Photos by Sumio Yamada
DARNELL WILSON vs B.J. FLORES
After his career slumped with four losses in a row, Darnell Ding-a-Ling Man Wilson has turned things around dramatically by stopping his last four opponents. He will be seeking to keep the run of wins going when he defends his USBA cruiser title against unbeaten former amateur champion B.J. Flores in the 12-round main event on Friday Night Fights.
Wilson has has surprised a lot of people by becoming a contender. A tendency to fade has been rectified after a glandular problem was cleared up, and Wilson showed improved technique in stopping the likes of Daniel Judah, Dale Brown and Kelvin Davis.
In his last fight, though, the muscled banger from the Washington DC suburbs seemed to have regressed technically. True, Wilson knocked out the capable and dangerous Emmanuel Nwodo in the 11th round, but he was behind on points and at one stage looked very close to being stopped, with the doctor in his corner and his trainer, Charles Mooney, seemingly in two minds whether or not to pull him out.
The big left hook got Wilson out of trouble in spectacular style, but he had a close shave.
Wilson looked highly beatable against Nwodo, very hittable and one-dimensional. Maybe this fight was the proverbial wake-up call, reminding Wilson not to neglect his jab or his combinations and to maintain a high level of concentration.
Surely, after having achieved so much in the past year and a half, Wilson is not going to let it all slip away from him now?
If Wilson boxes the way he did against Nwodo, then Flores has a definite chance of pulling off an upset.
I was at ringside in Las Vegas when Flores won his first professional fight with an easy blowout at the Flamingo Hilton.
He struck me as a personable and very confident young man. He has a Mexican heritage and already had a nickname for himself, El Peligroso and he did indeed look like a fighter who could be dangerous. Flores was living in Salt Lake City at the time and told me that he had spent a couple of years in Mexico doing Mormon missionary work. The plan for his promoter at the time, Main Events, was for him to box as a heavyweight even though he weighed just a little over 200 pounds. He said he felt that he would be too fast for the bigger fighters, but later it was decided that he would be better off to compete in the 200-pound cruiserweight division.
Flores was an excellent amateur, with international experience. He was national Golden Gloves light-heavy champion and twice won the U.S. amateur heavyweight title. There is an athletic look about him, not surprising as he played football at Brigham Young University.
As a professional, Floress career simply hasnt taken off. There have been changes of promoters and he has yet to have what could be called a big fight, although this will all change on Friday.
I have not seen a lot of Flores since his quick-finish debut, but there has been doubt about how well he takes a punch. He was knocked down by the journeyman Chris Thomas, although he got up to box his way to a comfortable decision.
Anyone who gets dropped by Chris Thomas is going to be in trouble against someone with the punching power of Darnell Wilson, one might think, but then we get back to the old styles make fights maxim. If Flores can keep moving, keep boxing, and doesnt get hit by a big punch, he can win this fight.
I asked the former Main Events matchmaker, Carl Moretti, what he thought about the match. Its a very tough fight for B.J., he said, but I think Wilson relies on the one punch too much. If Flores doesnt get hit, he can outbox Wilson. It wouldnt surprise me but then, nothing in boxing surprises me any more.
So far, Flores has been doing what was expected of him by winning his fights apart from an early draw. He comfortably outpointed the durable journeyman Jermell Barnes but his best win might have been a unanimous decision over Patrick Nwamu, a useful southpaw who prior to meeting Flores had exposed the limitations of an unbeaten big hitter named Ehinomen Ehikamenor.
Flores has twice shown that he can go 12 rounds and win but can he do so against someone as seasoned and downright dangerous as Wilson?
This is the fight in which Flores has the chance to show that he belongs in world class. He is 29, and is as ready as he is ever going to be.
Wilson has to be the clear favourite, though, not only because of his punching power but because he has been boxing on a much higher level than has been the case with Flores. Even if Wilson is losing on points he is always capable of putting matters right with one big hit, even late in a fight, as he showed when nailing Nwodo.
Flores is unbeaten, he has the amateur pedigree and he has height and reach advantages, but on Friday he is taking a major step up in class. If Wilson boxes as badly as he did against Nwodo he could be in trouble here, but I have the feeling that he will regain his form and focus and simply be too physically powerful for Flores although I would not be amazed if this turns out to be a long, tough fight.
RESULT: Flores unan. decision.