by David P. Greisman
BJ Flores is coming off a Jan. 28 win over Hugo Pineda, a sixth-round technical knockout that gave him three wins in six months. Those keep busy bouts, he said, have gotten him sharp and ready for a title shot ó a title shot he believes could be coming soon, based on the rankings.
Flores recently spoke with BoxingScene.com about the Pineda win, why he turned down a title shot against Ola Afolabi, what fighters he is interested in facing next, Marco Huckís performance against Alexander Povetkin, and the state of the cruiserweight division.
BoxingScene.com: Itís been several weeks since your fight with Hugo Pineda. What are your thoughts on that victory ó what it meant, how it went?
Flores: ďTo be honest with you, it didnít really mean anything. It was just a chance for me to get back in the ring. It was a guy who ó a couple of guys kind of fell out, and he was begging for the fight. He said he was in camp with Glen Johnson and Lucian Bute and Andre Dirrell and all these guys, getting these guys ready for all their fights, and he was ready. He wanted to fight me bad. He couldnít wait, said that just nobody wanted to fight him.
ďI didnít really like the fight, because he was maybe decent back in the day, but heís moving up in weight and everything. I didnít really like the fight, but to be honest with you we really couldnít find anybody else. We offered the fight to five or six other guys rated in the top 10 in the North American ratings, and we just couldnít find anybody else to fight. At the end of the day, I told the matchmaker, ĎHim, I guess.í I was trying to hold out for someone better, but at the end of the day, thatís the guy we got.
ďThe fight went as expected. I have to knock a guy out like that if Iím to be in serious contention for any kind of title. I canít let a guy like that hang around.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Weíd heard in a press release this past month about you turning down a title bout against Ola Afolabi. It sounded like there wasnít really much time for you to get ready for that. When did you get the offer from Afolabi, and when would the fight have been?
Flores: ďI think the offer was Feb. 4, and it was supposed to be the fight was Feb. 25. It was just 21 days. I had just fought the week before, and as easy as the fight was, my hands were still a little sore from the training camp and everything. I just wasnít ready. I couldnít get back in the gym. I had a left knuckle problem that the doctor told me to rest at least 10 to 14 days, so that wouldíve carried me right up until the fight. Also, the offer to fight Afolabi was a laughable $25,000 to go to Germany on three weeks notice. That is an absolute joke of an offer. I make more than that doing my own shows in Springfield [Missouri] against any opponent.
ďIím getting to a point now where Iím almost in that spot where I have the mandatory spot with the WBO ó I think Iím No. 3. Ola Afolabi is No. 1. Heís going to be the champion now that Marco Huckís out. No. 2, Denis Lebedev, is with the WBA, the interim champion. Iím ready to move into that mandatory spot. I donít have to take an opportunity on 15 days notice like that and cheat myself.
ďI feel like I did that already when I went to Australia and was forced to come in at 195 pounds and coming off a 16-month layoff [against Danny Green]. After my last fight we reached out to Danny Greenís people about a rematch. It was a fight that was very close and he had promised me a rematch. This time I would come over at 200 pounds and give me a shot to avenge my decision loss. They rejected and said Danny is moving back to light heavyweight. So now I can focus on my next fight or a shot at the title.
ďIím not going to cheat myself the next time I go for a title shot. Iím going to give myself a fair shot. And if I can get a fair shot, and if I have six to eights weeks to train and everythingís normal, then Iím going to beat Ola Afolabi. Thatís it. And whoever I fight, I feel like Iím going to beat, if I give myself a fair shot. But Iím not going to take any more shortcuts.
ďOla Afolabi isnít like this huge opportunity that I have to give up everything to get the chance to fight him. I can get him on his next fight because Iím going to be the No. 1 contender anyway. That fightís going to come soon enough if everything plays out.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Aside from the short notice, it seems like knowing where youíre ranked makes the decision easier, even though you and I both know that in this sport, there are times that title shots can be few and far between.
Flores: ďAbsolutely. The title shots can be few and far between, but now Iím finally with the right guys who can get me the title shots. Iím not at anyoneís mercy now, like ĎPlease give me a title shot.í Iím going to get my title shot whether you like it or not, because Iím beating the guys, Iím moving up in the ratings. It doesnít matter who wants me to get one or who doesnít.
ďIím with the right guys know ó Mr. King and their people. Iím getting a title shot, and Iím going to get my fair notice and my fair shake when I get there. I donít have to take a title shot on 15 days notice. I donít have to take short money or anything. I got people behind me now that are going to give me a legitimate shot to go over there and win.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Do you have a preference between Afolabi and Lebedev?
Flores: ďTo be honest with you, itís an interesting situation, because the WBC title, weíre hearing that Krzysztof Wlodarczyk might be fighting Antonio Tarver in Late April, and if he does that heís going to be stripped of his WBC title. So if heís stripped of his WBC title, Iím rated No. 4, I believe, by the WBC. So that would be another option to be able to fight for the title, because [Giacobbe] Fragomeni and Silvio Branco are the No. 2 and 3 rated contenders, and theyíre fighting for the silver belt. You know, Francisco Palacious is No. 1, so he might be fighting for the vacant WBC title as well.
