Artur Beterbiev-Radivoje Kalajdzic, Jerwin Ancajas-Ryuichi Funai and Flores-Eduardo Pereira to headline special Top Rank on ESPN/tripleheader Saturday at Stockton Arena beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Gabriel Flores Jr. celebrated in his 19th birthday Wednesday at Los Gallos Boxing Academy in his hometown, three days before he makes his ESPN-televised homecoming in front of an expected crowd of more than 10,000 at Stockton Arena.
Flores (12-0, 5 KOs) will take on Eduardo Pereira (23-5, 19 KOs) in a six-round lightweight showdown, which will be televised in between a pair of highly anticipated world championship bouts.
In the main event, IBF light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) – the only current world champion in boxing with a 100 percent knockout ratio – will fight the hard-hitting Radivoje "Hot Rod" Kalajdzic (24-1, 17 KOs). And, in the co-feature, Jerwin "Pretty Boy" Ancajas (30-1-2, 20 KOs) will make the seventh defense of his IBF junior bantamweight world title against No. 1. contender Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22 KOs).
Flores, a one-time standout amateur who signed with Top Rank in 2016 at the age of 16, is now one of the sport’s top young ticket-sellers. This is what he had to say.
Gabriel Flores Jr.
"Not many fighters can sell tickets, so for me to do it in my hometown at such a young age is a blessing. I have a great team behind me, and having ESPN come to Stockton is a dream come true."
"Pereira is a veteran who has fought many top prospects. He’s an aggressive fighter, which will make for a crowd-pleasing fight. I want to show out for my hometown. There hasn’t been a boxing event like this is in Stockton for many years."
"I honestly don’t feel pressure fighting in my hometown. If anything, it gives me more motivation. I want to put Stockton back on the boxing map."
"I can feel myself growing into my man strength now. I am 19 years old now, and I have learned so much in my two years as a professional. I have faced a lot of different styles and types of fighters, which has helped my development."
"I am honored to be on a great card like this with two world championship bouts. One day, I’ll return home to Stockton as a world champion."
"Me, I want to go into the ring and make my mother proud (Flores’ mother, Juanita Maldonado, passed away in 2013). I will go into the ring against a very experienced opponent. There will be bright lights and lasers flashing when I get into the ring and there will be bright lights and lasers flashing when I start fighting. Since I’ve been a small boy, I have dreamed of this day, and here we are at last."
Rick Mirigian (Flores’ adviser)
"This city loves its young king. No one this young is selling this many tickets, and Saturday will stand as one of this year’s biggest shows period across the board. A star has been born."