OXNARD — For years, Adam Flores considered becoming a boxer but never jumped in a ring.
"It was always in the back of my mind," Flores said. "I finally decided to do it."
A year later, Flores, who has lived in Oxnard since he was 3 years old, is about to participate in his first major international competition.
Flores, 25, will represent his native country in the super heavyweight division at the Central American and Caribbean Games that start next Friday in Mexico City.
He competed for Mexico last month in a small tournament in Sao Paolo, Brazil, but lost by decision in a first-round bout against a Brazilian.
This time, Flores likely will face even tougher competition. The powerful Cubans, world amateur boxing kingpins the last several years, will be in Mexico. And other countries in the regional event, including Puerto Rico, usually have capable fighters.
All of which isn't lost on Flores, a former Ventura Buena High and Ventura College football player who also was a wrestling standout in high school and at Moorpark College.
"I know I'm going up against a lot of competition," Flores said. "Those boxers have a lot of experience. But I believe I've prepared myself well enough that I can compete with them.
"I've been wrestling pretty much all my life and all that experience definitely helped in my transition to boxing. It's the same concept of one-on-one combat, so it was easy for me to understand boxing."
The association between Flores and the Mexican national team was arranged by Eduardo Garcia, who trains several boxers at La Colonia Youth Boxing Club in Oxnard.
Garcia's stable includes his son Robert, and Fernando Vargas, the bronze medal-winner in the 139-pound class at the Pan American Games in Argentina last spring. Vargas should be one of the leading U.S. medal contenders at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
While in Argentina with Vargas, Eduardo Garcia noticed the Mexicans did not have a super heavyweight fighter and told them about Flores. The Mexicans offered Flores a berth on their team after working with him at a training camp in Mexico City.
Flores accepted because the odds of making the U.S. team would have been long.
"There are a lot of good super heavyweights in the U.S. and it would have been difficult for him [Flores] here," Garcia said. "But he has learned very quickly. He knows how to move, he knows how to throw punches, he knows how to defend himself."
However, all of the hours spent in the gym or on the streets doing road work haven't provided the experience Flores needs to become a better fighter.
"I know that one thing I'm lacking, and you can see it, is my experience," Flores said. "But at the same time, I've tried to use my mental strength to overcome that."
Flores, 6 feet 2 and 230 pounds, apparently has learned well from Garcia. But it wasn't a joy ride.
When he took up boxing last summer, Flores was up to 325 pounds and didn't look much like the outstanding wrestler who was the Southern Section 3-A Division heavyweight champion in 1988, his senior season at Buena.
"I told him that if he wanted to fight, he would have to work very hard," Garcia said. "He has gone at it with a lot of drive."
Flores trains six days a week--sometimes seven. For sparring sessions, he travels to gyms in Los Angeles where he can find guys his size. When he weighed more than 300 pounds there were slim pickings for competition.
"I would go to tournaments and we would have the fight set up and guys would back down because I was too big," Flores said.
The hard work, though, already has paid off. Flores this year won the super heavyweight title at the Los Angeles Golden Gloves tournament--"my biggest win so far"--and later showed enough promise to make the Mexican national team. He hopes to represent Mexico in next summer's Olympics and perhaps open a few more doors for himself.
After all, another year and he'll be twice as experienced.