Family and friends of two-time New York Golden Gloves champion and rising prospect Ismael Villarreal finally get a chance to see and support their favorite fighter in a bout close to home. The 21-year-old Bronx native’s next fight takes place in Brooklyn at The Aviator. Villarreal (3-0) will face Travis Nero (1-3, 1 KO) of Norman, Oklahoma.
In addition to training for his next fight, Villarreal is finishing his final semester at Bronx Community College before transferring to a New York area university to earn his bachelor’s degree with the goal of becoming a high school physical education teacher.
Villarreal says he now finds himself in the position of a role model to younger kids at his gym, exactly what he hopes to do as a teacher. “I wasn’t thinking about the youngest kids looking up to me as a role model,” said Villarreal. “It feels good, I can use my platform to motivate those kids in whatever they want to do. I tell them, ‘you can be better than me – aim higher!’
“Being a physical education teacher (in the future), now I feel like I can talk to the older kids on the verge of becoming adults. I know a lot of kids in high school who are struggling. They don’t know who they are, or what they want to be. I was in public high school, I know what it’s like,” said Villarreal.
Villarreal says he is learning plenty of his own lessons as his career progresses, and is happy to take his time. “I’m gaining experience from different fights. I’m in no rush right now.” Villarreal says it helps to avoid technology and social media where young boxers can feel peer pressure.
“People try to influence you to do this and fight this person when you’re not ready. Even if you believe in yourself, there’s always the right place and time to get in the ring. You don’t want to look like a punk. But I ignore that, because that’s what’s best for me,” he explained.
Villarreal looks forward to his fight in Brooklyn, which will allow his family and friends to come see him. “It’s always good to be home. I can have people come and support me. And some of my peers at school, and especially my teachers from high school. They always come to support me.”
Villarreal says he received many congratulations from his teacher fans after his last victory in August in Atlantic City, who were following from home in the Bronx. “They knew I won before I even told them. They texted me congratulations, and I said ‘How did you know!'”