CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you've ever seen the legendary movie Rocky, then you've probably heard the equally legendary quote: "Life's not about how hard of a hit you can give, it's about how many you can take and still keep moving forward."
Local combat fighter PJ Knox is the embodiment of that.
Knox is the nation's champion in the martial arts sport Muay Thai. That accomplishment did not happen overnight. It was a long, challenging journey.
When Knox left high school, he weighed 400 pounds.
"The doctor told me that I probably wouldn't be around too much longer," said Knox. "They said I was going to die by the age of 36."
His mother had the same thought.
"At his heaviest, I could have lost my son," said Alys Williams.
It was with that realization that Knox decided to make a change.
"I started kind of walking then I would run a mile or two," Knox said.
Over the span of years, Knox lost 150 pounds. He then found the sport of Muay Thai and proceeded to lose an additional 50.
This sounds like where the happy ending would be in Knox's story. There is one, it's just not finished yet.
On a day in October of 2019, Knox was training with his coach Kirk Hubble when things started to feel not right.
"We went out back behind the gym to where my truck was parked and I had him write some thoughts down," said Hubble. "He doesn't remember any of this but what he wrote down were just scribbles."
Knox was suffering from a stroke.
"He was going in and out of having strokes when we were going to the hospital," added Hubble.
Almost two years later and after his treatment, Knox is close to a full recovery. He decided to get back in the ring despite doubters and those who remained nervous about his health.
"The doctors said that I would never be able to fight again," Knox said.
"I won't lie and say I was completely on board," his mother added. "I was terrified."
But after no health scares, Knox continued to work.
Overcoming the doubters, Knox and Hubble traveled to Oklahoma on April 10 to compete in the national competition for Muay Thai. Knox won.
As his arm is raised into the air, Knox falls to his knees. Overcome with emotion, all he can do is put his face in his gloves and cry.
His coach, mentor and the person who saved his life are looking on from the ring.
"Man, it was a rush of emotion," said Hubble. "I tear up just thinking about it."
The first call he makes with his championship belt in hand was to his mother
"He calls me and says mom I won," she says. "I kind of just dropped to my knees and started crying."
Knox was crying in Oklahoma, his mom crying at home. It was an unbelievable, inexplicable journey for him to make it there.
Knox continues to train in the Coastal Bend as he hopes to continue his tear through the sport.
He also hopes to serve as an inspiration.
"Tell the world you can laugh now but I will laugh later," said Knox with a smile on his face. "You just have to want it."