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Philly Special: Local quartet headed to Philadelphia for Silver Gloves Regional

Boxers Yadiel Castillo, from left, Joel Soler, Jaden Jimenez and Aliyah Meza pose for a photo at the PAL Boxing gym in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. All four boxers have qualified for the Silver Gloves Regional in Philadelphia.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Four teenagers from Columbus PAL Boxing have varying degrees of fighting experience, but they’re all about to see a major step up in competition.

By winning state Silver Gloves titles last month at Crump Theatre, Yadiel Castillo, Jaden Jimenez, Aliyah Meza and Joel Soler earned a ticket to compete in the Silver Gloves Regional Jan. 13-14 in Philadelphia.

“We have a lot of faith in them, but it’s going to be tough,” coach Peter Soler said. “Philadelphia, that’s what they do there. It’s a boxing mecca.”

Peter Soler coaches team, along with Seth Caffee and Robert Hurst. Peter Soler moved to Columbus from Puerto Rico at age 7 and grew up boxing in Columbus.

Boxer Joel Soler poses for a photo at the PAL Boxing gym in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Soler has qualified for the Silver Gloves Regional in Philadelphia.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Now, his son Joel is following in his footsteps. The 15-year-old sophomore at Columbus North has been boxing for about five years. He had won 11 of 20 bouts, including two Silver Gloves state titles prior to winning the 119-pound open class this year.

“It paid off,” Joel Soler said. “I came in with some new intelligence and better footwork than in past state fights. I was a little less experienced in the past state fights.”

Boxer Yadiel Castillo poses for a photo at the PAL Boxing gym in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Castillo has qualified for the Silver Gloves Regional in Philadelphia.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Castillo has been training for three years. The 14-year-old eighth-grader at Central Middle School was in his fifth fight when he won the 125-pound state title.

“You had the feeling of all the people in your town watching you fight,” Castillo said. “It was incredible. I wasn’t really that nervous. It was just a normal fight. (The experience) paid off a lot.”

Boxer Jaden Jimenez poses for a photo at the PAL Boxing gym in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Jimenez qualified for the Silver Gloves Regional in Philadelphia.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Meanwhile, two girls who train at the gym won state championships. Jimenez, a 15-year-old freshman at North, was making her fighting debut when she won the 132-pound title.

“I was nervous, but I wasn’t really scared because here, I practice with boys, so I knew it wasn’t going to be harder than practicing with boys,” Jimenez said. “I was pretty confident.”

Boxer Aliyah Meza poses for a photo at the PAL Boxing gym in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Meza has qualified for the Silver Gloves Regional in Philadelphia.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Like Jimenez, Meza has been training for about a year. Meza, a 14-year-old freshman at North, did not have to fight to capture her state title after the girl she was going to battle in the 125-pound bout, dropped out.

“I was super nervous,” Meza said. “I don’t think I was really ready. I was really nervous because I didn’t think I was going to win. I was just kind of scared because she was bigger than me, but I won anyway, but only because she forfeited.”

“The kids they were going to fight, we had no idea how good they were,” Peter Soler added. “So really, it was just up in the air. But we had faith in them because they work real hard in here, and they train hard.”

Columbus was hosting the state Silver Gloves for the first time in 16 years. This was the first time it had been held at the Crump.

“We had a better turnout than we thought,” Peter Soler said. “We had to stop letting people come in.”

Columbus PAL Boxing broke a long drought last year when Meadow Vetitoe won regional and national championships. But this year will be tougher, having to go through Philadelphia.

“I’m going to do what I do at Philly and try my best to win,” Castillo said. “It’s going to be for sure really challenging. I’ve heard a lot of things about Philly.”

Jimenez is working on her conditioning and cardio to train for the regional bouts.

“I’m excited,” Jimenez said. “This is going to be my second fight, so I’ll be a little bit more prepared. But I’m nervous because it’s Philly. The girls are different there.”

“I have to work harder for the regional,” Joel Soler said. “It’s definitely going to be challenging because the boys out there have a lot of experience. They fight a lot out there.”


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