Regis Prograis: Rougarou Returns on Halloween

The former 140-pound world champ plans to remind folks of his frightening power on Halloween night against Juan Heraldez on SHOWTIME PPV.

Halloween is fast approaching on Saturday. Trick or Treat time.

It’s also the day former 140-pound world champion Regis “Rougarou” Prograis steps back in the ring to try to return to the win column 370 days after losing his title belt in a controversial loss, his first as a pro. That’s a treat.

What do the two events have in common?

Well, “Rougarou” for starters. Perhaps the best nickname in boxing comes from the tales of a powerful half-wolf, half-man, shape-shifting swamp beast that have scared southern Louisiana and Cajun children for decades—the hideous mask Prograis has been wearing during his ring walk for most of his career. It makes a good, scary Halloween mask, too.

Rougarou is a moniker the New Orleans native didn’t even want at first.

“We were trying to find a nickname. My first manager was throwing out stuff, and my daddy said, ‘(How about) The Rougarou?’ My manager said, ‘That’s it!’ ” the personable Prograis explained. “I said, ‘man, I don’t really like that name.’ But I kind of went with it. Then I fought here in Houston and I came out with the Rougarou mask. And I always wanted to come out with no shirt, like Mike Tyson. So I came out with no shirt and the Rougarou mask and the crowd went crazy.”

Sold on Rougarou and armed with a custom-made mask, his well-documented bravado and ring skills galore, Prograis, 31, has become one of boxing’s most talented, watchable fighters and intensely interesting characters. 

After amicably splitting with longtime promoter Lou DiBella in August with one fight left on his contract, Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs) signed a one-fight deal with Premier Boxing Champions, and will make his PBC debut against Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10 KOs) on Saturday, October 31 on a SHOWTIME pay-per-view telecast (9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT) from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. It will be the first fight during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow fans to attend.

“Man, everything worked out perfect for me,” Prograis said. “At first it was supposed to be in Connecticut with no fans, and now it’s out here in San Antonio in front of fans. It’s about an hour and a half drive for me to the Alamodome. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It’s a huge, huge opportunity.”

LEAVING LOUISIANA

Prograis left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. Like many fellow Louisianans, he settled in Houston, where he found boxing at the famed Savannah Gym. He credits his high school football coach for helping decide his future.

“Long story short, one of my coaches saw me boxing,” Prograis related, “and he was like, ‘look, I don’t think you have a future in football but you might have one in boxing.’ At that time, I wasn’t really feeling football, and I quit that same weekend and went to a boxing gym. And history happened.”

Leaving New Orleans wasn’t easy. And the Big Easy will never leave Prograis, not with the city’s skyline tattooed on his chest. 

“At first it was very tough, but you look at it now and Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to me, I’m not going to lie,” he says. “It was a sacrifice for me not to go back, but I really knew I wanted to be a boxer at an early age. Once I moved to Houston, I just knew this is where I needed to be.”

At the Savannah Boxing Gym, where he trained as an amateur, he became friends with the Charlo twins, Jermall and Jermell, who are the same age. He was in awe of the talent at the gym, including the great Evander Holyfield, who helped shape Prograis’ powerful work ethic.

“Yeah, man, Ronnie Shields was the head trainer, and the gym was full of talent,” he says. “We were all kids at the time. Holyfield was the biggest name, but we had Raul Marquez, Juan Diaz, who at the time was a world champion, Erislandy Lara was there, (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, Oscar De La Hoya came in, and Shane Mosley. When you see that type of stuff at that young age, it does something for you, like, ‘I can do this, too’.”

Man, everything worked out perfect for me. Former World Super Lightweight Champion - Regis Prograis

A NEW DEAL

Prograis credits the Charlos with helping to bring him into the PBC fold.

“It’s a one-fight deal, but we’ll see where it goes from there,” he says. “I always wanted to be part of the PBC stable. “ ‘Mall and ‘Mell always told me, ‘come over here, this is where you need to be.’ Now I’m here.”

Prograis moved to Los Angeles in 2019, but lasted less than a year before returning to Houston. Not because he didn’t enjoy L.A. Fact is, he liked it too much. But the pandemic and the import of his career hastened his return.

“I really loved L.A., I still do. I think I will retire out there,” he explains. “But my team is here. For me, Houston is boxing, I need to be in Houston for the rest of my career. In L.A., I lived [like I was] on vacation. . . Here I live in training camp. In L.A., my priority was always being in the gym, but it’s what you do outside the gym also. I’m going to the beach, I’m going spear-fishing, I’m going free-diving, I’m just going to enjoy myself. In Houston, I leave the gym and I go home. I rest, I take a nap, I eat, maybe read books. That’s what I do every single day. In L.A., I’d be on the beach every day. That’s the main reason I had to come back here.” 

Being a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie didn’t help. Some of the stunts he’s pulled have scared his family and team.

“Once I drove my car from Los Angeles to Vegas and was going 193 miles per hour. I was flying,” he says. “I have a big 450 dirt bike that goes 100 miles per hour, riding with no helmet and sometimes no shirt. I did a lot of free-diving and spear fishing by myself in California. I swam with sharks, I swam with alligators, I did all kinds of stuff. 

“Everybody is terrified what I’m going to do next,” he laughs. “I’m still like that, but maybe I’m getting a little older because I’m calming down a bit . . . I’ve done some dangerous stuff. But I don’t want to keep pushing my luck. My family and my career are the most important things to me right now. It would be very stupid of me to get hurt doing something I’m not supposed to be doing.”

Less dangerous are the movies Prograis has appeared in, Bayou Caviar in 2018 with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Netflix movie Spenser Confidential in 2020 with Mark Wahlberg, where Prograis gets his butt kicked, something you’ve not seen in the ring. Both appearances came courtesy of Churchill Management, which represents Prograis, as well as Wahlberg and director Peter Berg. 

LESSONS LEARNED

Prograis has also worked through financial woes along the way. 

“Yeah, man, I lost all my money. It was early in my career, when I was fighting on ShoBox,” he says. “Of course I wasn’t making money like I am now. But I went broke. Making real bad money moves, bad decisions, giving money out, things you need to learn from.”

The avid reader taught himself about investments and how to live within his means.

“My friends always ask me, why don’t you get this, why don’t you get that, why don’t you buy a Lamborghini?” he explains. “I’m not really into all that stuff. I’m not a materialistic person. I like to take trips and vacations. When I was on ShoBox, I would make like $20,000. For me, that was a shitload of money. As a personal trainer, I was making $800 or $1,000 a month. All of a sudden, you get $20,000 and it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m rich now.’ I bought a car, I took vacations and trips and that money goes very, very fast. I lost all my money and had to give up my car, but I got right back on my feet again. You learn your lesson. 

“First off, you make all that money and you gotta pay taxes on it. And a lot of people look at me like I’m a walking bank, like they want to take advantage of me because I have money. You can trust people the most, and still they’ll take from you and do everything to get your money. And then you don’t know where it went.”

He knows where it goes nowadays. He bought a house for his mother, Shelita, and gave it to her last Christmas day. He’s married with a son and daughter, with another daughter due the day before his fight.

The pandemic has made this a tough year for Prograis, but because of it and several canceled fights, Prograis and his head coach, Bobby Benton, have been in training at the no-frills Main Street Gym the entire time.

“It’s nothing we can’t handle. This is really like my fourth training camp (since my last fight), Prograis says. “I was supposed to fight Maurice Hooker twice and both fell out. Then they had me fighting Pablo Cesar Cano and somebody else they had me fighting on a month notice, and all those fights fell through.”

A NEW CHAPTER

It took Prograis a while to get over his loss to Taylor by majority decision in the final of the World Boxing Super Series, after he had won the title in the semifinal by stopping Kyril Relikh. “For the first two weeks to a month, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Prograis admits. “After that, it’s water under the bridge. I didn’t feel like I lost, I felt I won the fight, but they didn’t rob me. It was his night. I feel if the fight was here in America, I would’ve won.”

Prograis has no doubt he’ll get another chance: “For sure we have to fight again. There’s too much money on the table for us and the fight was so close and controversial. He won but a lot of people thought I won, so we definitely have to fight again.”

But first things first. Heraldez awaits and Prograis can’t wait.

Rougarou’s publicist Bernie Bahrmasel has said his fighter is training like he’s fighting Marvin Hagler. “Yeah, I’m training like I’m fighting Hagler, training like I’m fighting (Roberto) Duran,” says Prograis. “A loss always does something to you, and for me, it woke me up to where I need to be dominant, where I cannot give up a round, I cannot give up a minute of the fight.

“I know who I’m fighting, and he’s one of Floyd’s (Mayweather) fighters and Floyd’s gonna be there, so it has to go in my favor. 

“I can’t leave it up to the judges. I have to do what I have to do and be dominant.”

For a closer look at Regis Prograis, check out his fighter page. 

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