Ismael Villarreal is a Bronx-born prospect who takes tough fights

6 Min Read

NEW YORK — Ismael Villarreal wasn’t about to let a change in circumstances derail his momentum.

The 25-year-old from The Bronx had been scheduled to compete on the Jermell Charlo-Tim Tszyu undercard, but when the show was scrapped due to a Charlo injury, Villarreal asked his manager to get him a fight, and it didn’t much matter who it was against.

What he returned with was Ardreal Holmes, a former amateur standout who, like, Villarreal is undefeated as a professional. The two will headline the next installment of ShoBox: The New Generation on Friday, February 17 from the Stormont Vail Event Center in Topeka, Kansas.

The ten-round junior middleweight bout is the kind of match-up that Villarreal had been hoping for all along.

“I want the challenge, I want the adversity,” said Villarreal (12-0, 8 knockouts), who trains out of John’s Boxing Gym in The Bronx.

“I hope that it puts the boxing community on notice that I am a guy that is willing to fight undefeated fighters. I’m not afraid to put my undefeated record on the line.”

Villarreal lands a punch on Kieran Hooks in their 2018 bout. Photo from Main Events

Villarreal’s mindset comes from being, as he puts it, born into the sport. Growing up in the South Bronx, Villarreal remembers accompanying his father, former professional Otilio Villarreal, to the gym. Otilio Villarreal, a native of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, became New York State Lightweight champion in 1993, and faced former champs Hector Camacho Sr., Zab Judah and Kermit Cintron.

Initially, Villarreal just boxed for self defense purposes, but Otilio wouldn’t allow it until he began training seriously. He finally got in the ring at age 11 and had approximately 50 amateur fights, winning N.Y. Golden Gloves titles in 2015 and 2016. He turned pro in 2017 after falling short of qualifying for the Olympic trials, and signed with Main Events.

Villarreal fought his first three pro fights on Sergey Kovalev-headlined cards. His breakout win as a pro came in his last outing, a sixth round stoppage of another previously unbeaten fighter, LeShawn Rodriquez, last July at Barclays Center.

Holmes (12-0, 5 KOs) is another step-up in competition. The southpaw from Flint, Mich. won the 2015 U.S. Nationals at 152 pounds, and a silver medal finish at the 2013 National Golden Gloves. He’s coming off a solid win in his last bout eleven months ago, a unanimous decision over Vernon Brown in his ShoBox debut.

Most likely I’m the underdog again. I’m just gonna go in there and do my job as the underdog,” said Villarreal, who is trained by his father.

Villarreal is a pressure fighter who often changes levels to find the holes in a defense, particularly with uppercuts, and has a consistent body attack which wears opponents down. He says former middleweight champion Marvin Hagler is the fighter he tries to model himself after.

I wouldn’t compare myself to him, he’s a whole different animal, but that’s the guy that I look at all the time because he has that mentality endurance and physical strength as well,” said Villarreal, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from Lehman College.

Manager Jose Santiago says what sets Villarreal apart from other prospects is is his mental makeup.

When he steps into the ring, his mind is set to kill. He wants to destroy his opponent,” said Santiago.

“He’s a very disciplined fighter to start with. He’s very focused. He works very hard, even 7 days a week.”

Santiago says the fight takes on greater significance because they hope to impress Showtime executives so that they will be invited back on the network. He believes Villarreal is about five fights away from fighting for a world title, beginning with the Holmes fight.

“Even though Holmes is a very good fighter and we feel a lot of respect for him, we feel we are two steps above him,” said Santiago. “Our mindset is to knock him out. We are not going to fight ten rounds with that guy.”

Villarreal hopes a win over Holmes can put him among the prospects to watch at 154 pounds. If not, he’ll just keep fighting fellow prospects and former champions until he earns that recognition.

“If I have to continue to prove myself, then so be it. I really hope that people do understand that I am a guy that is willing to fight and risk it all. I’m not afraid to fight,” said Villarreal.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].


Source link

Find Us on Socials

Share this Article
Leave a comment