This Lawrence High School student is Olympics bound!


Lawrence High School junior Angel Flores Ruiz was 10 when he began accompanying his father, Miguel Flores, to the Universal Boxing Gym in Queens. As he watched his father throw punches at a heavy bag, he was inspired to follow in his footsteps.

“From that day,” Flores Ruiz said, referring to his  first gym visit, “I told my father after he finished training that I wanted to try this. He told me, ‘OK, sounds good. I’ll take you one day.’”

Six years later, in March, Flores Ruiz, who lives in Inwood, was selected to represent Panama in boxing in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

He was discovered by the president of Panama’s Olympic boxing federation and the secretary of the Panamanian Olympic Committee, Tomas Cianca Batista, thanks to an Instagram account that his mother, Nitza Flores, who was born in Panama, created when he began his boxing journey.

“In the world that we live in now, we are so blessed that we have that technology,” Nitza said. “I believed that he had a lot of talent, and I wanted people to see that.”

Keeping tabs on Flores Ruiz as he improved and turned 16, which made him eligible for the Olympic team, Batista finally invited him and his mother to Panama in March to compete in an exhibition match.

“He’s been following my journey on Instagram,” Flores Ruiz said. “He stayed in contact with me for, like, the past five or six years, and seeing how I trained here and seeing my fights, because I always sent him my fights.”

Panama wasn’t the only country keeping tabs on Flores Ruiz: The boxing federation of El Salvador has shown interest as well. His father is from El Salvador.

When he visited Panama, he competed against what he described as the “top guys from my division” — 54 kilograms, or 119 pounds.

“The day came, and it was an exhibition,” Flores Ruiz said. “It didn’t count, but they wanted to see how I competed with the top fighters there. Thank God they liked what they saw. People were watching and cheering, and it was in front of the building of the president of Panama, so it was cool.”

Roberto Duran, Panama Al Brown and Eusebio Pedroza are famous boxers with Panamanian heritage.

Flores Ruiz’s selection to the Panamanian Olympic team gave him the opportunity to obtain Panamanian citizenship, which will allow him to compete representing Panama.

“It makes me feel really good because, honestly, words can’t even explain how I feel,” he said. “This was like a dream of my father, because he wanted to become a boxer, and knowing that both my parents are proud, and all the times my dad has been taking me to train has been paying off.”

Nitza said she was speechless when she received news of her son becoming a citizen of Panama. “I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said. “I feel so proud and, you know, this is like a dream come true for me and my family.”

Standing ringside for Ruiz since the start of his journey is his trainer, Bienvenido Roman, of Brooklyn, a 2013 Volunteer Coach of the Year for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“He’s taught me a lot of Olympic skills,” Ruiz said of Roman. “Such as common skills — how you throw a punch a certain way, angles, etcetera. He’s a very good coach. Always focused on his fighters, and is committed to them.”

Flores Ruiz has stayed focused on his schoolwork at Lawrence High as well. “He is a humble, hardworking student,” said Brian Donnie, his high school counselor. “All the comments on his report card say, ‘positive effort, participates, and progress.’ If you ask students in the hallway what Angel is like, they’ll tell you he is hardworking and kind. He is that type of human being.”

Ruiz is scheduled to travel to Colombia in August, in his first appearance as a Panamanian Olympic boxer.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “If you just work hard, believe in God, you can do it. Anything is possible. Nothing is impossible.”