Reporting Vanessa Borge
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A local amateur mixed-martial-arts fighter is proving that perceived limitations are only in the mind.
Garrett Holeve, who is a fighter in and out of the ring, was born with Down syndrome.
Garrett was born in October, 1989 to Mitch and Susan Holeve. Hours after reveling in their second child’s birth, their doctors sat them down.
“As he looked at Garrett he says you know I hate to tell you guys but Garrett has Down syndrome,” recalled Mitch Holeve. “He’s been raised as my other two boys have been raised, maybe even we’re a little tougher on him, maybe I think.”
That’s because Garrett has always seemed up to the tougher challenges. One day Mitch dared his three sons to take an MMA fighting class and Garrett was his only taker.
Garrett begged Mitch to let him compete. Mitch did, but only after he spoke with other fighters and asked them to ease up on Garrett.
Two months ago Garrett got an opportunity to fight Mike Wilson, another amateur fighter.
As soon as the bell rang, Mike swung at Garrett and hit him square in the face.
“When he got hit with the first punch, that was probably the first time that I ever really got nervous, or a little afraid, for about two seconds until I saw him take it and come back and keep going,” Mitch said.
It’s those kinds of punches that have fostered so much criticism, criticism that only drives the Holeves.
“There will be those comments which to me only kind of motivates me more to let him keep doing what he wants to do,” said Mitch.
Garrett and Mitch have not backed down despite some backlash. Mitch further encouraged Garrett in his career and put his portion of the American Top Team gym in Weston in Garrett’s name.
Garrett now trains children in MMA fighting including DJ a 23 year old with Down syndrome.
“He’s a leader, he’s an instructor now and he is very proud to say ‘DJ is my student’,” said Mitch.
Mitch is ensuring his son holds his hands up in the ring and his head high in life.
“You know there are so many kids out there that don’t get the opportunities to do things in life, whether education or sport, because of their situation. It’s a shame and I just think we need to give every kid that opportunity and support them and see what they can grow and become because we’re always amazed with what they grow up to be,” said Mitch.
Mitch began a foundation in honor of Garrett called Garrett’s Fight which raises funds for other athletes with special needs. If you want more information on Garrett’s Fight go to garrettsfight.org.