You get the impression of controlled power, a fighter who carries himself like a gentleman. Eagle Scout and Army veteran, Jimmy Darwin of Jasper, age 23, is to compete in a Tough Man boxing competition at Asheville, North Carolina near the start of February.
Darwin began boxing in the Army at organized bouts between units. "Between platoons and companies," he said. "Things like that. Company fights."
He served as an Army specialist with the Third Infantry Division 324th Company out of Fort McPherson. A training exercise damaged an eardrum and put Darwin out of the service with a disability just three months before the scheduled end of his four-year enlistment. "I've probably lost about 60 percent of the hearing in my left ear," he said.
His training as a boxer began with instruction from his platoon sergeant in boot camp, Darwin said, where he learned hand-to-hand combat as a recruit. When he found he had a knack for it, Darwin sought extra training in hand-to-hand technique.
"Everybody is required to do some hand-to-hand," he said. "I just decided to pursue it a little further than everybody else did."
And he continued the pursuit after exiting the Army. "Once I got out of the military, I was training with Greg Gaddis and a few people over here at Bodyplex," Darwin said, "and at Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu in Holly Springs. Gaddis, he did a lot of Muay Thai, a lot of kick boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and a lot of Taekwondo," Darwin said.
Gaddis has more than a decade of experience training fighters in martial arts, Darwin said, and training with Gaddis has improved his fighting ability. In amateur cage fighting nearer Atlanta, Darwin managed to vanquish one opponent after another as they came against him.
"Cage fighting is actually mixed martial arts, where you're mixing all kinds of martial arts," he said. A cage fight takes place inside an octagon-shaped ring bound at the edges by chain-link fence with padding on the fence posts, he explained.
"The Tough Man [competition at Asheville] is strictly boxing," Darwin said. "And it's pretty much anybody that's willing to enter. There may be people with limited experience. There may be people with extensive experience. May be people that just walk in off the street."
Darwin's bouts in the Army involved boxing and mixed martial arts, he sad. "I'm used to doing more of a mixed martial arts style. I'm used to being able to throw kicks and put people on the ground. This will be the first strictly boxing competition that I'll be entered in."
A little outside his customary combat, this Tough Man Competition is to make sure his boxing skills are up to par before he ramps up into more competitive cage fighting, Darwin said. "My cage fighting before was more like training and in training facilities," he said. He hopes to move up into competition that pays prize money. Such prize fights in Georgia pay from $5,000 to $10,000 per fight, he said.
"Then, if your were assigned a contract with the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship], it'd be a six-figure contract, $100,000 if not more," Darwin said. "That would be extremely difficult [to secure such a contract]," he allowed. "Those are the fights you see on pay-per-view and stuff like that."
Darwin said the first place prize in his weight division at the Tough Man Competition in Asheville is to be $3,000. He will box in the up to 185 pound weight class.
"I fight three fights the first day, and the championship fights are the next day," he said. "You fight with an hour or two-hour break and then another fight," Darwin said. "There's 20 competitors in each weight class." He expects to fight both days.
Greg Gaddis will serve as his coach and corner man, patching Darwin between rounds. Darwin still seeks sponsors to cover lodging expense for fighter and coach as he goes to compete at Asheville.
"They would like for you to train at least one month before the event," Darwin said, "but there are actually some who sign up with just one week before the event."
His friend Josh Cantrell, who competed in a Tough Man Competition at Murphy, North Carolina last year, provided Darwin with some pointers. "What to expect; how the event's organized; what kind of fighting condition I need to be in and what kind of training I need to be doing, cardio and whatever; and the general fighting style of the people who participate," Darwin specified.
He said his goal in the ring is to remain calm and maintain his focus, countering any opponent's effort to throw intimidation his way. With calm and focus, he should be able to recall his training and put it to use, Darwin said.
"There are other people who get so excited they forget everything they know," he said. In battle, the mental element is as important as the physical––even more important, Darwin indicated. "It would definitely be everything," he said.
None of his family will be present to see Darwin fight the first day of the Tough Man Competition because his younger brother deploys to Iraq with the Army that same day. "I'm having to miss my brother's shipping out because of this fight," Darwin said. "That gives me a little more motivation to do good on it."
How do his parents feel about his fighting? "Mom just constantly tells me to be careful and not get hurt. Just being a mom, I guess," Darwin said. "Dad's all for it and supports me 100 percent."
Boxing bouts in a Tough Man Competition like the one at Asheville go for three quick rounds, each round of one-minute duration. Such fast fights call for instant aggression and little restraint.
"A lot can happen in one minute," Darwin said. "All of it has to do with your fighting style and how aggressive your opponent is. Aggression I guess is just part of it. I don't want to be too aggressive. I want to be able to fight smart and pick my shots."
Commonly you see fast multiple punches delivered rapid-fire, Darwin said. "Just speed in general––everybody trying to be as fast as they possibly can, everybody trying to hit as hard as they can. That's just part of boxing. I'm an extremely hard hitter and try to devastate my opponent with my striking power."
A panel of judges picks each fight's winner, Darwin said. "They're going on a point system based on strikes that are landed and things like that," he explained.
And his motivation for fighting?
"I'm more into doing it for myself more than anything," Darwin said. "It makes me feel accomplished."
It takes acquired skill and practiced discipline to win in the ring. And Darwin has been at it three years.
jeff warren can be reached at