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John Howard on Autism Spectrum Diagnosis: "I Realized This Explains a Lot About My Past"

"ONE. TWO. THREE. Four." John Howard snaps his fingers as his feet begin to move in time with his counting. He's in workout gear, positioned sturdily next to the boxing ring, his thick-legged physique crouched with fists in front of his face. But Howard is not sparring. He's dancing. His finger snapping stays in unison as the step-step-step-stepping picks up its tempo.


It's a brisk and sunny Friday in late September and Howard is putting on a demonstration at the gym outside Boston where he trains. The no-frills facility, tucked in the rear of a nondescript industrial complex in the 'burbs, is empty other than Howard, his coach, a visitor and the craggy mugs of fighter portraits staring down from the walls. It might appear at first that the 36-year-old mixed martial artist is showing off his footwork, but a deeper look reveals that the man known as "Doomsday" is going for something more existential. Howard is offering up insight into what feels natural for him and always has.

"To me, fighting is nothing but a dance, a repetitive dance," he says. "Once I realized that, it came easy to me, because it was just numbers." He gestures to his left. "If my opponent moves that way, I recalculate the number of steps needed to position me within range." Drilling the standup technique all by himself, he throws a straight right hand into the air in front of him to allow his explanation to sink in. "I'm just doing the math."

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