OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) — To some, boxing is a brutal sport. To pugilistic purists, it’s the “sweet science.” For one local aspiring fighter, the ring offers a refuge from a devastating disorder that he deals with on a daily basis.
CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke has the touching story of the Marquette University student who is using boxing as a way to fight the effects of Tourette’s Syndrome.
The Golden Gloves on Saturday will be J.P D’Amico’s first big fight in the ring, but he’s been fighting a much tougher opponent his whole life.
The 20-year-old Oak Park native is trying to beat a severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome through boxing.
“I’ve had vocal tics, I’ve had slight eye movements, that my eyes vibrate,” he said. “Huge twitches, where I pop my arm out really fast and hard,” he said. “Things hurt. I couldn’t walk straight because of the eye moving one.”
“The first one I noticed was the eye movements, and then there was this shoulder shrug, and then there was a lot of arm flinging out,” his mother MK Maloney said. “I, in my wildest dreams, would never have thought that he would be capable of boxing.”
That’s because, when he was little, he endured so much physical therapy and was ostracized at school. Boxing has helped him heal.
“I’ve been shunned, bullied, beat up,” D’Amico said. “I was really kind of going just to get all that anger out, and then as I kind of figured out the sport … I started healing emotionally.”
Ever since J.P started boxing 14 months ago at a club near Marquette University, where he is a junior, he’s seen a big reduction in his tics.
“It’s really this ultra focus you have on the sport. It channels all that extra stress, all that extra energy and emotion that kind of makes those tics happen,” he said. “It gives you control over it, rather than it having control over you.”
He said he doesn’t really have any tics when he’s boxing
Dr. Theresa Schultz said she believes there is a correlation between D’Amico’s boxing and his reduction in tics from Tourette’s.
“I think there is a relationship,” she said. “The amount of concentration and focus, and just all of the cognitive resources he has to bring to bear, as well as physical expertise, really are quite extraordinary. And then, that you see the tics subside.”
D’Amico also loves to play the bagpipes, but his passion is boxing and working with kids who have Tourette’s. He volunteers at a camp every year and has set up his own foundation.
“My goal is to make sure that every single child who has Tourette’s and went through the stuff that I went through, you know, they can jump back up and really come out even stronger than they were before,” he said.
D’Amico is 4-1 so far as a novice welterweight. Despite the stereotype that people who suffer from Tourette’s uncontrollably shout out profanities, only 2 percent of those with Tourette’s have such tics. D’Amico has no such problems.