By Jeff Zimmerman
Rising star, lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. (18-0, 6 KOs) and his dad, Gabe Flores Sr. who also trains and manages his son, have been quietly making moves in and out of the ring to position Flores Jr. for a world title shot next year. Flores Jr., now 20, was the youngest fighter signed by Top Rank at 16 at the time, has continued to show the promise of a future champion after a stellar amateur career. He continues his pro journey on Sat., Oct. 3rd on ESPN+ against the experienced Ryan Kielczweski (30-4, 11 KOs) as the co-main event of Zepeda-Baranchyk.
Flores Jr. is excited to get back in “The Bubble” in Las Vegas after dominating Josec Ruiz in his first ten rounder in mid-June.
“It feels great to help me get further in my career. I get to showcase my career with someone with so much experience and get closer to a world title. I’m 110%, all good, healthy and feeling great.”
While Flores Jr has watched other young stars like Devin Haney capture a world title and the likes of Ryan Garcia get more of the limelight and media attention, Flores Jr. shows no jealousy and is pleased where things are in his young career.
“I do what I do, me and my team, fight by fight, who’s ever out there,” said Flores Jr. “If they are winning world titles, I’m good. I’m sticking to my story.
“I’m not in competition with anybody. I don’t look at anybody and envy them. I am glad they are doing well, and I’m focused on me.”
Flores Sr. has been planning the boxing path for his son since age 7 and has used the sport to protect him from the tough streets of Stockton, CA, a place the elder Flores knows all too well. Like many others from the neighborhood, Flores Sr. joined a gang that would eventually land him in prison for a stretch. Flores Jr. also lost his mom to gang related violence when he was just age 12 as she was shot while attending a child’s birthday party.
Flores Jr. with the guidance from his dad has become a role model and an inspiration to the youth in their hometown of Stockton. And everything Flores Sr. does for his son has a purpose behind it.
“Some guys bite off more than they can chew,” stated Flores Sr. “Everything we do is calculated. Everything is the right thing. You will see in a couple of years when junior is up for pound-for-pound, the big fight will not be a good fight. When he’s at the level I need him to be, it’s going to be hard to beat him.
“When we win a title, it’s going to be legit, no mickey mouse shit.”
The master plan started when Flores Jr. signed with Top Rank and was coveted by all the top promoters. Flores Sr. wanted two of the best matchmakers in the business guiding and ensuring the development of his son and got that with Hall of Famer Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman.
“Bruce and Brad make Top Rank in my opinion and the main reason we signed with them. Junior was so young, 16, and with those guys behind us, junior’s career would flourish.”
And part of that development included a recent move to the boxing capital of the world, Las Vegas, NV.
“We had been planning to come to Vegas for a while, but junior didn’t want to come at first, but came around,” Flores Sr. stated. “People line up to spar junior here and we had to fly people in and pay them to go to Stockton and get the work.
“There are no distractions here for him and we have the 10k feet elevation with Mount Charleston.”
Flores Jr. hasn’t shown any stamina issues thus far early in his career but could feel the help of the “famous mountain” for Vegas-based fighters.
“It was a huge difference with Mount Charleston as I went the full ten and was not tired at all. It definitely helps.”
As the father, son combo continue to work on their craft, they are never satisfied.
“There is always something to work on such as going to the body better, to perfect it,” said Flores Jr.
“We are working on inside range, using angles, catch and shoot, walking opponent down,” Flores Sr. shared. “You will see Oct. 3, junior gets better every fight and getting better opponents, fundamentally sound, makes it easier.
“Junior has been dropping and hurting most opponents and bodywork helps. Give him Carl (Frampton) and Jamel Herring and I think you will see the real junior come out. No disrespect to Herring, he’s a great guy, but I think junior’s talent is superior to these guys, same with Frampton no disrespect. We just think we’re the better fighter and junior is young and hungry.”
Team Flores has been making moves outside the ring too adding music mogul and longtime boxing manager J. Prince to the team along with future Hall of Famer turned boxing analyst Andre Ward.
“J. and Antonio Leonard are good, genuine people. We talked for 2 hours and then we signed the contract,” Flores Sr. explained. “I have lots of belief and faith in J and he has a lot of experience and knowledge and leverage. I have him in mind for out of ring opportunities down the road and to help draw a different crowd.
“Dre brought a lot of detail, he’s very focused on detail and little things that count and more experience in the ring. I have been training junior since he was 7. Dre brings a lot of knowledge to the table from an undefeated fighter, pound-for-pound great and one of the best to do it. He could be that 2nd voice for me.”
Flores Sr. added, “I taught junior to do this, but he shows a different perspective. He’s a great role model. He advises and he comes into junior’s camps, but his title is advisor.
The idea is not to win, but to dominate, that’s what we are here for. I’m so confident because we went the extra mile. Put in the work.”
And that work should lead to a title shot in 2021 if all goes as planned.
“We are talking title fight with Top Rank. This fight is one of them and the next fight is another step-up fight,” Flores Sr. said. “By May 2021, we will have that title shot by his birthday at the Stockton Arena.
“In a perfect world, we want the winner of Herring and Frampton. If not, we will fight for another title. He will make 130 for now and the plan was to grab a title at 30 and go to 35.”
While Flores Sr. handles the business outside the ring with the newly added J. Prince and the brass at Top Rank as they continue their move towards a world title, Flores Jr. has made his feelings known of what he wants.
“My dream is to fight everybody out there. If there is a title in the air then make it happen, no arguments with promoters. I’ll be in the ring with everybody.”