And USA boxing was sending him checks, asking him to represent the U.S. in fights.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, this is great!’” he said. “I turned pro when I was 23.”
He was a semester shy of graduating with his communication degree, something that still bothers his father. But as he finds success in both broadcasting and the ring, his mom sees the value of practical experience.
“I’m going into my second year with NBC, and I love it,” he said. “It’s always what I wanted to do.”
He sees boxing as a sport that is holding its own against sports like mixed martial arts. He believes there is room for both — among athletes and fans. For boxing to continue to be viable, youngsters have to start with amateur programs like Golden Gloves.
“If the kids aren’t coming up, then they aren’t going to be in the pro ranks,” he said. One issue is the perception that the Olympic trials are too political. It’s led to more and more talented fighters heading straight for the pros rather than to the Olympics.
“There’s a lot of politics. ... It’s not necessarily the best fighter winning, and that’s discouraging,” he said. “You wait for four years to get your shot, and if you don’t get a fair shake, that’s tough to swallow. Kids, I think, are starting to realize that and saying, ‘Hey, I need the money now.’”
Earning Olympic hardware can make turning pro much more lucrative, he said. But so is winning.
Flores said he isn’t “super active” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anymore, but he still feels the influence of his beliefs in his daily life.
“Life is such an up and down, so many things that can change and turn in life,” he said. “But those values, those beliefs are always going to be there for me. Whether the road winds or not, it’s still there. So I have that foundation.”
And what he’s learned in the ring is that he has to stay dedicated, has to stay strong, so that when the call comes, he can answer.
“It’s something very different from football,” he said. “You have to take the responsibility yourself for the training, the preparation, everything. There are no corners to cut in boxing. Not that there are in football, but there’s no one to bail you out, no one to help you. It’s the most lonely place in the world in there, so you’ve got to be ready.”
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