The sky’s the limit: Miguel Flores looks to continue ascent up the 126-pound ranks against Mario Briones

Miguel Flores’ longtime adviser doesn’t mince words when it comes to his fighter, comparing him to a Mexican legend and predicting the unbeaten 23-year-old will challenge the 126-pound division’s best in short order.

Miguel Flores and Mario Briones

Unbeaten 126-pound prospect Miguel Flores, left, will get the biggest test of his career Tuesday night when he takes on Mario Briones in San Antonio. (Francisco Perez/Premier Boxing Champions)

“Miguel reminds me of a young Juan Manuel Marquez,” Luis DeCubas Jr. says of the former four-division champion whose impressive résumé includes a 2012 knockout of Manny Pacquiao. “Obviously, he’s got a long way to go to get to what [Marquez] has done, but I think he’s got those kinds of skills.”

And if DeCubas is to be believed, those skills could soon be matched up against those of the top fighters in what has become a deep 126-pound division.

“He’s in a very tough weight class, but a year or a year and a half from now, I could see Miguel in the ring with any 126-pounder in the world,” says DeCubas, who has worked with champions such as Erislandy Lara, Robert Guerrero and Rances Barthelemy. “That goes for [champions] Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr. and Jesus Cuellar—anybody.

“Miguel’s a prospect on the rise who is in world championship condition.”

Miguel Flores (18-0, 9 KOs) will attempt to validate DeCubas’ words Tuesday night from Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio, where he’ll square off against Mexico’s Mario Briones (27-4-2, 20 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout (Fox Sports 1, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT).

At Monday's weigh-in, Flores tipped the scales at 127, while Briones came in at 126.

Born in Morelia, Mexico, but raised in Houston, Flores has fought all but two of his bouts in Texas. His reverence for his hometown is particularly strong, and he talks about wanting to follow in the footsteps of a pair of Houston-based fighters who preceded him: former 135-pound champion Juan Diaz and former Olympic silver medalist Rocky Juarez, each of whom lost spirited bouts to Marquez.

“I want to make boxing in Houston like it was when Rocky Juarez and Juan Diaz [were fighting],” he says.

At the same time, Flores is excited about the prospect of San Antonio becoming something of a second home, having fought there twice previously, defeating Guadalupe De Leon at the Alamodome in April 2013 and Jose Del Valle at the Illusions Theater in April 2014.

“Many of the fans in Texas are hard-core Latino followers, particularly in San Antonio, and I’m kind of building a fan base there,” he says.

One thing we all know is that when you have two Mexicans in the ring, there’s going to be a fight whether anybody wants it or not. Aaron Navarro, trainer for Miguel Flores

Flores will try to continue to add to that support—and pick up his third straight stoppage victory—when he battles Briones, a 30-year-old who will be making his U.S. debut after fighting almost exclusively in Mexico since turning pro in April 2009.

Briones is coming off a third-round TKO of Edgar Gonzalez on November 6. That fight ended a yearlong layoff for Briones following his 10-round unanimous decision over Israel Lopez in November 2014. Both bouts took place in Briones’ native Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Like most boxers from his homeland, Briones isn’t one to shy away from contact, as evidenced by the fact that 21 of his 33 professional fights have ended early. It’s that type of come-forward style that has the equally aggressive Flores excited about the potential for an all-out brawl Tuesday.

“We’re two Mexicans who are going to produce some fireworks,” he says. “It’s never too early to produce a Fight Of the Year candidate, and I’ll give them one against Briones so [San Antonio fans] will continue to remember who I am.”

As eager as Flores is to put on a show, his longtime trainer, Aaron Navarro, is keenly aware of Briones’ capabilities. Navarro knows if his fighter is to fulfill the destiny DeCubas believes is there for the taking, he can’t get careless against a veteran who possesses knockout power.

“Briones is a step up for Miguel in more ways than one, being a very tough, game, experienced guy, and, in my opinion, a dangerous opponent for a young prospect like Flores,” Navarro says. “We watched enough film on Briones to have a basic idea of what we’re dealing with. We know what Briones likes to do, but we’re more concerned about what Miguel is going to do.”

While time will tell if Flores can take advantage of Briones’ tendencies, Navarro is dead certain about one thing: Fans in the arena and watching at home who want to see two fighters throw punches in bunches will get their wish.

“One thing we all know is that when you have two Mexicans in the ring, there’s going to be a fight whether anybody wants it or not,” he says. “There may be a feeling-out round or two, but it won’t take long before these two Mexicans go at it. That’s just something that’s inevitable in boxing.”

For complete coverage of Flores vs Briones, check out our fight page.

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