Student punches through to success despite obstacles

David “Peanut” Willis, retired professional boxer and current GHC student at Cartersville campus, continues to aim for success after suffering a severe stroke six years ago.

Willis’ stroke left him unable to walk and talk, but he fought back by enrolling at Georgia Highlands where he majors in Psychology. These college level courses occupy Willis’ mind and allow connections with his brain to be rebuilt.

Since his enrollment, Willis has not only regained his basic motor skills but his gift of boxing as well.

During his youth, Willis was involved in many school fights and some even resulted in his contact with law enforcement.

This led Bill Kicklighter, former Cartersville police chief, to introduce Willis to boxing through the Police Athletic League rather than to take him to youth detention. It was an outlet for him to release his anger and energy.

To Willis’ excitement, he enjoyed boxing and carried on with it to make it his career.

David “Peanut” Willis poses in his uniform during his time as a boxer in this picture from his personal collection.  Contributed

David “Peanut” Willis poses in his uniform during his time as a boxer in this picture from his personal collection. Contributed

He went on to win state championships three times and traveled to countries such as Germany, Singapore and France just to name a few.

Willis said, “Boxing saved my life; it occupied my free time.”

Although Willis no longer fights professionally, he does utilize his 35 years of boxing experience as well as his 17 years of coaching experience to coach local youth and give back to the community.

Over the years, Willis has developed seven local state champions, three of which were girls. As a result, Willis plans to start a boxing club at the Cartersville campus.

Currently, Willis is working with Noah Paris, information technology specialist at the Cartersville campus and one of Willis’ boxing trainees, to get the organization off the ground. Paris believes he has progressed quickly with his boxing skills since working with Willis.

Paris stated, “Willis breaks it down to basic footwork, moving in all directions, and then building on top of that.

According to Paris, the boxing club will be a great addition to the college.

Sign-ups have started, and anyone interested should contact Paris at nparis@highlands.edu.