It’s been a long time coming to say the least. BJ Flores’ career, like a bottle of Royal Lochnagar, has taken twelve years to mature. On July 25th BJ will stand across the ring from Beibut Shumenov (15-2) at the MGM Grand, headlining his very own “Premier Boxing Champions” card; as opposed to his usual post of providing commentary for these events. Most fighters take to boxing color commentary after their careers are over, Flores used his burgeoning broadcasting career to help further his pugilistic dreams.
Truth is, at this time in his career, BJ is a better boxing commentator than he is an actual boxer. That’s not a knock on him whatsoever; it speaks to his ability to give great insight as to what is happening inside the ring at that very moment and what could be going on inside the psyche of the fighters involved. Simply put, BJ Flores is arguably the best up and coming boxing analyst in the game today. I know he is proud of that, I also know that’s not what he wants. No fighter who puts in hours upon hours of hard work in the gym and between the ropes wants to be told that, professionally, they’re a better ANYTHING then they are a fighter.
Think about it, would you like to hear that, after winning multiple amateur national heavyweight championships, after dominating big names (Jirov, Chagaev, Dawson) throughout the years in training, after being ranked in the top 10 by an alphabet organization for the better part of a decade? None of these feats make one a star, but building a 31-1-1 record during a twelve year campaign isn’t an easy task. Yet, after all this, we’re left to wonder if these accomplishments will simply embellish his broadcasting resume, or is there more?
In walks Shumenov, the possible vessel for Flores’ fighting career to take off. One thing that makes BJ such a good commentator is his cerebral understanding of the fight game. Tune into any of BJ’s fights and you’ll soon realize you’re watching combat chess. He is moves ahead of his competitors and uses his ring intelligence to stay out of harm’s way and to counter his victim into submission. If you don’t prove to be an offensive threat, he slams your liver until you drop your hands and then alleviates you of your consciousness. BJ, in a way, is a boxing savant, something no one in history will EVER accuse Beibut of being.
Shumenov is the antithesis of Flores in fighting style; a nuts and guts brawler, who reminds me of an unrefined cruiserweight version of Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz; same power and volume, minus the head movement. Backed by his family’s personal wealth, Beibut was able to fast-track his career to contender status in the light heavyweight division. He accumulated wins over name opponents like Montell Griffin, Byron Mitchell, Gabriel Campillo (did not deserve the win), William Joppy, and Enrique Ornelas. All of these victories culminated into a showdown last year with Bernard Hopkins, a fight that Shumenov came up just short in.
If there was ever a high profile opponent for BJ to showcase his immense talent, it’s the man he faces next month in Las Vegas. This fight is what Flores has been working towards for more than ten years. A moment that many, including BJ and myself, thought would’ve happened a while ago. It’s his shot at a paper crown and the opportunity to expand his brand. Yes I used that term in regards to a fighter. Everything that Shumenov does in the ring, plays into the strength of Flores, did I mention BJ is the naturally bigger fighter too? Meaning that Beibut’s greatest attribute (physicality), is negated by the fact that he’ll rank 2nd in the ring in that category on fight night.
Though Flores will have every physical advantage in this fight and the intelligence portion of the mental aspect, his victory is far from guaranteed. Shumenov hasn’t gotten here by luck; he’s a legitimate fighter who brings it every fight, both physically and mentally. The last guy BJ fought who carried these traits was the lone man to defeat him, Danny Green. What has Flores learned since then about himself and thusly, has he figured out how to defeat this type of fighter?
If Flores does what is expected of him in this bout, then this will be his debutante ball, something that should’ve taken place after his win over a streaking Darnell Wilson. The tools are there, he is articulate and intelligent, the ladies of Clark County don’t shy away from him, even though he’s 36 chronologically, he is a low mileage fighter. Everything is finally in place for BJ Flores to be a star in this sport. I have no doubt that I will be seeing him on TV plenty moving forward; let’s hope it’s inside the ring more often than it is along the apron.