A main event matchup of undefeated fighters highlights the second SHOBOX: The New Generation of 2023 as SHOBOX returnee Ardreal “Bossman” Holmes (12-0, 5 KOs) takes on upset artist Ismael “Maelo” Villarreal (12-0, 8 KOs) in a 10-round super welterweight contest Friday, February 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT live on SHOWTIME from Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka, Kan.
The SHOBOX® tripleheader pits six fighters with a combined record of 68-2-1 and 33 knockouts.
In the co-main event, Misael Lopez (14-1, 5 KOs) of Denver, Colo., looks to win his fourth straight bout after suffering his first pro loss on SHOBOX when he takes on Edward “Kid” Vazquez (13-1, 3 KOs) of Fort Worth, Texas, in a 10-round featherweight bout.
The telecast opener pits two unbeaten knockout artists in former NCAA Division I college football player Kurt Scoby (10-0, 8 KOs) facing Australia’s John “The Beast” Mannu (7-0-1, 4 KOs) with both fighters putting their unbeaten streaks to the test in an eight-round super lightweight bout.
The card is promoted by Lou DiBella’s DiBella Entertainment.
“This is a really good card coming off last month’s SHOBOX, which was one of the most exciting we’ve had in years,” said Gordon Hall, executive producer for SHOBOX: The New Generation.
“Ardreal Holmes put on an impressive performance on SHOBOX a year ago and is one of the top prospects in the super welterweight division. Now he faces his toughest test to date in Villarreal, who is coming off his best win against an undefeated fighter. This is a high stakes fight for both Holmes and Villarreal at this stage of their careers.”
Here is more on each of the three bouts:
Holmes vs. Villarreal – 10-Round Super Welterweight Main Event
In his SHOBOX debut last March against Vernon Brown, Holmes overcame a 28-month layoff scoring a unanimous decision fighting past the eighth round for the first time in his career.
As an amateur, Holmes won the 2015 U.S. Nationals and was a silver medalist at the 2013 National Golden Gloves. That same year, he also won a bronze medal at the World Golden Gloves in the 152-pound division. Holmes is the oldest of 11 children and suffered a family tragedy in 2016 when his 20-year-old brother was killed in a drive-by shooting in Flint, Mich.
“I can’t wait for February 17 to headline once again on SHOBOX,” Holmes said. “l am thankful and very excited to be back on the series. I’m looking forward to showing the world I’m ready for all comers and soon to contend for a world title.”
An aggressive and explosive fighter, the 25-year-old Villarreal from the Bronx, N.Y., fights under the Main Events banner. He is a two-time New York Golden Gloves winner with an amateur record of 66-7.
In his last fight in July, he upset then-unbeaten LeShawn Rodriguez scoring a sixth-round TKO on the Danny Garcia vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. undercard for his best win to date. He managed to stay active during the pandemic by going back to Dominican Republic to fight on three separate occasions. He recently received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from Lehman College.
“My goal is to someday be world champion at 154 and 160 pounds,” Villarreal said. “To achieve that, I will defeat whoever tries to get in my way, including Ardreal Holmes. I’m grateful for this great opportunity to headline in front of a large national audience. I know that this is just the beginning of many great things for my career.”
Lopez vs. Vazquez – 10-Round Featherweight Bout
Lopez, 26, will be making his third appearance on SHOBOX and was born in Mexico but now lives in Denver, Colo. In his SHOBOX debut in 2018, Lopez got the better of James Wilkins in a battle of young, previously undefeated super featherweight prospects, tallying a unanimous decision victory.
Lopez suffered his first career setback in his last SHOBOX appearance in 2021, when Jordan White scored an impressive sixth-round TKO. Lopez compiled an amateur record of 50-5, winning gold medals at the 2008 Ringside World Championships, the 2010 Colorado State Silver Gloves Tournament, and the Colorado State Golden Gloves Tournament in 2009 and 2015.
“I am looking forward to returning to SHOBOX,” Lopez said. “Vazquez is a talented fighter, but I am determined to impress on February 17. I truly believe this is the year I put a title belt around my waist. There is nothing or no one that is getting in the way of that. It’s strap season.”
Vazquez, 27, fights out of his native Fort Worth, Texas. The lone blemish on his record came one year ago when he lost a controversial split-decision to undefeated former National Golden Gloves champion Raymond Ford. He has rebounded with wins in his last two fights via decision.
Vazquez was a standout amateur with an 82-8 record. In the pros, he has noted wins against fighters such as Adan Ochoa (11-1), Irvin Gonzalez (14-2), Jose Argel (8-3) and, in his last fight in October, scored a split-decision win over Viktor Slavinskyi (13-1-1).
“I love this matchup with Lopez, and I accepted it as soon as it was brought to the table because this can be a breakout fight for the both of us,” Vazquez said. “We’re both young, talented, and backed with a lot of momentum right now. The respect is mutual between both of our camps, and I know we’re both hungry for the win. You can expect us to steal the show come February 17.”
Scoby vs. Mannu – Eight-Round Super Lightweight Bout
Kurt Scoby, 27, is a former high school and NCAA Division I football star who rushed for 2,206 yards and 35 touchdowns in his senior year for Monrovia High School in Duarte, Calif. He signed to play at Fresno State University as a criminal justice major and red-shirted his freshman season.
He transferred to Azusa Pacific University in the San Gabriel Valley southeast of Los Angeles where he rushed for 2,703 yards and 16 touchdowns from 2015-2017. When he failed to hook on with an NFL team, Scoby turned to his first love – boxing.
After winning the 2019 California Golden Gloves title in the 152-pound novice division, Scoby turned pro in June of 2020 and signed with manager Daniel Gonzalez, fighting three times in Mexico and three more times in the Dominican Republic before notching wins in Atlantic City and Newark, N.J.
In June of 2021, Scoby decided to dedicate himself full-time to boxing and at the height of the pandemic bought an $11 one-way economy airline ticket to New York City where he soon walked into the famed Gleason’s Gym and announced his arrival.
“It is truly an honor to be fighting on a SHOBOX card, a legendary platform for young fighters in the sport of boxing,” said Scoby, who was scouted by NFL teams the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers.
“I look forward to sharing the ring with another up-and-coming prospect in John Mannu. Unfortunately for him, he is standing in the way on my path to becoming a real force in the junior welterweight division and a future world champion. May the best man win come February 17.”
The southpaw, fourth-year pro Mannu, 26, will be fighting for the first time in the United States with his last two wins coming by decision against undefeated fighters in power-punching Jake Daoust in August, and slick Adrian Sosa on the undercard of Haney-Kambosos II in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia in October. Sosa had been Kambosos’ main sparring partner and came in as the heavy favorite. Scoby will be Mannu’s fifth undefeated opponent in just nine fights.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to fight in the U.S. against Kurt Scoby,” Mannu said. “I don’t know a lot about my opponent, except that he is undefeated like me. My record shows that I am not afraid to fight an undefeated fighter abroad. I can also tell you that I am not traveling halfway around the world to lose, so I can promise an epic battle.”
International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry Tompkins will call all the blow-by-blow action for SHOBOX with fellow Hall of Famer Steve Farhood joining the team remotely as the unofficial scorer.
Former junior middleweight world champion Raul Marquez and veteran combat sports reporter and MORNING KOMBAT co-host Brian Campbell will serve as ringside analysts. The executive producer of SHOBOX: The New Generation is Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.