5', 140 lbs. Garrett “G-Money” Holeve has been a dedicated student at ATT since 2010, with a positive demeanor - by all accounts a great man to have in the gym. Given the dozens of top pros that fight out of ATT, his two exhibition fights would not be remarkable, except that Holeve has Down syndrome.
Approximately one in 700 babies born in the US each year has Down syndrome, making it the most common chromosome abnormality in humans. Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate impairments in physical growth, and mild to moderate intellectual impairment.
Everyone who steps into the cage has to overcome a lot - fear and doubt, the rigors of training, and more. In Garret's case, a lot more.
"He didn't like being the kid with Down Syndrome, the kid people felt sorry for," says Stephan Bonnar in a March interview. "Through martial arts he found himself. He found a passion and a purpose in his life."
As Garrett says, "fighting changed me." Among the changes was Garrett accepting that he did in fact have Down Syndrome, something he resisted so much that as a child, he didn't want to be known as Garrett, "because Garrett has Down Syndrome."
Garrett now pays it forward, teaching a student in the gym who himself has Down Syndrome.
“Them look up to me as a hero, or as a super man,” said Garrett. “Because them need a super hero.”
We all need heros, and Garrett is one of them.
And now he is going to have his first non-exhibition fight.
Steven Marrocco from MMAJunkie/USA TODAY has the story.
An amateur mixed martial arts fight set for Aug. 3 in Florida promises a first for its combatants – and perhaps the sport at large.
Garrett Holeve and David Steffan, who suffer from Down syndrome and mild cerebral palsy respectively, are stepping into the cage for a full-speed fight at a King of the Casino event at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Fla.
Special Olympics Vice President Kirsten Seckler expressed support for the pair.
"If they choose to participate in an activity that's outside of the Special Olympics, then that's their choice," Seckler said. "People with intellectual disabilities might read slower or learn slower than others, but they can run marathons, hold jobs, go to school, get married and have babies. One of the things we like to show is that there are no limits."
Garrett's father Mitch said the Florida State Boxing Commission discouraged him from booking the fight with Steffan, so he approached King of the Casino promoter Mark Shopp, who employs an independent sanctioning body not affiliated with the Association of Boxing Commissions.
In an email, Director of Communications Tajiana Ancora-Brown from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the Florida State Boxing Commission, said the regulatory body licenses independent sanctioning bodies such as the one employed by Shopp, but "is not involved in their sanctioning decisions."
They'll compete over three, three-minute rounds at a catchweight of 140 pounds under modified rules that mirror amateur bouts, which require shin protectors and forbid striking to the head of a grounded opponent, according to promoter Shopp, who said the event will be staffed by medical professionals.
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