Breaking Boxing’s Code

By Charlie Snyder // // Feb. 15, 2003

The Titan Games have indeed presented a circus-like atmosphere. There’s a dude running around wearing a Dr. Suess-esque colorful hat with a microphone, rapping to the crowd over the PA system. Constant, pulsating music. Four stages of world-class athletic competition. It’s a sensory-overload. Half the time you don’t know what to look at next or what to think.

Then you hear a voice … a loud, booming voice that carries over the din.

It’s boxer Rock Allen’s dad, Naazin Richardson. He’s yelling instruction. And just about everyone sitting near Richardson, other parents, teammates, coaches, are yelling too.

But Richardson stands out. He is Rock’s coach and he’s louder then the rest.

“Up and down with the stick, baby!”

“You’re show, baby, we’re just visitin’!”

“Swim without getting wet.”

“That’s my dad’s ever-famous statement, “Swim without getting wet,” said Rock. “That means boxing without getting hit. That’s what boxing is really all about, scoring and not allowing the other guy to score.”

It’s your show and we’re just visiting?

“It’s your world; it’s your time to shine,” Rock explains. “This is your moment. We’re just here to support you basically.”

Up and down with the stick?

“That’s up and down with the jab. Up to the head with the jab, down to the body with the jab.”

Turn him and come back with it?

”That’s scoring first and turning either to your left or your right and then scoring again.”

In amateur boxing, you can’t coach from the corner. Richardson, who has trained amateurs and pros, including current middleweight world champion, Bernard Hopkins, says that forces you to become more creative with your commands from the stands.

“When I started out young, I had codes that I would yell to athletes, so the other people didn’t know what we were talking about. So if you just said, ‘Jab,’ well, the other corner’s looking for the jab now, so … everybody had their own systems.

But after time, even the codes become well known.

“The one that I’m famous for … probably every kid in the country knows me for yelling … some kids just walk up and that’s what they call me; they don’t even know my name … they just say, “Hey, Swim Without Getting Wet.’” You don’t even realize that other people are picking it up.

“That Olympic style boxing comes down to the basic common denominator I see in boxing is hitting without getting hit and that’s what I mean by ‘swimming without getting wet.’

I’m a big greedy guy. You want to eat and leave the table before the receipt comes. So I tell them, “Eat at the table and leave before the receipt.” And that’s basically, if you want to score, turn this guy … you don’t want to prove your stronger, you don’t want to prove you’re tougher … you don’t want to run, you just want to step back out of range, step back into range when you are ready and step back out of range.

“They’ll hear me to the kids, “Pop the chain,” which is really an indication to keep that jab snapping. I consider the jab to be like a big motorcycle chain with a big lock on the end of the fence and, if you pop that chain, it’s hard for a guy to get around it.

“I like sitting in the audience yelling at these kids and they understand me. Other people are looking at me, like, ‘what’s he talking about?’

But Mr. Richardson, you’re not the only one yelling. Isn’t it confusing?

“It’s confusing but the kids pick out the voice. Or what happens is you get the common denominator. When you hear me say, ‘Come on baby, let’s make that investment, go underneath and make that investment.’ You hear another guy say, ‘Go to the body, go to the body.’ You hear another guy say, ‘Left hand to the body, right hand to the body.’

“What the kid gets, “I think I better go to the body.”

“Sometimes you get a kid, who goes totally left field. We yell jab, he starts going to the body. We yell body, he starts throwing jabs. It gets to the point, you figure him out.

(thinking to himself) “He needs to throw a body shot … (yelling) Jab! Jab!”

The system is working. The U.S. boxers are 11-3 after two nights of Titan Games bouts, with two more sessions to go.

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