STUART TAYLOR COLUMN: Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gerrett Holeve must be guided
"I WANT to be a fighting super-hero." These are the words of Garrett Holeve.
Garrett is 23 years old and still lives at home with his parents and needs help with daily tasks due to him having Down's Syndrome which, for him, means he has the mental age of an eight-year-old.
His parents, Sue and Mitch, have always encouraged their son to "follow his dream". His dream is to become a pro Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
Garrett has already fought in an exhibition bout — earlier this year against Antonio Martin at Seminole Immokalee Casino.
I watched footage of the fight on Youtube. It left me cold, as Garrett took plenty of heavy blows from his very able challenger, who didn't have mental or physical limitations. Strangely, the fight ended in a draw.
We all have dreams and I would be the last person to discourage anybody from following them, but there comes a point when common sense MUST take charge.
Aged seven, my parents allowed me to JUST train at Penyrhoel Boxing Club with my cousin. Despite having cerebral palsy I didn't see myself as any different from my mates and I believed that I was good enough to fight.
The late Gus Bevan, who trained former world title contender Colin Jones, was happy for me to be in the gym training with the boys, but rightly never allowed me to enter the ring for safety reasons.
Even though I questioned why I couldn't fight, Gus always told me to keep enjoying training and get fit. It took a while but in the end the reasons why I wasn't allowed to fight dawned on me.
It is all very well Garrett wanting to be a "fighting super-hero" — most eight-year olds do. But we have to remember that, due to his condition, Garrett has limitations — both mentally and physically.
The blunt medical facts are that people with Down's Syndrome have an increased risk of serious heart defects (about half the population with Down's); Increased eye pressure (known as glaucoma, which may render the eye more susceptible to trauma from strikes); Ligamentous laxity (double jointed); Specific ligamentous laxity of the neck (cervical spine) which can lead to spinal cord compression and death.
Garrett was recently scheduled to fight David Steffan, who has cerebral palsy, but at the last second the Florida State Boxing Commission stepped in and banned the fight.
I can only hope that Garrett's parents guide him a bit more wisely in the future.