The pursuit of any goal or dream requires two main elements governing a list of variables relevant to the particular journey ahead.
Above all, a realistic plan of attack or approach is paramount. If done right, this blueprint will lay a solid foundation consisting of all the steps required to keep pace in the right direction.
While that can be tough in itself, the planning is most often the easy part.
Because the second part of the ride is putting forth the effort to carry it out, and that requires equal parts focus, tenacity, patience and support in order to keep reaching new levels of improvement and accomplishment.
On Friday at St. Clements Hall – 3030 Tremainsville Road in Toledo, – Defiance professional boxer Raymond “Lil’ Rock” Castaneda III will put it all on display when he enters the squared circle as part of a multi-bout fight card presented by Victor Green of Toledo-based Pulse Boxing.
With doors opening at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. start time, tickets can be purchased from Raymond Castaneda III at Bloomfield’s Hair Cut Company (224 Clinton Street, Defiance), where he maintains a second career as a professional barber.
Castaneda has been consistent in his ascent through the professional ranks, bobbing, weaving and slugging his way to an undisputed 4-0 record with two wins coming by way of knockout in scheduled four-round rumbles.
But now comes the next step for the Defiance scrapper – ascending to the six-round realm of a promising young career in the professional fight game against Roanoke, Va., native Latorie “War Machine” Woodberry in a super lightweight showdown.
“Mentally, I’m ready. It’s just another day,” said Castaneda III. “I’ve kind of got to look at it as another sparring session that I do. The last couple sparring sessions I’ve been going six-plus rounds, so I’m not really worried about my stamina at all as far as being able to last. I’ll be able to last for sure.”
When he climbs through the ropes on Friday, the onetime Defiance Athletic Club clubber will attempt to do that against a more experienced fighter with several more years in the fight grind. Carrying a professional record of 2 wins, seven losses and two draws, Woodberry brings with him 38 rounds of toil compared to Castaneda’s 11.
However, a first-round knockout in his pro debut and a thunderous body-blow stoppage two fights later is proof that, while still learning the ropes inside the ropes, “Lil’ Rock” is obviously capable of throwing stones.
“As far as him being more experienced, it doesn’t really worry me too much,” he said of his older opponent. “I just know what I can do and what I have inside of me, and that full potential inside of me hasn’t really came out yet.
“Maybe the right fighter’s gonna get it out of me,” Castaneda added. “But as of right now, I’m looking at this fight to show that I can do six rounds and be able to show that I’ll be the more dominant fighter in the later rounds for sure.”
The fight to advance in any career or occupation can be a tough one, as the saying that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy implies. But when the fight requires literal fighting, a whole new level of mental and physical preparation is in order.
As a common pattern in the professional ranks, a young prospect generally spends up to eight bouts or more at the four-round introductory level before making the leap to six-rounders.
With Castaneda III, though, nearly 75 wins out of 100 amateur fights against some of boxing’s biggest rising stars, five Toledo Golden Gloves titles, two national Silver Gloves berths and four Arnold Classic crowns gave him plenty of fuel to burn.
Entering the pro level nearly three years ago on the heels of a brief layoff for school and family obligations, his reemergence into the “sweet science” has been one his father/trainer Raymond “Rocky” Castaneda II believes can be stepped up in a much shorter timeframe.
“We’re making the jump pretty early. We’re going to six rounds in his fifth fight,” he said. “The way he’s been fighting, it looks like it’s time to move him up and give him a little bit more adversity trying to work through those six rounds. We’ve only been four rounds twice (going the distance).
“So we’re going for it, we’re pushing for it,” added Castaneda II. “That’s what the big TV promotions and a lot of those people like to see; guys going those six rounds and going those eight rounds so they can televise those fights. So that’s kind of we’re aiming to do.”
And why not? It’s a ladder several aspiring sluggers in the Castanedas’ circle of cohorts have climbed with noteworthy success that has earned the Toledo area some rage on the worldwide boxing stage.
