The super featherweight contender will carry the pain and the promise of the past into the ring with him against modern great Leo Santa Cruz in a 130-pound world title showdown November 23, live on FOX Sports PPV.
Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
Miguel Flores has demonstrated both. Flores was months away from his professional debut when tragedy struck. His older Ben, himself a boxer—and an inspiration to his younger sibling, died from injuries sustained in the ring.
“Most people who had to go through that situation would probably have quit,” Miguel said. “I made the decision to keep going because if I stopped there, his death would have been for nothing.”
Flores, now 27, is close to realizing his dreams. His brother Ben was once his biggest supporter, constantly telling him that one day he would be a world champion. On Saturday, November 23, Flores has that chance when he meets three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz for the vacant WBA World Super Featherweight title at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The bout is part of a stacked card headlined by the rematch between undefeated WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder and Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, live on PBC on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
It was Ben’s influence that inspired a young Miguel to get into boxing, and to fight on despite the tragedy.
“It’s been hard,” Miguel said. “Sometimes I look at the other fighters who have passed away and I kind of bow my head down and I’m like, Man, why am I still in this sport? It’s taken the thing that I probably loved the most—my brother. It took him from me.”
Ultimately, boxing is in his DNA. Miguel grew up idolizing fellow fighters of Mexican heritage, such as Marco Antonio Barrera and Julio Cesar Chavez.
“They dug to the body and it always benefited them,” Flores noted. “My brother was a great body puncher. So, I picked it up from them. Even my father, when he helped in my corner, he would always say, ‘You gotta go to the body to slow the other fighter down.’”
With busy, hard-working parents who didn’t have as much time at home as they would have liked, Miguel and Ben were close.
“My brother was always the one to take care of me and take me to school,” Miguel said. “He would make sure I was staying on the right track. I was a little knucklehead. He made me into the man I am today. I owe a lot to my family, my parents, but especially to my brother. He straightened me out.”
“ If I win a world title, it’ll be a happy ending. ” Super Featherweight Contender - Miguel Flores
Before Miguel began boxing, he would accompany Ben to the gym. That was where he met Aaron Navarro, who would later become his longtime head coach.
“Aaron was a fighter at the time. He used to help one of the old coaches that was an amateur coach. When you start boxing, the dream is always to become world champion. We decided to go full throttle on that and pursue the dream.”
Miguel had an impressive amateur career. He had 96 bouts and won several tournaments with Aaron in his corner. In August 2009, three months after Ben’s death, he turned pro.
Today, Flores is 24-2, with 12 KOs. On November 23, he fights for his first world title against a modern Mexican great in Santa Cruz.
Miguel has been preparing for Santa Cruz for some time. The two were originally scheduled to fight in February, but Flores sustained an ankle injury and the bout was postponed.
“Leo is one of the top featherweights, super featherweights, out there,” said Flores. There’s no secret to him either: He likes to throw a lot of punches. He loves to fight. If you catch him with one good shot, he likes to come back right away and get that shot back.
“The plan is just to make it easy, but if it comes down to a brawl, I’m up for that too. I love a good action fight. We’re coming up with a great game plan and we’re gonna execute it on November 23.”
Flores is still haunted by what happened to Ben. But he hasn’t lost sight of what’s in front of him. With all that he endured when his brother paid the ultimate price, Miguel long ago had to come to some kind of peace with the sport he and his brother fell in love with as kids.
“If I win a world title, it’ll be a happy ending,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t, I think I’m already a champion in life. A world title doesn’t define me and my brother. We always put up great fights, and we’re gonna always be remembered as the brothers who always gave action-packed fights./
“But I’m a warrior and at the end of the day, I want to win a world title in his memory. I want to keep the legacy going. I’m one step away. I’m gonna take full advantage of the opportunity.”/
For a closer look at Miguel Flores, check out his fighter page.