GARLAND, Texas — A teen from Garland has punched his ticket to the National Junior Olympics Boxing Tournament in Charleston, West Virginia after learning the sport for years in a gym operated by local police.
Since 1995, Garland Police has taught boxing and karate to kids after school at the ‘Garland Police Boxing Gym.’ Many of them receive instruction from former and current cops.
In coordination with Garland ISD, it’s a program that was originally started to reduce gang activity in the city. The program is free and is paid for with money from the city and grants from the federal government.
One of its founders, Dave Swavey, said that over 10,000 students have walked through the Garland Police Boxing Gym since the program’s inception.
Jaime Castillo, 14, started coming to the gym when he was just six-years-old. “Whenever I get here I have to get ready to train and get serious,” Castillo said. “I like coming here every day after school.”
Swavey said Castillo is a rarity. Out of all the kids who come through the program, he’s one of the very few who have been to the National Junior Olympics Boxing Tournament. He’s also the only one to go within the last 10 years.
In 2016, Castillo went to the tournament when it was held in Dallas and lost. Last week, he secured a spot in the national tournament again when he won at the state level in Houston fighting as a bantamweight. “Not many people get that chance, so I got to show what I can do—what I was trained here to do,” Castillo said.
According to Swavey, Castillo has done nothing but surprise him. “He’s making this evolution without you even paying attention to him,” Swavey said.
Swavey was a cop for Garland Police for 35 years. He retired in 2015, and now works for the city part-time running the gym. “To put myself in front of these children and to see how much they want to be successful—it gives me hope that we’re going in the right direction,” Swavey said. “This is really where the road meets the rubber, this is what officers were destined to do—make a difference.”
He told WFAA he nicknamed Castillo “Tomorrow” because of his hard work and dedication. “He’d always tell me that he would do better tomorrow,” Swavey said with a laugh. “It’s a good reminder that we always do have tomorrow you know.”
For Castillo, the gym has been a haven. He said that it keeps him out of trouble and in shape. Swavey said his goal first and foremost is to teach students discipline and to give them structure. He adds that Castillo has fed off that discipline, and has used it to create a lot of success. “It makes me want to win and keep going,” Castillo said.
“In the 23 years we’ve been here, he’s the first and only kid that’s gone that far and made it to the tournament twice,” Swavey said.
If Castillo wins the title, Swavey said he would earn bragging rights and a national ranking. There’s also a chance he could get to compete internationally.
The teen said he wants to win for his family, and his coaches in blue. “I can’t promise anything, but I most likely will,” Castillo said with a smile.
Weigh-in for the tournament begins next Monday, and competition starts the following day.