The last time The Times talked to Ray Flores, he was mapping out his future in the world of combat sports behind the microphone.
The E.C. Central and Columbia College graduate was working his way up through the MMA and boxing rank as a cage and ring announcer, and peppering in some play-by-play here and there, as well.
Back then, Flores told The Times he'd gladly work 365 days a year if it meant he could stay in front of an audience announcing fights. He just wanted to keep climbing the ladder.
On Saturday, Flores will take his biggest step yet when he will work as a ring announcer for the undercard fights for the Floyd "Money" Mayweather vs. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez boxing pay-per-view at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
With regular undercard announcer Joe Martinez unable to work due to a previous commitment in the United Kingdom, Flores got the call. He'll announce the non-televised fights prior to the pay-per-view, when he'll hand the microphone over to legendary announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.
"Being a part of a combat sports event of this magnitude has been a goal of mine for a long time, pretty much ever since I started doing play-by-play for Miguel Torres fights on ECTV almost 10 years ago," Flores said. "I've covered events in Las Vegas, but never ring announced there. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the mecca for boxing. I can't tell you how much it means for me to be able to step inside the ring on Saturday night and announce on one of boxing's biggest nights."
The Mayweather-Canelo fight is expected to be one of the biggest pay-per-view events in boxing history. Mayweather (44-0) is expected to make at least $40 million for the fight.
Flores' current day job is as one of the "update" reporters at ESPN Radio in Chicago. But he said the staff there is understanding about not just his work outside the the radio studio, but about his passion for boxing and MMA that keeps him so entrenched in the business, anyway.
"Sometimes it's short notice, but they give me the freedom to go and work these events," he said. "I'm thankful they understand and give me the liberty to travel. If I had the choice to pick between a full on-air gig or to travel around and announce fights for MMA and boxing promotions, I'd choose the fight business. I love being on the air as a sports anchor for ESPN Radio 1000, but the fight business has a special place in my heart.
"No matter where you go in the world, there is something special about a big fight. Combat sports is a universal language."
Flores hits the big time on Saturday night, but he said he hasn't forgotten the reason he was able to get there to begin with.
His humble, largely self-started beginnings in East Chicago at ECTV led to announcing gigs for local shows at the Hammond Civic Center, Hoosier Fight Club, shows in the Chicago suburbs and then on to overseas gigs in England, and they'll culminate on Saturday at the biggest boxing event of the year.
"I am a firm believer that growing up in East Chicago set the foundation for me not only as a person, but as a broadcaster," he said. "It's where I started, and I'll never forget that."
And true to form, before Flores leaves the region for Las Vegas for Saturday's Mayweather-Canelo fight, he'll ring announce for Hitz Boxing at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino.
He may hit that working 365 days a year thing yet.