Mancuso: Journey Continues For Local Fighter

Ismael Villarreal, a promising prospect at 154 from the Bronx remembers  like it was yesterday. The pro debut, Hulu Theater, at Madison Square Garden almost two years ago was a successful four-round unanimous  decision that opened a Main Events promoted card which featured Sergey Kovalev defending his light heavyweight title.  

That was then, and the journey continues for the 22-year old, pursuing a degree at Lehman college with an emphasis on physical science.

And with the sweet science of boxing, competing and hitting the books can be a task. But Villarrel, who comes from a boxing family manages his time. His father, former super lightweight fighter Otto Villarreal, fought against Hall of Famer Hector Camacho and champions Zab Judah and Kermit Cintron.  

“There have been certain dilemmas,” he said Thursday afternoon prior to his weight-in that will see him in the ring with Lenwood Dozier (10-23-3) Friday night at Nashua Community College, up in New Hampshire.” I still want to achieve to get a world title or get the opportunity to compete.”

He wants to achieve and at 5-0, the career is still up and coming. Villarrel brings a nice jab and has that ability to box. This will be his first-six-rounder and that will be the test moving from the four-round bouts and now it is time to advance and go up a notch.

Main Events

But, as any fighter knows, there are certain divisions in boxing that are the elite, He is fighting at 154, a division as elite as the champions who fight at 147, the welterweights. These two divisions have helped to once again propel the sport, along with interest of the heavyweights that saw Andy Ruiz upset Anthony Joshua for the titles at Madison Square Garden on June 1st.

Patient as the next fighter who wants it, Ismael Villarreal will take his time. He is young, has the right people, and the right promoter by his side. Main Events has been around the business a longtime and with a reputation of building a young fighter the proper way. 

Friday night he will look for the knockout but the strategy will be to test his opponent and see where it goes. He wants to keep this going more than one or two fights a year and looks to fight again this year.

This is his second bout of the year. Back in March, Villarreal stopped LaShawn Alcocks in the third round at the Park Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. 

“Hopefully to fight this year, again November or so if not it’s not in my control.” he said.  “I am with the promotion they know what’s best for me I do believe they are doing the right thing.”

So Friday night, in a small venue, there won’t be national television exposure. The purse won’t break the bank, but this is part of the learning process and the sport is all about that. Villerreal is showing that patience and what it takes to climb the ladder to contention with a hopeful championship opportunity at some point.

A few more wins, and there are possibilities. Bigger venues, more fights in New York, where he has a tremendous following in the Bronx, and of course the televised fights where the purses are higher.

Of course, the competition also gets more difficult as you climb the ladder in this sport. But, as he says, this is still a learning process.

“I learn a few new things,” he says about the early stages. “ I still think my style is still a technician. “ I just think that’s for me. “I don’t want to change. I prefer to be more on the defensive and more boxing with my jab.  Sometimes, I have to be more aggressive, who is in front of me. Gotta do what’s best in the ring.” 

And also adapting to to his opponents, something that Villarreal has done well in his first five fights.

“We are going to fight smart,” Villarreal said about an experienced opponent.  “He’s been a pro longer than me. I also been boxing myself a long time. In my career I have to fight guys like that.”

His father has been instrumental in the approach and will be in the corner again Friday night. Coming from a boxing family works to your benefit and they are on the same page.

Friday night the journey continues.  

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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