Stockton, California came in as the nation’s 10th most dangerous city, according to preliminary figures recently released by the FBI.
Stockton could be considered the fighting capital of California with Nick and Nate Diaz leading the way in Mixed Martial Arts, whilst the newest Top Rank sensation Gabriel Flores Jr. (7-0, 5 KOs) intends to add to his name to the debate.
I recently sat down with Gabriel Flores Jr., the youngest fighter to have ever signed for Top Rank promotions.
“Growing up in Stockton, CA can be tough, I lost multiple family members to gang violence, you just have to be strong-minded, but I feel the city made me who I am and my father who he is.”
Gabriel is a sensational prospect at the 130-pound limit with high expectations heaped on his young shoulders from his time as an amateur standout and a member of the U.S. Junior National Team in 2015 and 2016.
He signed a promotional contract with Top Rank in 2017, making his debut on May 5th of the same year in superb fashion by knocking out Devon Jones in the second round before fighting six more times in his first eleven months as a professional.
On the night of his debut, he wore a t-shirt with a photo of his mother on it. His mother, Juanita Maldonado, was shot while attending a child’s birthday party in Stockton on March 17, 2013. She died the following day at age 35. Four others were also shot, reportedly by three men, though no arrests have been made.
“I could have just given up on my dreams but giving up on my dreams would have been giving up on my mother,” Flores said. “I’m just grateful to be in this position and want to make her proud.”
Flores said he wants to be a role model to kids in Stockton, a city gripped by gang violence.
“I train at the Los Gallos Boxing Academy in Stockton. It’s my dad’s gym and I’ve been to a few training camps, too. I went to L.A. to spar Oscar Valdez, Jessie Magdaleno, and Emilio Sanchez.
“I spar a lot of pros. Sometimes I get in the ring with Andy Vences – I’ve known him since I was an amateur, probably since I was 11. He’s like my big brother, he trains at Los Gallos, too. I also spar with Tino Avila.
“I’m a pure boxer. I like to keep my distance and use my jab and my straight punches, but if it comes down to it, I can fight on the inside – I can do anything it takes to win,” even mimicking his favourite boxer Roy Jones Jr. on occasion. “Sometimes I’ll do a little showboating like he does, and sometimes I do that little jump-in hook. Roy Jones Jr. was like a god in my eyes.”
Flores Jr. had been a vastly successful member of the United States national squad, winning medals at various events, including the Junior World Championships. The Stockton prodigy was ranked #1 in the World at the time of signing for Top Rank, accruing a record of 91-7.
“The most recent Olympics didn’t look good. There was no TV coverage so they didn’t really get any publicity or sponsorship, also there was bad calls from the judges all this made me decide to turn professional instead of waiting for the 2020 Olympics.”
Gabriel Flores Jr. might be a super featherweight, but he has heavyweight ambitions, saying, “In 2019 I’ll be 19 and my goal is to be a world champion at the age of 19. My ultimate goal in boxing is to win multiple weight division titles and to be in the hall of fame. That’s why I am so dedicated and motivated, I am here to be the best.
Gabriel Flores Jr. is scheduled to fight on the undercard of Terence Crawford vs. Jeff Horn June 9th at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.