For most fighters, the goal is world titles, fame, and riches, and not to say that isn’t fully the case for welterweight Josniel Castro, but his first step is a middle-class lifestyle afforded to him via boxing after a rough upbringing. 

Castro recently earned an eight-round unanimous decision over undefeated Jalen Renaud in March on the regional circuit. The bout extends his win streak to three after an unexpected knockout loss to start 2023. 

Castro (12-1, 8 KOs) never had it easy. Originally from Puerto Rico, Castro found himself growing up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Castro, 26, was in-and-out of the foster care system, even becoming homeless at one point.

“I started off living with my mom for a bit,” said Castro. “Then I moved to live with my grandma from first to fourth grade. Then I moved back with my mom in the fifth grade. During that year I went to a foster care home for about a year.”

The rest of his childhood would be a maze of disarray. He moved back with his mother but would be in a foster care home once he turned 18. 

During that time, Castro saw a relative who boxed and found it enticing. That same relative took him to the gym, and Castro was hooked on fighting, although Castro was not focused on boxing at first.

“I wanted to do MMA honestly, because I used to fight a lot and I wanted to learn how to fight all-around,” said Castro. “I couldn’t afford MMA, because it was too expensive. The boxing was cheaper, it was only like twenty dollars. I asked the DCF [Department of Children & Families] people to help me out with that and they did.”

Castro faced an ultimatum at 18. 

“I could stay in the system with DCF,” said Castro. “They were going to put me in an independent living program where you learn to be an adult, and I basically denied it, because I had a relationship with my mom and she seemed to be getting better. So I decided to go with her, and because I could have my own freedom and there would have been rules and stuff in the program.

“Everything was fine until we celebrated my birthday, which was obviously a late birthday,” said Castro. “Her ex-boyfriend tried to choke her in my face and I basically beat him up. She was on and off with [the ex-boyfriend] and was mad at me and kicked me out.”

Castro was staying with friends, but felt uncomfortable overstaying his welcome and that led to him having to be homeless while balancing school and boxing. His manager, Chuck Shearns, recalled a story he was told by a trainer, who went unnamed, at his most recent fight about Castro’s commitment to the sport while having no stability. 

“Josniel found an abandoned building, lived in the abandoned building, and somehow managed to feed himself, keep himself warm, while never missing a day or training,” recalled Shearns. 

Shearns started working with Castro after they were introduced once he began training at Camp Get Right with Kendrick Ball Sr. Castro has three brothers and sisters, the half-Puerto Rican, half-Dominican fighter now is looking for modest goals in the big scheme of life, and working with Shearns has afforded him some opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. 

Then, he moved to Florida. 

“He decided to follow a girl to Florida because there is nothing for him in the North East,” explained Shearns. “He goes down there and ends up stumbling into Derik Santos’ gym down in Boca Raton.”

Santos is a well-regarded trainer who has cornered world champion Chris Algieri and Sullivan Barrera. 

Shearns’ connections in the industry were mostly in the North East, so now it was going to be a bit tougher than expected to keep him busy as a fighter, locating to a new market. That wasn’t the only trouble, though. 

“Then, we started getting some bad luck,” said Shearns. “We got an intentional headbutt, the referee missed it, called it accidental, so we got a no-contest. The fight after that we had a fight canceled the day of the weigh-in, and then he had a loss, which really derailed us a bit.”

Yet, even with the adversities Castro still found his way back to the gym, like the young man, who found his way when he was living in the abandoned building years prior. He got a cut and returned to the gym on Monday, even though he couldn’t spar for months. He got knocked out and was back in the gym on Tuesday. 

Castro with his earnings from his last fight Renaud got a studio apartment, something he has never had before. 

“It feels like I have achieved something,” said Castro. “My goal eventually is to own a house. I just want to make enough money where I can live a decent life.”