Mama Said Knock You Out

Written & Photographed by A Wild Dove


While we love a good kid’s gym class, we’ve often found that our children’s greatest athletic achievements derive from practicing adult sports. Which is why when we discovered that the popular boxing mecca Gotham Gym offers children’s training, we had to investigate. Founded by Rob Piela, Gotham is suited for the entire family - at all backgrounds and fitness levels. “Boxing lends confidence to people,” said Piela. ”Men, women and children together. It's empowering to know how to box. Plus it’s an all-around workout. You burn lots of calories, improve balance and coordination and it's fun.” It doesn’t hurt that Piela and his trainers have a healthy, empowering view of diet and exercise that we at at A Wild Dove are 100 percent behind. “People should make healthy choices but miss some days at the gym and eat ice cream if they want to,” said Piela. “I find that the people who are in the best shape are the ones who are consistent with their diet and exercise but allow themselves to splurge here and there...not the people who obsess."

Callum loves working with the amazingly talented, hilarious Mike Castillo, who trains one-on-one with kids when he’s not training himself. Mike began boxing at age 15 and has competed in the New York Golden Gloves seven times, taking home two silver and two bronze medals. He’s also an ex-Marine and overall badass. But even having endured the toughest physical elements on earth, he still marvels at the energy and determination that children bring to the ring. We sat down with Mike and got the heavyweight lowdown on his fitness goals, simple pleasures and why he loves training kids.


What led you to boxing?

Long story short: I used to weigh 315 pounds and my dad said I had to box or I was going to die a virgin.

I started boxing the very next day, which also happened to be my 16th birthday.  I originally walked into a Kung Fu gym and they kicked me out before I even fully stepped in, as I left they told me there was a boxing gym a couple blocks up.  At the boxing gym they welcomed me with open arms.  And they made me fight immediately.  I got knocked out one minute into my first sparring session, but I immediately fell in love with it.  It was the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life - the headgear, the gloves, the sweat, the competition, it was all so surreal, and even though my head was throbbing and my nose bloodied, I returned the next day.


What do you love about working with children in the ring?

Teaching kids is the greatest thing. It can be very easy sometimes, I am the oldest of 6 children and I have two girls of my own. I was also a US Marine Sergeant. I served for 10 years.  I love teaching kids how to become fitter versions of themselves and become more sure of their abilities.  When I can see the lightbulbs going off in their heads, it’s like magic. I like helping people reach their potential. Teaching kids and adults is really not that different.  Kids just have more energy.

We equate boxing with exercise, but what would you say to parents who are skeptical that boxing is promoting violence?

Boxing is beneficial to kids because it’s an outlet, it lets them express themselves physically, like dancing and singing. It’s really no different.  It lets them burn off all that energy that they didn't use in school or at home.  And to the parents who are skeptical that boxing promotes violence, I would say, “Boxing does not promote violence. Before boxing I was a very confrontational child, I’d fight a lot. After I started my boxing training I never fought outside the ring again. I was kind of too tired, whatever energy I had left, I'd use it to finish my homework.


Why is boxing beneficial to children?

Because when you train, you train in all planes of motion. You move laterally, you move up, you move down, at almost all angles. It’s not one dimensional.  The training lessons you learn in boxing you can apply to baseball, basketball, football, and tennis. And vice versa, I think kids should play all sports and learn as much as they can about different sports. It can be like chess, boxing forces kids to think critically.

What sort of fitness do you do outside the ring?

I do all kinds of fitness, I lift weights, I box, I do some light yoga, I do Soul Cycle and Peloton. In college I was on the cross country team. I recently just completed my first and second triathlon. I am currently training for a Half Iron Man. I want to be an Iron Man. I kind of hate running now, but I do it.


Sounds like a lot of fitness! What’s your favorite way to chill out?

I like to go to physical therapy. I’m so active and hard on my body, and it’s kind of beat up. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I have been fighting since I was 15. I’m 38 now. I have a lot of friends who are physical therapists and massage therapists. I book sessions with them often and they teach me things about recovery. I’m also a voracious reader. I love Junot Diaz, Stephen King, JK Rowling and Jodi Piccoult.  And going out to eat with my wife and daughters. We love anything Italian.

What’s your spirit animal?

My spirit animal is an old clydesdale horse who loves Guinness Draught beer, apples and bacon cheeseburgers!



To find out more contact

 MIKE CASTILLO | GOTHAM GYM | 600 Washington St, NYC |

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