Simon’s Top 5 Prospects
1. Vergil Ortiz Jr. 20-year-old super lightweight (140 pounds), Dallas, TX 12-0 (12 KOs). Robert Garcia’s latest charge. A devastating puncher with a high boxing IQ.
2. Shakur Stevenson 21-year-old featherweight (126 pounds), Newark, New Jersey 10-0 (6 KOs). Olympic Silver Medalist developing nicely and improving his power with each bout.
3. Teofimo Lopez 21-year-old lightweight (135 pounds), Brooklyn, NY 12-0 (10 KOs). The flamboyant knockout artist is as articulate outside of the ring and inside and is creating quite a following.
4. Gabriel Flores Jr. 18-year-old Jr. lightweight (130 pounds), Stockton, CA 12-0 (5 KOs). The Top Rank phenom is steadily rising and maturing in his young career. Shows flashes of an all-around package that is in development.
5. Daniel Dubois 21-year-old heavyweight (201+ pounds), Greenwich, London, UK 9-0 (8 KOs). The 6-foot-5 fearless banger is on the fast track with promoter Frank Warren and has stepped up in recent fights against experienced trial horses that he has handled with ease.
Too much flash from Flores?
Boxing fans love or hate one of my top five prospects, Stockton’s Gabriel Flores Jr., who made his pro debut and has appeared several times in Northern Nevada to start his career.
He upset folks last weekend after improving to 12-0 with a unanimous 6-round decision over game southpaw Alex Torres Rynn in Fresno. Flores should soon move up to 8-round fights.
Fans went nuts with his post-fight antics during “The Punchline with Kelly Pavlik and James Dominguez.” An angry caller said Flores put on his Stockton area code “209” chain, kissed his biceps and supposedly talked smack. I missed it but footage I have seen was him blowing his traditional kiss to his mother up in the sky.
Those who have followed Flores’s career have come to expect showmanship, which doesn’t bother me at all. His favorite fighter is the brash Roy Jones Jr., who was disliked by many. Moreover, he has a mentality that you’ll see with most fighters from the Stockton area, such as the Diaz Brothers in MMA. It’s an “Us against the world” attitude. They grow up looking out for themselves, staying in their lane and they don’t necessarily care what people say about them. Making haters means there will be more tickets to be sold in future fights. Love him or hate him, Flores has a bright future.
He took more blows then I would like to have seen, although in a recent conversation with his father and trainer, Gabriel Flores, Sr., there was no concern about the shots that he took as they occurred in the spots where Gabe Jr. decided to bang it out with the southpaw that had never been stopped. He showed the variety in his skill level as he boxed at times and mixed it up at other times.
Flores did sit down on his punches and controlled the action. Sitting down is when a boxer plants his feet to get maximum power and body weight behind his punches. Many fighters need to learn to “sit down” on shots as they are quick to bounce their feet to get out of range of the counter punches. When you do sit down on your shots, you need to then have the upper body and head movement in your arsenal as counter punches will come at you from a range where they can reach you. I think the punches Flores took may be the result of him sitting down and being in range for the counters, or he simply wasn’t concerned with Rynn’s power and didn’t mind taking one to give two?
With Top Rank’s matchmaker Brad Goodman putting Flores in with a lefty, it could prove crucial down the road as Flores and lefty Shakur Stevenson are both signed by Top Rank and are currently within weight divisions. They may be en route to a future mega-bout down the road and that would be worth the price of admission in a bout featuring two fighters whose confidence level is through the roof and where neither would shy away from the other as they attempt to establish their game plan.
Beltran bounces back
Also on Sunday’s ESPN+ undercard on Sunday, Ray Beltran, 37, now competing at super lightweight, resurrected his career with a 9th round TKO victory over the undefeated Japanese slugger Hiroki Okada.
Beltran (36-8-1, 22 KOs) won the WBO lightweight title at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno a year ago with a decision against Paulus Moses. He lost his belt in August on a decision to Jose Pedraza, who received the big payday Beltran sought to perhaps retire upon. Pedraza lost WBC-WBA title fight by a decision to Vasiliy Lomanchenko in December at Madison Square Garden.
Slugger beats boxer in headlining bout
In the main event, Robert Garcia-trained super lightweight champion Jose Carlos Ramirez defended his WBC title against the dangerous Freddie Roach-trained Jose Zepeda via majority decision. It was a bout that came down to what you prefer. With Zepeda the slick southpaw who was outboxing Ramirez for the first few rounds, before the aggression and solid shots of the champion started to take effect down the stretch. I scored it 115-113 for Ramirez.
TKO: Drive stopped on account of snow
It was quite a show Sunday from Fresno on ESPN+ and quite an adventure for this scribe. On a card that I was credentialed to attend, Mother Nature had other plans as I got snowed in, but not before attempting to make it and leaving at the crack of dawn in hopes that the road would open in time for me to make it over the hill. It was not to be and I was left to drive back home and catch the card on TV.
Boxing reflects society’s progress and work to be done
As we celebrate Black history month, I remember what my editor told me about writing for a newspaper in Freeport, Illinois, the hometown of Gerald McClellan.
Tim Parsons covered McClellan’s training camp right up to his departure to London for his tragic fight against Nigel Benn. McClellan had won the middleweight title May 8, 1993 over Julian “The Hawk” Jackson. Although he was among the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world he wasn’t regarded as a hero by many whites in the community. McClellan’s career ended when he suffered a blood clot and serious brain damage in the fight with Benn.
I only need point to today’s racial divide in America to note that much work is still to be done in the direction of equality. Boxing has always been a mirror for the ever-changing pendulum of life. Next month will be the anniversary of the first Ali vs Frazier fight, and I’ll dig a little into the racial divide that the bout caused. At the end of the day, there will be fight cards featuring all ethnicity and cultural backgrounds, and the cornermen of these competitors will be just as diverse. However, sit in a room of fans, and the ethnic background or culture of a fighter does, too many times, decide who the fan is rooting for, and it’s not always based on patriotic pride.
Notes: Manny Pacquiao defeated Adrien Broner to keep speculation going for a possible rematch with Floyd Mayweather. However, at this time, Mayweather remains happily retired. …Henry Cejudo defeated TJ Dillashaw on what many called an early stoppage I say a fight can only be stopped too late, but never too early. Although as a fighter, I certainly wanted to fight until the end. … Gervonta “Tank” Davis defeated Hugo Ruiz Saturday. It was supposed to be a more intriguing battle, but original opponent, Abner Mares, broke his elbow in training camp, and rumors are swirling that he may have also ended up suffering a detached retina. Davis is a future star. … I like the passion that Anderson Silva put into his unanimous decision loss against undefeated Israel Adesanya. If that was the last we see of Silva in the octagon then he leaves with all of the respect from the fans.
–– Simon Ruvalcaba