The O'Reilly Family Event Center will play host to its first championship boxing match on Saturday, July 23, when local product B.J. Flores comes home to compete for a pair of title belts on a boxing/mixed martial arts card on the Drury campus.
The "Summer Fight Night At The O" was announced in a Friday afternoon press conference in the Robert W. Plaster Family Gallery banquet room of the 3,100-seat O'Reilly Center, which opened last October on the DU campus.
Flores, who grew up in nearby Willard, revealed that he will take on Nicholas "The Show-Stopper" Ianuzzi of Tampa, Fla., another Top 10 ranked fighter, in the scheduled 10- or 12-round main event for the NABO and NABA Cruiserweight Championship belts. It will be Flores' first fight in his own backyard since he knocked out Andy Sample in 2007.
Flores is 25-1-1 - with 15 wins by knockout - since turning professional in May of 2003 after an amateur career that included a national Golden Gloves championship, while Ianuzzi will bring a 16-2 record into the match, with five of those victories by knockout.
"It feels great to be coming home ... but I said I don't want to fight against someone who can't fight," said Flores, who now resides in Phoenix, Az., and train in Las Vegas under Jacob Chavez.
"I wanted somebody recognizeable, someone who's fought on TV, who's well respected out there, and we have it in Nick Ianuzzi. The winner of this fight will take a great step forward, the loser will take a giant step backwards, and that's the way I want it to be."
Flores is coming off a controversial loss by decision to world champion Danny Green on Nov. 17, 2010, a fight contested in Green's hometown of Perth, Australia. Ianuzzi fell to the cruiserweight division's No. 1 contender, Lateef Kayode, in early February on Showtime in another 10-round decision that many felt went the wrong direction.
"I'm guaranteeing this fight will not go 10 rounds," Flores says. "I don't know what Nick was able to do with Kayode, but he won't be able to do it with me. My fans deserve to see knockouts, and that's what they're going to see on July 23."
Tickets will go on sale soon, with prices to start at $20 for adults and $15 for students. They will be available at www.drurytickets.com or by visiting the O'Reilly Center box office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Fridays. Drury students, faculty and staff will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets.
Flores, who's also picked up considerable TV face time in recent years as an ESPN guest boxing analyst, saw the concept for the O'Reilly Center in a video format while attending the annual Drury Athletics Auction in 2008, at which he donated a pair of autographed, fight-used gloves to help the DU cause. That image of the $13 million arena as a future hometown boxing venue then became etched into Flores' mind.
"This facility is state of the art ... it's simply beautiful," Flores said.
Added his trainer, Chavez: "Since the loss (to Green), we've just wanted to get back into the ring and get back to work. B.J.'s been back in the gym ever since, working harder and more fierce than ever. I'm sick of having to fly 17 hours to get a fight ... I'm looking forward to having some friendly faces around to support B.J."
Other bouts on the card will be announced in the coming days, but will include Springfield MMA cruiserweight Will Grover and others.
The concept behind the "hybrid" card is to meet the tastes of all hand-to-hand combat fans in the Ozarks and the region, said event promoter Wes Slay. The "Summer Fight Night At The O" will consist of at least four boxing matches and upwards of six to seven MMA battles, he added.
"Springfield has a history of hosting successful MMA fights, so we know that the target market is here," Slay said. "And of course, if you're a boxing fan, it's for you, too. We have the hometown boy in B.J. Flores and two boxers with something to prove. That means fireworks on July 23rd."
Flores will hold a public workout on Saturday, June 11 at the south Ozark Fitness Center location in Springfield beginning at 2 p.m.