The team guiding the career of Gabriel Flores Jr. sought a step up in class for the rising 21-year-old junior lightweight.

Luis Alberto Lopez appears to be just that on paper but has every intention to prove that he’s so much more.

At the very least, the Mexicali native showed he could command a stage as Flores (20-0, 7KOs) had plenty to say about their upcoming bout. The two will collide this Friday on ESPN from AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, with Flores of the belief that he will use Lopez as the latest steppingstone in his promising career.

His opponent had plenty to say about that.

“Just because you’re signed with Top Rank doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win,” Lopez bluntly stated during Thursday’s final press conference in the Sunset Room at Casino del Sol. “He has a lot of flaws. He’s just a kid, I’m a man.”

Lopez (22-2, 12KOs) carries a five-fight win streak into the ring, along with a touch of familiarity with ESPN viewers. The 28-year-old trialhorse outlasted Andy Vences in earning a split decision victory in a minor upset last July at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The win came seven months after defeating previously unbeaten Cristian Baez back home in Mexicali, where he won three in a row following a ten-round decision loss to then-undefeated prospect Ruben Villa in May 2019.

Flores enters off a career-best win, lighting up former title challenger Jayson Velez inside of six rounds this past February 2020 at MGM Grand Conference Center. Flores served as the chief support of an ESPN telecast headlined by Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23KOs) wresting the WBC junior lightweight title following a sensational tenth-round knockout of long-reigning champ Miguel Berchelt.

Friday’s show sees Flores and Valdez sharing the stage. Valdez headlines in a scheduled title defense versus 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Robson Conceicao (16-0, 8KOs), with Flores expected to shine and move on to the contender level in the talent-laden junior lightweight division.

Lopez’s job is to disrupt those plans, and he sees plenty of potential for that to happen.

"He might be a future champion. We’ll see," notes Lopez. “I’m here to show that I belong at this level as well.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox