“I’m dangerous,” 23-year-old Garrett Holeve warns as he bounces around a bedroom in his parents’ suburban, single-story house, throwing punches and kicks. A pungent combination of protein-powered farts, dirty laundry, and ball sweat permeates the air.
“I’ll hurt a guy real bad,” Garrett brags. “I’ll be covered in too much blood, and I’ll keep hurting him. Kick him in the mouth so hard the mouth guard flies out.”
The words don’t roll off his tongue. They bunch up in his throat and pour out in a slurred manner that’s difficult to understand. This is just one of the ways Garrett’s Down syndrome manifests itself.
“Oh, umm,” he stammers frequently when looking for an answer. “Finding a fight takes time. My friend Chris is going to get me a fight.”
He carries other telltale physical characteristics of the genetic condition: small ears that look like half-hearts, almond-shaped eyes, wide hands with short fingers, and a small, round mouth. Further affecting his health is rheumatoid arthritis that afflicts his right knee.
Garrett stands five feet tall and weighs 136 pounds. But he can drop to 125 pounds in a few days to make weight for his beloved sport, mixed martial arts. His black wifebeater reveals the tattoo of a black Punisher skull engulfed in black flames near his left shoulder. His neck and arms are solid muscle, large enough to make clear that his fists could permanently alter the alignment of an opponent’s nose.