MARK MAY | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

PHARR — Like many professional boxers, Juan Alberto “Beto” Flores has not had an easy life.

By the time he turned professional at age 23, he had lost both his parents. Now, he uses his fists to provide for a wife and three children.

“My wife has been a great help,” Flores said in Spanish during a break in his training routine at the Redemption Boxing Club on Friday. “She pushes me to keep going.”

Now 26, Flores is getting ready for his next bout. The bantamweight (118 pounds) will step into the ring with Houston’s Steve Garagarza (1-0, 1 KO) on a July 12 card at the Pharr Events Center. The annual Border Wars event is run by Cavazos Boxing Promotions.

Bobbing and weaving around the double-end bag, Flores finishes his workout with a flourish — a blur of rights and lefts on target. He is sweating profusely at this point.

The cacophony of gloves on bags begins to fade away as boxers (children and adults) begin to gather their belongings and head home. This is an older boxing gym with no air conditioner and the only breeze filters in through open windows.

The right-hander wants to improve on his left hand and footwork. His coach, former WBC Continental Americas Super Bantamweight Champion Cuauhtemoc Vargas of Mexico City, complimented his quickness.

“He has a lot of speed,” Vargas said in Spanish. “He’s very fast — his legs and hands.”

Since Vargas became his chief boxing coach four months ago, he has had Flores work with stretch bands in addition to the normal boxing fare of heavy bags, speed bags and sparring. Running is kept to a minimum because Flores does not want to drop any weight.

“I am trying to get stronger with the left,” he said. “I need to keep practicing every day to make that better. He (Vargas) is working with me to improve my footwork and my hands.”

Vargas focuses on the mental aspect of the sweet science as well.

“Part of my job is to motivate him to keep going,” Vargas said, “for him not to lose his motivation to be successful.”

Flores has always been used to being relatively smaller than his opponents. At 8 years old, he would get into scraps on the streets of Veracruz, Mexico. His father noticed his natural ability and bought him a punching bag.

“My dad saw me and thought I had skills,” Flores said. “Even though I was a skinny, fragile kid, I used to win.”

Boxing was more of a hobby at that point. Helping the family came first. Flores had a paper route at age 10. He did not work under a trainer until his amateur career began at 18. His childhood was a complex one. One in which his parents were not always in the picture. His grandparents helped raise him in Monterrey.

A year after embarking on his amateur career, he moved to the Rio Grande Valley. Maintenance jobs have helped pay the bills while he pursues bigger paydays in the ring.

Growing up, he idolized eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and living in the US presented opportunities to train and fight.

He debuted in 2017, losing on a split decision to Brandon Lobato in Pharr. Flores is now 2-2-1 with no knockouts.

“Like every pro boxer, I want to be a champion of the world,” he said. “The first thing that motivates me is economic — the money, a better life because I have a family to support. Even if some day, I am not here, my family will be well supported.”

Boxing is a solitary sport which punishes the lesser skilled and the lesser experienced. Flores wants to keep improving.

“I am training hard because I want to get a fight with someone more experienced (down the road),” he said. “But to get that, I need to keep fighting. I need to train everyday so I can give a good fight. It’s step by step.”

He added that becoming a successful fighter was his father’s dream for him.

“I want to prove to my dad that I could do it,” he said.