By Rebecca Rose
The Socorro Boxing Club sits without power and water, while dozens of local children find themselves wondering if they’ll be back in the ring anytime soon.
David Castillo is the main trainer at the gym, and has worked there since it first opened nearly a year ago. In an interview with Mountain Mail on Wednesday, Castillo said he had no idea the gym was in any kind of financial trouble. He said he first discovered there was an issue on Oct. 2, when he returned from a fight in Kansas City.
“All the utilities were off.” he said. “We had nothing.”
The problems with the gym date back to earlier this year, when the tenant who held the original lease opted to not continue with his involvement in the property, which is owned by the County. He signed it over to another party, who reportedly failed to make payments. Now, the building is behind on rent and utilities.
A professional Lightweight boxer ranked 49th worldwide, Castillo said he was shocked to find out the amount of money that was owed. The outstanding bill owed to Socorro Electric Co-op alone is reportedly over $800.
In an effort to try and keep the club open, Castillo and his wife, Valerie Maez, approached the County Commission at Tuesday night’s meeting to request to be allowed to take over the lease. Maez is a sanctioned judge on the professional boxing circuit, and spoke about the success of the gym.
“We have out of Socorro, three state champions and one regional champion.” She said. This is a positive thing for these kids.”
Adren Nance, Socorro County Attorney, said the matter isn’t as simple as signing a few papers. He spoke with Mountain Mail about the next steps for the couple and the gym.
“Due to New Mexico’s strict Anti-Donation Laws, the County cannot simply be allowed to give the property away.” Nance said that the couple will most likely have to apply for the lease from scratch. That means going through the Department of Finance Affairs, and could take as long as two months. The property will first have to be re-evaluated, and then they can apply. “They will have to get DFA approval, and then we can execute the lease.”
There are solutions for the short-term. “We can do a temporary rental agreement. The County often leases out buildings for events and other things. We have a policy for that. But that doesn’t solve the problem long-term.” Nance said.
Castillo admitted that the problems are daunting, but pointed to the positive attributes the club brings to the community’s children, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds.
“It’s a melting pot in the gym. A lot of them are vulnerable. They come from single family homes. Their parents want them to do something constructive.” he said. “We teach life building skills and discipline. It keeps the kids out of trouble.”
He said that the kids have put a great deal of work into their boxing. “We do bag work, we work mitts, cardio conditioning, and we have speed bags. We travel almost every weekend to different cities to participate in tournaments.”
“A lot of times they win their first trophy, and you see the look on their face, and they’re so happy. It’s all worth it.” Castillo said.
Nance stressed that Castillo and Maez would in no way be liable for any rental debts incurred to the County as a result of the previous tenants default. The same does not go for the mounting utility bills.
Despite the current situation, Castillo is adamant that the kids he works with will get the gym back.
“Even if I have to get the money out of my pocket, I will find a way to turn it on.”