Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Bob Arum signs 16-year-old who can’t fight until turns 17

Photo courtesy of Top Rank

He can’t vote or enlist in the army or place a legal bet or even fight in the United States.

But 16-year-old Gabriel Flores Jr. has talent — lots of it. And on Thursday, Top Rank announced it had signed Flores, a top amateur, to a multi-year promotional deal, calling him the youngest fighter the company has ever contracted.

“Why did we sign a 16½-year-old — I think (it’s) because the younger we sign fighters the longer the guys in Top Rank feel they’ll have me around,” Top Rank’s 84-year-old CEO Bob Arum quipped at a news conference for the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas card. Flores is advised by Rick Mirigian, who has the same role with junior welterweight Jose Ramirez and has been adept at lining up sponsors for Ramirez.

Flores’ talent seems undeniable. But getting him a license is a bit more complicated. The legal age to receive a boxing license in the state of Nevada is 18, according to Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Accommodations can be made, however, for 17-year-olds to fight. “It’s been done before,” he said. Flores’ father would have to write a letter to the commission after Flores turns 17 in May, explaining why he approves of his son fighting professionally, Bennett told on Friday.

Bennett would have to confirm the authenticity of the letter, he said, and then put the issue of Flores fighting on the agenda for a future commission hearing. If the commissioners deem Flores deserving of a license, it will be granted, as long as everyone feels comfortable with his health and safety. “That’s our highest priority,” he said.

The 5-10 Flores went 91-7 as an amateur, winning the 2016 U.S. junior national championships at 138 pounds and a silver medal in the 2015 world junior championships. His personal story is heart-breaking. His mother, Juanita Maldonado, was reportedly shot by an errant bullet on March 17, 2013 while attending a house party in Stockton, California, where the family is from and died at the age of 35. Flores says he plans to use the sport as a platform to advocate against violence and bullying to possibly bring about change in Stockton.

“I know everyone is taking a big chance on me,” Flores said in a prepared statement. “And I will look to exceed all the expectations placed on me as I love this sport and can’t wait to bring big fights to my city and change that is needed, as I am truly blessed to have this opportunity.”



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