Trent Laidler: Pahokee teen trains for fight of his life

PAHOKEE, Fla. - As Trent Laidler laces up his boxing shoes to train, you hear the sounds of a boxing gym.

In Laidler's ear, he hears one of his favorite rap music artists named Future.

An apt name considering all that's on Laidler's mind is his future title boxing tournament.

"I have drive man," Laidler said. "I'm trying to get it."

The bell rings on that fight on June 19th, but we'll get to that later.

It's when you look at his past, you learn he's been bobbing and weaving from life's challenges since he was born.

"Growing up, when I was a little kid, there was a lot of fighting so when I came into this I was like 'now I can do something I like,' " Laidler said.

Laidler has grown up in a trailer park in Pahokee.

His family lives in a pink trailer, which has boards over the windows.

On his wall in his small bedroom, it says he's a muck baby.

"Born and raised," he said while sitting on his bed.

He has been raised by his mom and dad, Charlotte and Junior Higgins.

At least that's who he calls mom and dad.

"I'm the adopted mom," Charlotte said. "I adopted him. That's my grandson."

When asked about Laidler's biological mom, Charlotte responded, "she's incapacitated."

His mom has been in and out of jail for years.

She had Laidler as a teenager and Charlotte said his biological father isn't really in the picture.

"It's motivation like I have to do better," Laidler said when asked what it's been like not really having his parents in his life. "I have to do better things in my life."

He is forever thankful to his grandparents saying he doesn't know where he would be without them.

Every powerful punch he throws isn't just for him though.

It's for his 5-year-old little brother too, who was born from the same mother.

Chabo was born with three holes in his heart.

The kid is a fighter himself, surviving open heart surgery and spinal meningitis.

His grandparents also take care of him.

"If not me then who," Charlotte said. "It's been rough really, but I learned that when I stay focused and put God first, he gives me strength."

In a recent report presented to Palm Beach County commissioners, nearly 30 percent of people living in poverty-stricken Pahokee are unemployed.

Charlotte's faith has kept the family from being lumped into that unemployment rate.

The Florida housing crisis caused Junior to learn a new trade.

He once was a home builder and now is a truck driver and the sole provider for the family.

"It's hard," Charlotte said. "We're poor economically, but we're rich in spirit."

That spirit lies in 16-year-old Laidler.

"When you see stuff around you, people doing bad and stuff, you say 'I don't want to be like this.'  I have to get up out of here, make a better life for myself," Laidler said.

He started changing his life around in 7th grade, he said.

It was then he walked into the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Police Athletic League gym in Belle Glade.

It's a place where a slain teen's memorial out front reminds kids each day the danger of street life in the Glades.

A place, where he met his coach, Deputy Sergeant Mike LeStrange.

"He made me notice him by saying he could outrun and outwork everybody else I have in my boxing program and I said if that be the case show me," Dep. Sgt. LeStrange said.

Trent did just that, by showing him great work ethic, quick feet and strong hands.

The same hands he used to use to fight in the school yard, which landed him in the principal's office all the time, Laidler said.

"You go from doing something bad for no reason to something good for a reason that's benefiting your life," Laidler said.

Now, four years after meeting LeStrange, the 154 pound bruiser is one of ten boxers in the nation competing in the National Jr. Olympics in Mobile, Alabama.

"I'm not going up there to lose," Laidler laughed. " That's a long drive."

It's a long drive Charlotte can't afford financially to make. So, like most matches, Coach LeStrange will drive.

It's Laidler's drive from within though, he hopes brings home Jr. Olympic gold.

The tournament starts Tuesday, June 19th and ends Friday.

Laidler said his goal is to be on the Olympic boxing team in 2016, buy his grandparents a mansion, and make a better life for his little brother.

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