Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nguyen TKO6 Flores an early candidate for Upset of the Year and Comeback of the Year

At first glance, Dat Nguyen’s and Miguel Flores’ pre-fight records of 19-3 (6 KOs) and 21-0 (9 KOs) respectively might not have appeared that disparate. But upon further inspection, Nguyen’s stunning sixth-round TKO victory over the previously undefeated Flores must surely be considered an early candidate for Upset of the Year, and Nguyen a contender for Comeback of the Year.


Flores (L) and Nguyen face off at thee weigh in.
One boxing website listed Flores as a 51-1 betting favorite going into the fight. That’s nine points more  than the 42-1 odds that Buster Douglas faced in his 1990 monumental upset of Mike Tyson in Tokyo. While the 51-1 number might be unverified, the multiple obstacles Nguyen had to overcome were nevertheless very real.

Consider the following:

Nguyen was fighting an upcoming, undefeated PBC fighter in his backyard on a PBC card. A full 10 years older than Flores, Nguyen was inactive in 2014 and 2015.

He was plagued by managerial snafus early in his career and often had to accept fights on short notice. He fought twice last year, both six round fights against nondescript opponents. Flores, on the other hand, had been moved carefully up the ladder and had a breakout year in 2016 culminating in a career best performance against highly-touted Ryan Kielczweski.

Previously trained by Buddy McGirt, Nguyen was self-trained for this fight. Taking the fight on four weeks' notice, he assembled an impromptu squad of sparring partners, one of whom also drilled him on the punch pads. Nguyen instructed him on how to hold the pads for each combination, so he essentially trained his sparring partner on how to train him.

At the weigh in, Nguyen seemed genuinely perplexed that he tipped the scales 1.25 pounds over the contracted weight of 128 pounds. But he insisted he had made weight at his gym in Florida on a scale that had never failed him before.

When the bell sounded, Nguyen looked every bit the role of sacrificial lamb he was scripted to play. The younger, sharper Flores effortlessly speared him with long punches from range before ripping in crisp combinations upstairs and down in a one-sided first round.
But instead of breaking Nguyen down, Flores’ punches only seemed to chip away the ring rust that had accumulated over years of sporadic activity. The result was a scintillating, give-and-take affair that saw both fighters rain hellacious punishment on each other.

Ultimately, it was Nguyen’s better punch resistance that won him the fight. He absorbed Flores’ best shots with aplomb, allowing him to walk down, break down and eventually stop the younger hometown favorite.


See Nguyen-Flores fight reports in Boxing Scene and The Houston Chronicle.

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