5', 140 lbs., and 23 years old, 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 UFC Hall of Famer 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. He had planned his first non-exhibition bout, against David Steffin, 28, who has cerebral palsy.
However, it was shut down by the State of Florida, just minutes before the fight.
WINK News has the story.
The state stepped in and shut it down claiming it was unsanctioned. On of the fighter's fathers say it's discrimination.
That fight was set to take place at the Seminole Casino in Immokalee. It's something both of these men told me on Friday was a dream come true. Now they are fighting to find a way back into the ring.
It was a fight that was supposed to be a first of its kind. One both Holeve and Steffin had been dreaming of, but five minutes before the first punch, the state presented the promoter with a cease and desist letter.
"He cried. It genuinely upset him," says Mitch Holeve, Garrett's father. "He's worked eight weeks in a training camp, training four and a half hours a day for eight weeks getting mentally and physically prepared to do this."
The fight was supposed to happen because the match was being held on tribal land, but a letter from the DBPR says the scheduled bout between the two amateur fighters is unsanctioned and against Florida Law.
"He's upset because he knows he's being told he can't fight because he has down syndrome and that hurts his feelings and that angers him" says the elder Holeve.
A representative with the World Fighting Organization tells WINK News, "the safety of the fighters is our number one priority and he doesn't think the decision was made on the basis of discrimination, but solely on fighter safety."
Holeve says his son got medical clearance and show have been able to fight. "I think their decision was pretty arbitrary, discriminatory," says Holeve.
"We have two guys with disabilities and we don't want them to fight here. This is his life and they're stopping him. As his dad I am just going to make sure he can do it safely and his rights are infringed upon and I'm not stopping anywhere until that happens."
Holeve is talking to the Boxing Commission and he says he has also reached out to the National Down Syndrome Society.
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