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Hit The Lights video shines spotlight on New York boxer Ismael Villarreal

4/9/2015

Hit The Lights' song "Life On The Bottom," from their new album "Summer Bones," has taken on a new meaning, thanks to a music video that tells the story of a 17-year-old from the Bronx whose life story echoes the lyrics.

Ismael Villarreal lives, eats, sleeps and dreams boxing. Six days a week, you will find him at John's Boxing Gym in the South Bronx, putting in the hard work that his sport demands if you're going to make it.

But how does a pop-punk band from Lima, Ohio, wind up making a video that features a 17-year-old fighter from New York? That's where director Kyle Thrash enters the picture.

"Every time I listened to the song I would always imagine this person training," Thrash told ESPN Music via email. "To me Ismael was a no-brainer when it came to casting the video. He embodies everything the song is about. When I met him for the first time and saw his drive and determination I knew he was the perfect fit."

First, we meet Ismael, whose father came to America from Ecuador at the age of 21 to be a fighter. Ismael tells you in his own words what drives him: "A lot of people say I won't make it ... that's one of the reasons I always get back up. To prove that I can make it."

Then the guitars and drums chime in and Hit The Lights singer Nick Thompson delivers a similar message from inside a boxing ring: "I'm digging myself out/of this pile of broken bones." And from there the band takes off at breakneck speed. (If you have a weightlifting playlist for your workouts, this song would make a fine addition.)

The video then brings us back and forth between the band flailing away at its instruments and Villarreal training for his next bout -- running in the streets of New York, shadow boxing on the roof, working the heavy bag, sparring.

Thompson told ESPN Music that the band was happy to share the spotlight with Villarreal -- and with a song that mirrored his drive to make it.

"When [Thrash] approached us about the idea for a video centered around Ismael, we were totally on board," he said in an email. "The song made sense with Ismael's struggles and it's great to be able to give him some limelight while we take the back seat!"

As the video ends, we're taken to an early round of the Daily News Golden Gloves, where Villarreal is getting into the ring. Does he win?

SPOILER ALERT: Yes, he does. And he didn't stop there -– he went on to claim 165-pound novice title, beating 25-year-old Joel Padilla at the Barclays Center.

Hit The Lights released "Summer Bones" last month on Pure Noise Records. They’re starting a spring/summer tour tonight at Mill City Nights in Minneapolis.