Gabriel Flores Junior: The Flower of Stockton

The tragedy driving boxing's brightest young star.

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Thanks to the work of the Diaz brothers Nate and Nick, the city of Stockton, California is now famous for the good kind of fighting. And the most recent name to come out of the notorious city could expand that reputation into the world of boxing.

In just two and a half years, 19-year-old Gabriel Flores Junior has boxed his way to a perfect 16 and zero record and put the rest of the lightweight division on notice.

A stellar amateur career - that saw him go 91 and seven and take gold at the U.S. junior national championships - lead to Flores becoming the youngest ever signing to Top Rank at only 16 years of age. To ask Flores, it was no fluke that he has achieved so much so young:

Everything we've got from now, from the beginning, we hustled for it. You know we didn't get lucky. People say 'ah, you're lucky'. Nah, I'm not lucky. I grind. I was in the gym at night, in the morning. You know, when you're sleeping at 4 am, I was running outside before high school, before elementary school so there's no luck about that.

Flores’ almost inhuman drive is rooted in the kind of tragedy so common to natives of Stockton. When Gabriel was 12 his mother was shot while visiting a children’s birthday party, the collateral victim of gang violence.

I keep her name alive, let her know I don't forget her, let her know I'm here. I'm standing, I'm talking, I'm living. I'm succeeding because of her.

And Flores is using his slick movement and chin-stunning jab to fight to change the exact circumstances that lead to the loss of his mother, hoping to inspire the city’s youth to make more positive choices:

I want the kids to know right from wrong and the consequences. I want to stop the violence in the city I was born in and the city I love.

It’s impossible to say how far such a young fighter can go, but with a goal like that, we can all hope Gabriel Flores Junior’s grind takes him all the way to the top.