ďTo me, it doesnít really matter who Iím fighting. I would take that fight next. Iím coming off three fights in six months. Like I said, the reason for those three fights ó Iím not saying ĎHey, the three guys I beat are the greatest guys in the world,í but theyíre good, tough North American contenders. Itís not just that I beat them. Itís the way that I beat them. I feel like my timing and my reflexes are back now. Iím sharp. Iíve been back in camp consistently. Weíve been having good training camps. I feel like Iím ready for whoever now. It doesnít really matter, to be honest with you.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Those three fights were in your hometown. Would you be willing to go on the road or, hearing some of those names, out of the country to fight these guys?
Flores: ďAbsolutely. But does Ola Afolabi have a big following? I mean, am I going to go to his hometown? He might as well come to Springfield. I would definitely go to fight him, wherever that is, but he doesnít really have a home base as far as I know. If he does, please tell me. If it was on a Klitschko card or something like that, like a fight in Germany or whatever, then thatís fine. If it makes sense, weíll do it.
ďIf Iím the No. 1 contender, wherever they say the fight is, whatever we decide the terms are, thatís how itís going to go down. I donít really care about anything else. Whatever we get it, we get. Wherever the fightís at, it doesnít really matter. But of course, Iíd rather fight at home if Iím fighting a guy who doesnít have a home base.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Iím not certain one way or the other about Afolabi. I know that Lebedev is bringing people in.
Flores: ďLebedev does. The thing with Lebedev, though, is heís the WBA interim champion right now, and I think heís talking about fighting a couple different guys. Lebedevís not really on the radar because heís with the WBA, and Iím kind of more with the WBO and WBC right now, because thatís whoís got me rated higher and in contention to fight for the titles.
ďWhoeverís in those sanctioning bodies, whoever we can get to fight that makes sense, I can fight for the vacant title or I can fight the champion. Whatever it is, it doesnít matter to me. I feel sharp now after three fights in six months. Iím very confident now. Iím just ready to fight. I just want to make sure we get the proper and full chance to go into any fight, and we like our chances with anybody.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Letís talk about another cruiserweight, or perhaps a former cruiserweight. Did you see Marco Huckís fight with Alexander Povetkin? Whatíd you think of that fight and Huckís performance?
Flores: ďI sure did. Huck is just a tough, gritty, strong, well-conditioned, mentally tough guy. Iíve always known that about Marco Huck. I think he kind of exposed Povetkin.† You just got to look at the level of competition in cruiserweight boxing. Marco Huck is a very good cruiserweight, and now heís a very good heavyweight. It just shows that the gap isnít as big as it used to be between cruiserweights and heavyweights.
ďDavid Haye went up to heavyweight, was able to win a version of the title very quickly. Marco Huck went up to heavyweight and, in my opinion, won. Maybe he gave away some of the early rounds, but Povetkin could barely even stay on his feet at the end of the fight. He hurt Povetkin. He was never hurt himself. These top cruiserweights are going up to heavyweight and doing very well. I thought he fought a great fight, and I thought he won the fight.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Youíve said before that cruiserweight is your home right now, but does seeing what Huck and Haye did make you more eager about going up to heavyweight?
Flores: ďEventually, but like I said, thatís so far in the future. Youíre talking about David Haye, who unified the cruiserweight division before he went up. Marco Huck had eight successful defenses before he went up. Iíve got so much ground in-between now and then before I even talk about that, but thereís definitely potential. I always want to focus on the next fight. Iím not even a world champion at cruiserweight. I just want to focus on my next fight and make sure I fight the best I possibly can.Ē
BoxingScene.com: And this is a good division youíre in. Itís heating back up, with Steve Cunningham, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Troy Ross, among others. Youíve got some good competition you could be facing down the line.
Flores: ďThese guys are beasts, man. These guys are all tough guys. Steve Cunningham is a proven, time and time again, very, very good, tough fighter. A lot of people think maybe heís slipping now because heís getting a little older. He just lost to Yoan Pablo Hernandez. Hey, Yoan Pablo Hernandez is very, very good. Steve Cunningham is very good. Denis Lebedev is very good. Troy Ross is very good.
ďThese guys are top, top, top, top-level fighters. I got to be at my best to be able to compete with these guys. I just want a chance to prove that.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say?
Flores: ďA big shout out to Springfield, Missouri. If we donít get this title shot coming up next, I will be back doing a card, maybe an ESPN card in May. Iím just looking forward to getting back in the ring. Iím going to be stronger, faster. Next time I get that shot for the world title, I will not go home without a belt. I will come home strapped up after my next opportunity. I will not let it slip be me two times.Ē
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: BJ Flores , Ola Afolabi