Although interim junior welterweight titlist Regis Prograis would have liked to challenge full titleholder Jose Ramirez in a mandatory bout this summer, it was better business for them to go their separate ways for the time being as they both try to build their names to make their possible eventual showdown a really big fight.
Prograis will begin that process when he defends his interim 140-pound belt against Juan Jose Velasco in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on July 14, Top Rank announced on Friday.
The card will take place at the Lakefront Arena on the campus of the University of New Orleans in Prograis' hometown before he relocated to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But New Orleans remains a beloved city to Prograis, who has wanted to fight there since turning pro in 2012. Now he will get his chance after Top Rank, Ramirez's promoter, and Lou DiBella, who promotes Prograis, worked out a deal under which Prograis will headline the Top Rank card.
The show will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 7 p.m. ET with the entire card to stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.
"I'm thrilled and honored to be fighting back home in New Orleans," Prograis said. "For the last couple of years, everywhere I've went people have asked, "When are you fighting at home?' I'm beyond excited that we can make this happen. The people of New Orleans have supported me from day one, and I love being from here and having the opportunity for the world to see me fight at home."
Prograis (21-0, 18 KOs), 29, won the vacant interim belt by stopping former unified titlist Julius Indongo in the second round on March 9 and will defend the belt for the first time against Velasco.
"Regis is a superstar in the making. He has all the tools and intangibles to be an international star," DiBella said. "I'm very happy to showcase his talents on ESPN on July 14 in his hometown of New Orleans."
With a win, Prograis, who is managed by Hollywood actor and producer Peter Berg, is likely headed into the World Boxing Super Series eight-man single-elimination junior welterweight tournament. The tournament has not yet been formally announced but it is due to begin in September.
Velasco (20-0, 12 KOs), 31, scored a second-round knockout of Jorge Marin Garcia on May 11 in Buenos Aires to preserve a deal in place to challenge Prograis. The fight will be Velasco's second in the United States.
In the co-feature, red-hot Las Vegas-based lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez (9-0, 7 KOs), 20, a 2016 Olympian for Honduras (his parents' home country) will fight in his first scheduled 10-round bout when he takes on William Silva (25-1, 14 KOs), 31, of Brazil.
"I asked to fight on the big stage, and now I am getting what I wanted," Lopez said. "I'm grateful to Top Rank and ESPN for giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent and take over another show. The takeover is real, ladies and gentlemen. Come July 14, you will see it."
Silva's lone loss came by 10-round decision three fights ago to Felix Verdejo, one of boxing's top prospects at the time.