Ray Flores is a man on the move. During a two-week span in September, the affable 31-year-old boxing broadcaster worked five cards on three networks. A week ago, he worked a show in Las Vegas on Tuesday and another in Dallas on Friday. He’s also moving upward. It seems like only yesterday that he was PBC’s invisible ring announcer, the fellow consigned to performing his role off-camera. Nowadays, more often than not, he is the face of the telecast.
Flores may have burst on the national scene like a comet, but he spent many years honing his craft in and around Chicago. Indeed, he recalls that he was seven years old when he first dreamed of a career in sports broadcasting. When he was still in high school, he was taping segments with MMA fighters that aired a week later on a small local public access TV station. Miguel Torres, five years older than Ray, was then the star of the local MMA scene. They attended the same high school (East Chicago Central).
Ray’s grandparents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico, settling in the Chicagoland area in Northwest Indiana. His father teaches Spanish at a junior high school. His parents, Ray recalls, were big fans of Julio Cesar Chavez. Ray wasn’t born yet when Chavez won his first world title, but in common with his elders, he speaks reverently of El Gran Campeon.
After high school, Flores enrolled at Chicago’s Columbia College, a school tailor-made for a student aspiring to a career in radio and television. (The late Nick Charles, the first host of Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation,” was also a Columbia College grad.) One of Ray’s first boxing assignments was covering the Chicago press conference for the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight for his college radio station. Little did he know that ten years later he would play an integral role in the Mayweather-McGregor pre-fight publicity tour, a whirlwind four-day, three-nation, four-city extravaganza.
Flores was working as a sports anchor on Chicago’s ESPN affiliate when his career in boxing took flight. It soon became obvious to him that he couldn’t juggle both responsibilities. He had to make a choice.
Flores rattles off the names of a long list of people who have helped him along on his journey, beginning with his parents. “I owe my mom and dad everything,” he says. There’s Artie Pelullo, the Philadelphia-based boxing promoter who got him exposure on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. There’s multi-faceted ABC/ESPN sportscaster Joe Tessitore who gave him his nickname, “Sweet Baby Ray.” There are those that work behind the scene for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, notably Tom Brown and Ray’s frequent traveling companions, Brittany Goosen Brown and Chris Gilmore Jr., who are part of the PBC production team.
“Brittany and Chris are my surrogate siblings,” says Ray, a bachelor. “It’s one reason why the travel has never gotten old. Together we have worked in 25 states.”
And what about the big enchilada himself, Al Haymon, the man with the purse strings? What are Ray’s impressions of the mysterious PBC honcho?
“I’ve never met him,” says Flores, “but I get upset when I hear people speak bad about him because he has changed so many lives for the better.”
At the tender age of 22, Ray was the announcer for a few MMA shows in Great Britain. These were low-budget affairs, especially when contrasted against Ray’s most recent visit to the cradle of boxing where three private jets whisked Team Mayweather, Team McGregor, and the support team across the pond to London for the final leg of the promotional tour. Ray was the MC for the festivities at Wembley Stadium.
“That was the greatest experience of my career,” says Flores. “That was my Super Bowl.”
Ring announcers work in the shadows of Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr., the titans of the trade. Flores admires both, but gives his highest approval rating to Buffer who is still going strong at age seventy-two. “To me, Michael Buffer is the Michael Jordan of announcers,” he says. “If he were a fictional character, he would be James Bond. He’s so cool.”
In transitioning from a ring announcer to a lead commentator (actually, Ray customarily wears both hats), Flores made a move for which there is seemingly no precedent.
Being a talking head for a sporting event on television — telling viewers what they can see with their very own eyes — is hardly as easy as it looks. Unlike a writer, a sportscaster can’t retract what he just said and polish it up. The first rule for a TV personality – indeed anyone paid to talk – is “be upbeat,” but that requires a delicate balance as there will be lulls and a listener can sense when it’s feigned.
Flores’ job has been made more difficult in that he hasn’t had the opportunity to get comfortable with one analyst. He’s been saddled with a rotating cast of sidekicks, mostly active and recently retired boxers, and some of them, to put it diplomatically, simply don’t have the vocabulary or on-air presence to enhance the broadcast. (This observation is entirely our own; it wasn’t brought up in our conversation with Flores and we’re quite certain that he would never acknowledge it.)
Despite his hectic schedule, Ray finds time to chime in frequently as the “road warrior” for our sister site, The Boxing Channel, where he previews upcoming fights and shares his thoughts about current events in boxing.
Flores will be at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, this weekend where PBC is co-promoting a mammoth 13-fight show featuring Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz – featherweight title-holders on a collision course — in separate bouts. The featured bouts will air on FOX and FOX Deportes with coverage slated to begin at 7:30 ET/4:30 PT.
Beyond that, Ray’s schedule is uncertain, at least for the moment. But in a year when boxing is enjoying a renaissance, it’s a safe bet that he will stay busy, zigzagging around the country, microphone in hand.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.