A boxer’s journey to the top is usually a step-by-step climb. Sometimes all the rungs on the ladder are as strong as granite; sometimes one or two are as sturdy as cheap plastic. Trouble is, a fighter doesn’t know which rungs are rock solid and which are potential traps until he completes each step—something Miguel Flores recently learned the hard way.
Born in Mexico but raised in Houston, Flores breezed through his first 21 pro fights without so much as a pause, winning all but one by either stoppage or unanimous decision, with the other victory coming by majority decision. In the process, Flores positioned himself on the precipice of contender status in the 126-pound division entering his February 21 bout against unheralded Dat Nguyen.
Nguyen was a veteran fighter with a 19-3 record, but he was 10 years Flores’ senior and had fought just five times in nearly six years, losing two of those contests. In other words, Nguyen appeared to be yet another sturdy-as-granite rung on Flores’ ladder—except he wasn’t. Fighting in Flores’ hometown of Houston, Nguyen pressed the action from the opening bell and slugged it out toe-to-toe for five rounds before dropping and stopping Flores in the sixth for his first knockout in nearly a decade.
Five months after that stunning upset, Miguel Flores (21-1, 9 KOs) is ready to resume his ascent in the 126-pound division Tuesday night when he takes on hard-hitting former world title challenger Chris Avalos (26-5, 19 KOs) at Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria, Louisiana.
The 10-round clash headlines another Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays card on FS1 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) that also features 175-pound prospect Ahmed Elbiali (15-0, 12 KOs) vs Christopher Brooker (12-3, 5 KOs) in a 10-round bout, and former title challenger "Prince” Charles Martin (24-1-1, 22 KOs) battling Michael Marrone (21-7, 15 KOs) in a 10-round heavyweight showdown.
“It was definitely a hard learning experience suffering my first loss, but [it’s] one that I took in stride,” says Flores, who weighed in Monday at 125.3 pounds, while Avalos tipped the scales at 125.8. “No fighter ever wants to suffer defeat, but it’s what that fighter does to get back on top that matters.”
While many boxers coming off that first defeat might prefer to re-establish themselves in a low-profile fight against an inexperienced opponent, Flores insists he’s thrilled to be right back in the spotlight against another quality, battle-tested boxer.
“Fighting in the main event is exactly what I need right now,” says Flores, whose loss to Nguyen also headlined a Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays event. “It’s important for me to be fighting in front of a nationally televised audience [again], because I want to show the world that I have what it takes to get back into world title contention. This type of fight brings out the best in me, and my warrior spirit will be shining on fight night.”
“ No fighter ever wants to suffer defeat, but it’s what that fighter does to get back on top that matters. ” 126-pound prospect Miguel Flores, on fighting for the first time since losing to Dat Nguyen
Flores’ warrior spirit has been on display often in recent years. Not only has he been one of the most active prospects in boxing—this fight with Avalos will be his ninth since May 2015—but he’s consistently faced solid competition. Including Avalos, eight of Flores’ last 10 opponents have entered the ring with at least 23 wins; in all, those 10 foes owned a combined 264 victories when they squared off against Flores.
While not nearly as active as Flores in recent years, the 27-year-old Avalos also has been tested against top-flight competition. While this will be just his second bout in nearly two years, Avalos’ last four opponents owned a combined 58-6 record, with three of those four being undefeated.
Alas, each of those unbeaten fighters stopped Avalos, including then-world champion Carl Frampton, who defended his 122-pound crown with a fifth-round TKO in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in February 2015. In his last fight in April 2016, Avalos fell by sixth-round TKO to Mark Magsayo, who was 13-0 entering the bout.
His recent struggles aside, the lifelong resident of Lancaster, California, is confident he has the tools to topple Flores and resurrect his career.
“I’m excited to get in the ring and show that I’m still dangerous every time I’m in there,” says Avalos, who had won six consecutive fights (with four KOs) prior to his current 1-3 slump. “Flores hasn’t faced somebody like me, and if he thinks this will be an easy comeback fight for him, he’s in for a rough night.”
Flores, who turned 25 years old Monday, is quick to assure Avalos—and everyone else, for that matter—that no such thoughts are in his head. After what happened against Nguyen, he knows he better bring his “A” game if he’s to walk out of the ring victorious.
“At this level in my career, there are no easy fights,” says the 5-foot-8 Flores, who will have one-inch height and reach advantages over Avalos. “Chris Avalos has been in the ring with some of the best fighters in the world, and I’m expecting a grueling fight.
“I know he’s coming to win, but I believe I have the skills to come out on top. It’s going to be one of those hard-fought fights that the fans can appreciate.”
For complete coverage of Flores vs Avalos, head over to our fight page.