STOCKTON (CBS13) — A Stockton High School student who signed a contract with the biggest name in boxing is just days away from making his professional debut in the ring.
Gabriel Flores, Jr., 16, who lost his mother in a violent gang shooting says he’s doing it all for her. He can still remember his mother, Juanita Maldonado sitting in the stands, watching and cheering as he won fight after fight.
“She always got to smile no matter how rough times where, she just knew how to keep that smile on her,” he said.
Maldonado was gunned down four years ago at a child’s birthday party in Stockton. Gabriel was only 12 and soon learned to channel all his emotions into the sport he loves.
“I do this for my mom, for the love of the sport and for my family,” said Flores.
His father, Gabriel Flores, Sr., has always been right by his side as a mentor, a coach and a teacher.
“Of course, it was hard , it was a hard thing to go through but I talked him through it with the understanding that he needed to accomplish what his dreams still and his mother would want him to do that,” said Flores, Sr.
Gabriel is the youngest fighter to sign with top rank, the same promoters who worked with Muhammad Ali. Since Gabriel is so young, he had to wait until May when he turns 17 to apply for a special permit that allows him to fight as a professional.
“His story has far reaching affects with young people, old and all different nationalities and backgrounds because we all can relate to some sort of trial where we stumbled and may have wanted to give up but we kept pushing like Gabriel,” said Sam Fant, community organizer.
Gabriel turns 17 on May 1st, and says he just wants to do something positive for Stockton and show other young people they can do it too, as long as they focus on work hard.
Gabriel’s debut as a professional fighter takes place on Cinco de Mayo at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada.