Unbeaten super featherweight prospect and former amateur standout Gabriel Flores Jr. earned a wide unanimous decision victory on Thursday night, shutting out Josec Ruiz through ten rounds with each one of the official judges' scorecards reading 100-89 in favor of Flores. The fight headlined a “behind closed doors” Top Rank Boxing card in Las Vegas and was streamed on ESPN+.
Going into the bout, Flores (18-0, 6 KO) was dealing with an injured lower back which he had suffered about a week beforehand. On Friday, Flores explained in an interview with ESBR that the pain reemerged during the second round of the fight against Ruiz.
“I’d say eight or nine days out from the fight, I injured my back real bad during sparring,” Flores said. “I put ice on it, patches, cream, all that stuff...it was getting better and better. The morning of the fight, I could feel it and it was sore a little bit, but very manageable. But come the second round, probably about thirty seconds before I got the knockdown, [Ruiz] hit me in my lower back right where it hurt, and it really, really brought back the pain.”
While Flores was dealing with the pain, he still managed to put on a boxing clinic, with Andre Ward and Tim Bradley complimenting his skill at ringside. Flooring Ruiz in the 2nd round with a left hook and hurting him badly, Ruiz was able to recover enough to go the full 10 rounds.
“It was hard to sit down on the stool and get back up, but I didn’t want to show it because I didn’t want anybody to see any weakness,” Flores said. “Every time I jabbed, every time I fainted, I was in pain. I just kept a poker face and kept trying to win each round. I was really going through it, but I just had to make sure that I came out with the W that night.”
Flores also says that the injured back had limited his strategy and volume of punching as well.
“If you watch the fight again, from the middle of the second round and after, I was on the [boxing] on the outside. I was not trying to be on the inside because I was not trying to get my back touched,” Flores said. “It was killing me. If it wasn’t for my back, I would’ve thrown 50% more punches. I wasn’t tired at all and would've done a lot more. He would have been out of there by the fifth round at the latest. But I just got to play with the cards I’m dealt with and play the best I can with them.”
Although he was in pain for the majority of the fight, Flores acknowledges that dealing with that was beneficial for him going forward. “The experience, learning how to deal with something like that during a fight, was good for me. If I ever get injured again, I’ll know what to do and how to win still. So that was a good experience for me, going all ten rounds.”
Flores was coming off of a decision win against Matt Conway in February, and on Thursday was competing in his first fight during COVID-19. But the unusual fight week routine and the empty arena did not phase Flores at all. “To be honest, to me, it was business as usual. As long as I got a head & body in front of me to punch on, I’m good, I’m gonna be focused, I”m gonna be locked in.”
Going forward, Flores says that he’d like to win a world title at 130 or 135 pounds. But after that though, he has visions of moving up and capturing titles in higher weight classes. “I want to win titles in so many different weight classes, so going up in weight will for sure be on my mind after I win a world title, which I could win at 130 or 135, I’m not sure what weight class yet.”
For now, Flores is working to get closer to a title opportunity and is willing to face everybody and anybody to get there.
“I’m taking it fight by fight, and each fight will get me closer to a world title. Right now I’m just climbing the ranks, being patient. I know the world title will come, and when it comes, I’ll be ready and I’ll grab it.”