bout 59 seconds into round 11, right after Progress’ left hand finally sent the stubborn Zepeda to the canvas.
Prograis won the WBC 140-pound crown that was vacated by Josh Taylor earlier this year in the main event of the five-fight pay-per-view.
The 33-year-old Prograis, a native of New Orleans, became the 140-pound bantamweight champion for the first time in three years. Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) lost the WBA light heavyweight title to Taylor by majority decision in October 2019 at the O2 Arena in London and hopes to lure Taylor into a rematch.
Boxing and occasionally punching Saturday night, Progress became the first fighter to knock out 33-year-old Zepeda (36-3, 28 KOs, 2 NC), of La Puente, Calif. He also prevented Zepeda from finally becoming a world champion in the third title fight of Zepeda’s 13-year professional career.
Prograis expressed his respect towards Zepeda during his post-fight interview with Raúl Márquez in the ring.
“Listen first,” Progress said, “before I say anything I want to congratulate Jose Zepeda.” “This guy is tough, tough, tough. Brother, he came to fight. He probably gave me one of the toughest fights. I’m not even going to lie. Like, this guy is tough. Brother, you’re so tough. Brother, I’ve got so much respect for you.” “And you set me up to get this belt and to carry this belt. So I congratulate you. All the best to you bro. Don’t stop. I feel like you’re still going to be world champ. You’re good bro. You’re real good. I wouldn’t even lie. You’re good.”
The beginning of the end came 50 seconds into round 11, when Prograis stunned a depleted Zepeda with a left hand. Zepeda retreated towards the ropes and Prograis unloaded his power punches on him.
Progress sent Zepeda’s left arm into the ropes and then into the bench of his trunks. Corona stopped the fighting immediately after Zepeda fell.
A right hook from Prograis had Zepeda hold him with less than 15 seconds on the clock in the tenth round.
Prograis landed a left to Zepeda’s body forcing Zepeda to hold it with just over 2:15 left in the tenth round. They traded power punches in the middle of the ring before Prograis backed Zepeda into the ropes with a body kick.
Prograis left left landed over the top of Zepeda’s jab with less than 50 seconds remaining in the ninth round. Several seconds later, Prograis backed Zepeda into the ropes and fired two shots into the body.
Prograis was more active and accurate in the eighth round. He also missed Zepeda’s shots most of the time during those three minutes.
Prograis got a full extension with a left hand that blew Zepeda with 15 seconds on the clock in the seventh round.
A left hand backed Prograis Zepeda by just over 1:20 to go into the seventh round. Prograis stung Zepeda with a left hand while they were both standing in the center of the ring barely 30 seconds into the seventh round.
Zepeda pulled away from Prograis at times in the sixth round and tried to tie him up at the end of the round. Prograis drilled Zepeda with a jab just under a minute into the sixth round.
Zepeda and Prograis traded for most of the fifth round, but Prograis’ punches seemed to have more impact. However, Zepeda landed right on the inside late in the fifth that prompted Prograis to chase him down.
Prograis’ left hand appeared to open a cut around Zepeda’s right eye with about 30 seconds left to go into the fourth round. Once Prograis noticed blood, he clipped Zepeda with a flowing right hook.
Prograis pinned Zepeda with a left hand that landed with just over 20 seconds to go in the third round. He caught a left from Prograis Zepeda with just over 1:40 on the clock going into the third round.
Prograis hooked with two left hands as Zepeda ducked into the corner 20 seconds into the third round.
With just over a minute left in the second round, Prograis drilled Zepeda with a counter left hand. Zepeda landed a left just after the halfway point of the second round.
A right hook from Zepeda connected with about 50 seconds on the clock in the opening round. A little later in the first round, Prograis landed a left to the body, but Zepeda immediately countered by raising his hand to Prograis’ head.
Zepeda landed a left hand with less than 1:20 left to go into the first round.
Keith Edick is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.