Josniel Castro’s Improbable Quest for Greatness in Boxing

Welterweight prospect Josniel “TG” Castro has a bright future ahead of him. He is an extremely talented fighter who has gotten his professional career off to an unbeaten start (7-0, 5 KOs) and he has a devoted manager, Chuck Shearns, and an experienced trainer, Derik Santos in his corner, however, life has not always been this good to Castro, in particular his childhood, which was very difficult.

When his family moved from Puerto Rico to Lawrence, Massachusetts when he was a baby, his parents abandoned him because they did not want to take care of him. So, he spent most of his childhood living in and out of shelters and five different foster homes, constantly apart from his siblings. Castro was always getting into trouble and fights in school and he hung around with the wrong crowd that was involved in drugs. When he turned eighteen, he was homeless for a couple of months after he aged out of the juvenile system. Nevertheless, he got his life moving in the right direction with the help of boxing.

“Boxing changed my life,” said Castro, who started to box at fourteen and had his first amateur fight a year later. “If I did not do boxing, who knows where I would be now.”

This year, the Florida-based twenty-four-year-old orthodox boxer has been extremely active, especially nowadays, as he prepares for his sixth fight in the last six months. His manager, Shearns (who owns a promotional company, Shearns Boxing Promotions, and has promoted over twenty fight cards in Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the last couple of years) has used his connections with New England promoters to keep Castro busy by putting him on local fight cards. Before Castro teamed up with Shearns, he had two fights in two years.

“My childhood has influenced my personality with it being hard for me to trust anyone since my family abandoned me, but with Chuck, it was different,” said Castro. “I trusted him right away and now, I am pretty close to Chuck. He is not just my manager, he is more like family to me.”

Castro and Shearns met through a mutual friend (and trainer) Kendrick Ball Sr. in November of 2020 and they really bonded with one another. Shearns first became his advisor and later his manager.

“My wife, two daughters, and I have gotten to know Castro over the last year, and over time, he has become part of our family. We had him over for Thanksgiving this year,” said Shearns. “Life has been hard on him but he has made his way out and put himself in a position where he is today. He has earned the right to be where he is, in and out of the ring.”

Castro’s next bout is this Saturday, December 18th, when he fights late replacement Lenwood “Mr. Composure” Dozier (10-28-3, 5 KOs), who is a lot better than his records indicates, in a scheduled six-round bout at the Webster Town Hall in Webster, Massachusetts.

“I do not know too much about my upcoming opponent but I am not worried about him because I am too strong and too fast for him,” said Castro. “I will be ready for whatever he brings and quickly take control of the fight. If I need to box, I can. If I need to bang, I will. I will do whatever it takes to win.”

Another integral part of Castro’s team is his trainer, Santos, who has been a trainer for over twenty years and has been either the chief cornerman or assistant trainer to several former world champions: Nate Campbell, Randall Bailey, Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Rances Barthelemy, and current WBA welterweight champion, Yordenis Ugas.

While Castro was in the Boca Raton area of Florida earlier this year, he met Santos after hearing really good things about him from his fellow fighters. Following a series of meetings over the next several months, they both decided that they would be a good fit for one another, so Castro moved to Florida, and they have been inseparable since.

“J [Castro] has a will to fight that you cannot teach fighters. He has the drive and grit and does not back down from anyone,” said Santos. “He is also a very disciplined and intelligent fighter who has great ring IQ and boxes with intelligent aggression.”

Castro’s professional career is off to a good start because of his mental toughness, tremendous work ethic, being a great listener, who absorbs whatever information Santos tells him, and has a constant desire to learn and get better. He also displays a hard-hitting left hook and right uppercut, which has contributed to three straight knockout victories and four in his last five fights. With Santos in his corner, Castro’s skills and power will undoubtedly get exponentially better over time.

In addition, he has gained invaluable fighting experience by sparring with two stablemates, former world super light champion Chris Algieri, as well as former MMA star, Vitor Belfort, now a heavyweight boxer, who in his most recent fight won a first-round technical knockout over Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield. Castro and Santos have trained together for the past eight months at Santos’ gym, DS Boxing in Boca Raton. During this time, Castro is 5-0, which includes his most recent win over Gonzalo Carlos Dallera, via a fifth-round technical knockout on November 6th.

“I listen to everything that Derik tells me and I am eager to improve my craft and learn new tricks. He has made me a much better and more technically sound fighter by improving my footwork and head movement, and he has corrected a lot of my bad habits,” said Castro. “We have trained together for eight months, so I can only imagine how much better I will be in eight more months.”

In addition to Shearns and Santos, Castro’s team consists of strength and conditioning coach, Phil Daru, nutritionist, Jose Rojas, and camp coordinator, Maureen Shea.

“J has had a rough upbringing but he does not use it as an excuse. He has a great attitude and wants to be better and have a better life,” said Santos. “I have a soft spot for him. He knows what is right and wrong and I am proud of that considering that kids who went through a lot less than he did use that as an excuse.”

Castro had a good amateur career which consisted of forty-five amateur fights (28-17), while he fought for the Portland Boxing Club (he moved to Maine for a change of scenery and to focus on boxing). Castro’s amateur career culminated with him being ranked third in the United States in the welterweight (152-pound) division from 2017 to 2018, after just thirty-one fights. Many of his bouts came against boxers who had two to three times as many fights as he had. Castro won a bronze medal at the USA National Championships in 2016 and made it to the semifinals in 2017 and 2018. He advanced to the quarter-finals of the USA National Championships in 2017 and was a four-time New England Golden Gloves Championship from 2015 to 2018. He owns amateur victories over undefeated professional fighters Jalen Renaud (7-0, 3 KOs) and Joey Borrero (8-0, 7 KOs), and USA New England welterweight champion, Mike Ohan Jr. (14-1, 8 KOs).

“We want to keep him busy again next year and allow him to continue to learn and get better. Eventually, we want him to get signed by a promoter and continue his ascent up the rankings,” said Shearns.

In addition to his professional career, Castro works about thirty hours a week as a boxing instructor, teaching classes and coaching clients at the Big Time Boxing and Fitness gym, which is close to where he trains.

“We like the pace that we have J on. There is no need to rush him. He is continuing to learn and improve with each fight,” said Santos. “We hope to get him another five fights next year and then maybe in two years, we will get him into more serious fights.”

For more information about Castro, and the latest updates on his upcoming bout, friend him on Facebook at Josneil TG Castro and add him on Instagram @josnieltg.

“My career is going well,” said Castro. “I am happy that I have a great team and that everyone is on the same page. We are not in a rush with my career. We are taking it fight-by-fight and when my time comes for bigger fights, I will be ready.”

Castro can take solace in the fact that has already overcome more daunting challenges than most people face in a lifetime and through it all, he has persevered and given himself an opportunity to have a bright future, in and out of the ring.