By Robert Hough at ringside
After days of dizzying hype, fighting in an arena full of hometown support, expectations, hopes and drown-out-the-ring-announcer crowd noise, Stockton’s teenage star Gabriel Flores Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs) delivered. The lightweight scored a one-punch knockout of Eduardo Pereira Reis (23-6, 19 KOs) at 1:14 of the third round.
Flores Jr., who turned 19 on Wednesday, spent essentially no time getting a sense of Reis, immediately attacking with surly intentions, flashing a shower of jabs and artful combinations. Reis got a few things done when he got off first, but much of the fight was Flores Jr., pressing the action with an I-will-hurt-you look in his eyes.
Midway through the third, Flores Jr. landed the sort of punch that makes it clear why he’s the youngest fighter Top Rank has ever signed. The left hook was quick, precise and landed like an anvil dropped off a tall building.
Before the fight, promoter Bob Arum was quick to take a pragmatic, big-picture view of his young fighter. Much as he was impressive, it should be the better part of two years before Flores Jr. faces top-tier competition, Arum said.
“Like I always say, it happens when it happens,” he said. “He turned 19 this week so there’s no hurry. Some fighters progress faster than we all expect, some take more time. Realistically, there’s a lot of work to do; we have to be sure he can go round. He has tremendous potential, which is why he’s the youngest person we ever signed, and he knows he has a long way to go.
“What we’re looking at is that we’ll keep developing him this year and next year and then we’ll make the move.”
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In a monumentally unpopular split-decision, Jesus Godinez (3-3, 2 KOs) edged Stockton flyweight Marco Arroyo (2-1, 2 KOs), who survived a second-round knockdown and rode a wave of high-decibel hometown support to fight well in the last half of the fight. Godinez, who dropped Arroyo with an enormous left hook, was consistently effective inside, though he took a lot of punches. The Oxnard, Calif., fighter did enough to win 38-37 on two cards, with the other going to Arroyo by the same score.
In a fight worthy of Stockton, California’s reputation as a sharp-elbowed port city where serious men fight, cruiserweight Blake McKernan (12-0, 6 KOs) worked his way to a unanimous decision over Joey Montoya (9-7-3, 3 KOs). McKernan, an Army vet from nearby Sacramento, pressed the action throughout the eight rounds, landing looping rights from outside and big, whacking body shots inside. Montoya, from Colorado Springs, Colo., came to fight and landed no small number of punches during several extended inside battles. Scores were 79-72 twice and 78-73.
Stockton’s own Quilisto Madera (12-2, 8 KOs) earned a unanimous decision over Osbaldo Gonzalez (6-4, 4 KOs) in a high-action six-round middleweight fight. Madera came forward throughout the contest, throwing big shots, the occasional jab and grinding inside punches. Gonzalez, from Tulsa, Okla, was competitive and worked well to the body, though Madera was a step, a punch, a move better.
Super bantamweight Vislan Dalkhaev (11-1, 3 KOs) brought his impressive record and not so much else into the ring against Vincent Jennings (6-6-2, 4 KOs), who fought better than his record suggested he might. Dalkhaev, from Montreal, Canada got the six-round decision by questionable scores of 59-55 twice and 60-54. There was little sustained action throughout the fight and just a few effective punches from both participants. Dalkhaev had some success with his jab.
Welterweight Brian Mendoza (17-0, 12 KOs) pulverized Carlos Rodriguez (12-8-1, 5 KOs) at 1:45 of the second round. Scheduled for eight, the contest had the makings of a tough, lively contest, with Rodriguez countering effectively throughout the first round and well into the second. And then it was over. The New Mexico fighter landed a wicked left hook. The Mexican was down. There was no count.
In the opening bout at Stockton Arena, light heavyweight Felix Valera (18-2,15 KOs) outworked and stopped Mario Aguilar (20-7, 17 KOs) at 2:24 of the fourth round. Valera, from the Dominican Republic, was far more active than the Mexican fighter on the outside and in landing body punches on the inside. Valera stepped up the action and power in the fourth and landed several combinations while Aguilar had no response.