Boxer rebellion; Amateur boxing sensation trades trouble for tradition
By Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro
| | January 06, 2006
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
When he curls his fingers into a fist, the damage is undeniable. Years of pounding his fists against the hardened bodies of his opponents have left his knuckles broken and battered.
The talents of Pvt. Sharret D. Holmes, 27, Platoon 3145, Company M, were first noticed at recruit training during a Marine Corps Marital Arts Program session. During a body hardening exercise, when recruits dull their nerves by repeatedly hitting each other at precise points, Holmes unintentionally knocked down a fellow recruit when practicing stomach punches.
The drill instructors, who ask nothing less than 100 percent, told Holmes, when it came to hitting, to first use only five percent of his strength, and then two percent when it became obvious that he was hurting other recruits.
"He had a lot of speed and a lot of heart. He was interested and more committed to (martial arts) than the other recruits," said drill instructor Staff Sgt. Angel A. Escobar. "He doesn't want to go back to what he used to be so he trains harder. He wants to be a Marine."
Holmes, with a 39-1 amateur boxing record, had a chance to make it in boxing before he joined the Marine Corps, but because of his age, he decided to take another path.
"I was told I could have gone to the Olympics. You can only go amateur for so long, so before you either have to go pro or to the Olympics," Holmes said.
Holmes found himself getting into trouble, and he was afraid if he didn't turn his life around quickly, he would squander his opportunity to be an Olympian.
"Golden Gloves comes every year, and I always found myself getting in trouble at that time," said Holmes. Golden Gloves is an amateur boxing organization that could have qualified Holmes for the Olympics, but he was unable to participate in the matches.
"I was with the wrong people doing the wrong things, but I cannot blame that (on them) because I've never been a follower. I always make my own decisions," he said.
When Holmes was a young fighter, an older man, Charlie, took Holmes under his wing. Charlie, who passed away years ago, taught Holmes fighting techniques and style in his garage.
"I was pretty much a street fighter, and he touched it up," said Holmes.
As he grew older, Holmes decided to be more aggressive in his boxing career. He decided he needed to help support his family in any way he could so he began professional boxing lessons at different gyms.
"They had me sparring professional fighters and that's how I started getting known," he said.
To his family, Holmes was the protector, a person who would take care of things. He wouldn't allow anyone to harm his friends or family, and that made him known throughout the city.
Holmes spent his Fridays at the Tunnel, a tourist attraction and underground boxing event in Houston. He described underground boxing as a raw and aggressive type of boxing without any rules.
Boxers weren't equipped for the fight like the professionals were. After a doctor checked for proper motor skills, participants would wrap their knuckles with one piece of gauze for each hand, secured with an athletic-tape wrist wrap, according to Holmes.
"You signed up, got checked by a doctor. You played at your own risk. That paid my bills," he said.
Holmes has never lost an underground match. He attributes it to the little knowledge of technique and lack of endurance of most underground fighters. Holmes fought underground for four months, amassing nearly $25,000 for two hours of fighting each night. When he was taking professional boxing classes after Charlie died, the monthly bill was $210 and the rest of Holmes' earning went in a shoebox when he got home.
Holmes had two reasons to change his life around: his little brother Darius and his girlfriend's son Jeremiah. The young boys looked up to Holmes, and he felt it was his responsibility to set the right example for them.
"I had to make a U-turn before I had another generation going the wrong way," he said.
"I've been doing this war on the streets. I should do it for the right cause. You can always change. You have to want to change and you have to show that," he said.
When Holmes expressed his desire to join the Marine Corps, his friends spoke against it but couldn't turn him off from the idea.
In boot camp, recruits feared his talent.
"Other recruits were kind of scared. Nobody wanted to spar him because they were afraid he would hurt them," said Escobar.
Holmes described the Marine Corps as a level playing field where all the players contain the same aggression and confidence.
"Most of the people in the Marines have attitude and think they are so tough; it will humble me," said Holmes.
Holmes believes the Marine Corps will promote a mutual respect among him and fellow Marines. He won't need to beat anyone up to prove his strength, and simply being a Marine will earn him the respect he needed.
When he enlisted into the Marine Corps, Holmes was looking for a way to change his life. Holmes wanted to become a stronger more independent person who was able to support his family and make them proud.
Holmes was unaware he would have the chance to try out for the Marine Corps boxing team. Now he looks forward to try-outs and possibly regaining his opportunity to participate in the 2008 Olympics.