Gabriel Flores Jr. is prepared for Jayson Velez to be in his face as soon as their 10-round fight begins Saturday night in Las Vegas.
The undefeated 130-pound prospect is looking forward to dealing well with that persistent pressure and proving versus Velez that he is ready to fight for a world title. Velez (29-7-1, 21 KOs) was stopped for the first time in his last bout, a 10th-round knockout loss to Oscar Valdez, yet the durable Puerto Rican veteran still represents a step up in competition for the 20-year-old Flores (19-0, 6 KOs).
“He’s just gonna keep on coming and try to get you tired and wear you out and break you down,” Flores told BoxingScene.com. “And that’s his game plan. He’s not gonna be somebody you’re just gonna hit, and he’s gonna fall down. He’s gonna be in front of you all night, so I have to be ready for that.”
The undefeated Valdez boxed well against Velez. The former WBO featherweight champion dropped Velez once in the fifth round and twice during the 10th round July 21 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
“Valdez is a former world champion,” Flores said. “He was a world champion at 126, so he knows what to do with those type of guys. Valdez just had the right game plan. He probably started a little late, had to get a little warm, but at the end he did what he had to do.”
Flores feels he must beat Velez impressively in this ESPN co-feature to validate himself as a contender in the junior lightweight division. His promoter, Bob Arum, works with multiple 130-pound contenders and champions, thus it shouldn’t be difficult for Flores to secure a meaningful fight if he gets past Velez.
“I wanna show that I’m ready for a world title, that I’m getting closer and closer,” Flores said. “It’s a big step closer to that, because at the end of the day, that’s the main goal.”
Flores, of Stockton, California, agreed to fight former WBA super featherweight champ Andrew Cancio on Saturday night. Cancio (21-5-2, 16 KOs), of Ventura, California, withdrew from their bout soon after it was announced due to a back injury.
“Velez is probably a little tougher than Cancio, but that’s just my opinion,” Flores said. “But they both bring pressure. It just seems Velez is probably a little more heavy on the pressure. He’s bigger than Cancio. He’s more of a natural 130.”
ESPN will televise Flores-Velez before a much-anticipated, 12-round main event in which Mexican rivals Miguel Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) and Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) will fight for Berchelt’s WBC super featherweight title. The network’s broadcast is set to start at 10 p.m. EST and 7 p.m. PST from MGM Grand Conference Center.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.