With several amateur bouts against fighters such as two-time super featherweight champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis, 2012 Olympian Carlos Suarez along with nationally ranked Toledo natives Sonny Fredrickson (20-1), Tyler McCreary (15-0) and Albert Bell (14-0), Castaneda’s pugilistic pedigree is one of prestige.
Part of the “Lil’ Rock” camp’s extensive training ritual includes sparring trips to gyms in Fort Wayne and Toledo, and the most recent Toledo stretch included work with Fredrickson in pursuit of his current USBA junior welterweight world championship. Fredrickson, who has sparred with Toledo’s former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr.
While all have earned significant status with high-level promotion, Bell’s recent signing with Top Rank Boxing – a Las Vegas company which supplies a steady stream of fights for ESPN among others – has Castaneda III intently focused on following the path.
“Seeing somebody that was in the same promotion as I am right now being moved to Top Rank, that holds a lot of opportunities because they’re hosting a show almost every weekend,” he explained. “There are more opportunities to be showcased with Top Rank than as of right now, so that’s kind of what we’re trying to keep our eyes on. To be known, or to have a promotion like that recognize me to where they would want me to be on their shows and to keep me moving forward to where I could get a title shot.
“That’s pretty much the opportunity that we’re looking at right now and making that the main thing,” he added. “Get with a big promotion, get on television, get a title shot … that’s our goal and that’s the main plan.”
The goal of swapping blows with the best requires a solid work ethic and constant training, which is something the Castanedas have stepped up considerably since the professional debut at four rounds.
Consisting of heavy conditioning, running, swimming and sparring in addition to countless hours spent practicing ring tactics, a level of sharpness has been developing that is evident in the local fighter’ unscarred record.
According to Rocky, that is of the utmost importance when balancing a promising career with eight-ounce gloves against one that currently pays the bills with clippers.
“His mentality and his mental focus are more in tune now. He knows the importance of making sure he gets his conditioning in and everything else he needs to get in,” said Castaneda II. “It wasn’t a problem before, but there were times where he was working late and sometimes couldn’t get everything done. So now he makes it a priority to make sure his schedule is open on the days that he needs to be there and is out on time to come straight here to practice.
“He’s just more focused and more ready, I think.”
Focusing on improvement has been a Castaneda mainstay throughout his climb from three-round amateur fights to the four-round pro path, as has the ability to absorb vital lessons from each battle. A self-described late starter in his bouts before turning up the heat as the fight goes on, “Lil’ Rock” sees Friday’s leap to the next level as a twofold benefit.
The obvious would be reaching a new career level with his eyes on the overall prize, but the other involves a more immediate picture that plays more into his commanding style in the ring.
“I’m hoping that this will help me be able to showcase a little bit more as far as being the dominant fighter, not in the opening round but kind of in the second and third and in the closing rounds,” said the barber/battler. “I’ve learned you’ve got to keep your composure. You always want to be able to outlast your opponent. He’s coming in there to knock you out just like you are trying to knock him out, so you’ve got to protect yourself. You really don’t want to take too many beatings that you don’t need to.”
So the focus is there, as is the tenacity and the patience, but what about the support needed to pursue a full-time career in a field as gritty and contested as professional pugilism?
Along with the assistance of his father/trainer, his biological family, boxing family and growing number of supporters interested in seeing a 135-pounder swat like a middleweight, local sponsors such as Derrow Chrysler Jeep Ram, Casa Vieja, Squeaker Heads (Defiance Notorious Apparel), Bloomfield’s and A&A Designs have all gotten behind Castaneda III as he prepares to take the next step.
Which comes Friday in a six-round slugfest against a southern scrapper known as “War Machine.”
“If I can take him out early, you know, I’ll take him out early,” said the hard-hitting Defiance prospect. “If it comes, it comes, but if not, we got those six rounds in and I can go a little bit more, too. That’s pretty much what I’m looking for as far as March 22 … just being able to be that dominant fighter that day.
“I feel like you learn as you go,” he concluded. “With different fighters you see different things, so your experience goes up. Then you just move on and learn more from there.”