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Gabriel Flores Jr. shines after Top Rank main event postponed

Updated June 18, 2020 - 9:15 pm

Top Rank chief operating officer Brad Jacobs figured there would be things to learn about the promotion’s coronavirus prevention and safety protocols as the company began holding boxing cards inside a bubble at the MGM Grand.

After two weeks and four cards, he’s already come to one conclusion.

“The time and effort and energy we’ve put into preparing is paying off,” Jacobs said. “What we do is working.”

Top Rank was forced to postpone its main event Thursday between super lightweights Jose Pedraza (26-3, 13 knockouts) and Mikkel LesPierre (22-1-1, 10 KOs) after LesPierre’s manager, Jose Taveras, tested positive for the coronavirus in the morning.

Taveras is the third person associated with Top Rank’s cards to test positive, joining Mikaela Mayer and Chris Zavala. But Jacobs is satisfied with how the protocols and preventative measures have mitigated the spread of the virus inside the bubble and how the promotion has worked around the positive tests.

A rescheduled date was not announced, but Pedraza said during an interview with ESPN that July 14 is a possibility.

“There’s no blinking or questioning,” said Jacobs, who spent several weeks preparing the company’s protocols ahead of its first card June 9. “It happens. We go into action and do what we have to do.”

Jacobs figured that some people would test positive while inside the bubble and prepared accordingly by developing a comprehensive plan to safely transport those with the virus outside of the bubble.

Rental vehicles, hotel rooms and security are also in place for those leaving the bubble. Those tasked with escorting somebody with the virus can communicate through an emergency text line established by Top Rank when the bubble was established.

“It’s going to happen at some point, somewhere,” Jacobs said of positive tests. “We know it could be the main event, the co-feature or anything in between. It’s just part of the process.”

The co-feature between lightweights Gabriel Flores Jr. and Josec Ruiz was elevated to the main event to showcase Flores, one of the sport’s top prospects. And the 20-year-old from Stockton, California, looked the part in a 100-89 unanimous decision in his first 10-round fight.

Flores (18-0, six KOs) dropped Ruiz (21-3-3, 14 KOs) for the first time in his career, stunning him with a left hook and following with a right hand in the second round. He danced around the 25-year-old Honduran for the ensuing eight rounds, peppering him with jabs and hooks while effortlessly evading Ruiz’s best punches.

“He was a tough guy, but he was not on my level,” Flores said. “Going 10 rounds for the first time in my career was a valuable learning experience. I see a world title in the next 12 months. That’s my goal, but we have to see what’s out there first. I’m training in Vegas now, and the sparring and training out here has helped elevate my game.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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