Communicating During a Boxing Match

Communication is critical in most aspects of life, and boxing’s no different. Familiarizing yourself with the various forms of communication maximizes both your personal safety and chances of winning. Solid trainer-to-boxer communication improves overall performance, while referee-to-boxer communication increases general safety. This guide discusses what to expect when it comes to in-ring interactions during an amateur boxing match.

Interaction with Your Trainer

Communication between you and your trainer begins way before you step foot in the ring. Each trainer has his own nuances, and your everyday interaction will inevitably lead to a comfortable, clear, and trustworthy relationship. Your trainer’s knowledge and communication system will be familiar once fight day arrives.

One such example of a clear communication system is punch numbering. Nearly all trainers agree on labeling the jab as “one,” the cross as “two,” and the hook with the lead hand as “three.” The numbering of the remaining punches — such as uppercuts — differs slightly among various trainers.

In some cases, trainers number combinations. A one-two-three combo might be labeled “combo one,” while a jab, jab, cross combo could be labeled as “combo two.” You and your trainer need to develop an easy numbering system so that communication is clear and concise throughout each round.

Trainers also offer advice in between rounds. Your trainer should focus on a few key points rather than overwhelm you with information. It’s much easier to concentrate on clear-cut, specific tips — especially when you’re exhausted. For example, a trainer may highlight an opponent’s weakness that should be exploited, or remind you to stay off the ropes throughout the next round.

Faces of Boxing: Freddie Roach

Date of Birth: March 5, 1960

Place of Birth: Dedham, Massachusetts

Pro Record: 40-13

Current Profession: Trainer

Getting to know Roach: Freddie Roach was a contender at the peak of his own pro boxing career, until an early onset of Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire in 1986. He quickly reemerged as a trainer and worked his way up the ranks, training nearly 30 world champions. He is widely considered to be the best trainer in the world. In fact, he’s already been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

Understand the Referee

The referee is the manager of the ring. He has the power to determine how much holding may take place on the inside and how lenient to be with cautions, warnings, and standing-eight counts.

Cooperation begins prior to the fight. The referee goes to each fighter’s corner to check their gloves, no-foul protector, and headgear — you should follow all of his instructions. Both fighters are then brought to the center of the ring to touch gloves. The referee states, “obey my commands,” which is a final reminder to be attentive throughout the match.

At the amateur level, a referee’s top priority is to keep competitors safe. The “standing-eight count” is one of the most notable ways for the referee to ensure safety. A standing-eight occurs when:

  1. A boxer is knocked down.
  2. The referee feels as though a boxer has taken a particularly hard shot or sustained a barrage of punches that have left him stunned.

If the official gives you a standing-eight, then respond calmly and coherently by holding your gloves next to your face and stepping towards the official. These actions make the referee aware that you’re capable of continuing. The referee counts aloud to eight while also signaling the count with his fingers. If you’re the one who delivered the blow, your responsibility is to walk to a neutral corner — designated by the white corner pads — until the count has finished.

Standing-eight counts do not contribute to scoring in any way. In fact, most trainers encourage their fighters to take a knee and receive a standing-eight when stunned or overwhelmed. The eight seconds allows a boxer to reorganize in these types of circumstances.

Fight hard, but play by the rules and always keep an open ear for the official. The referee will normally deduct points if you disobey his instructions at any point during a bout.

Focused, but Cognizant

During a bout, it’s important to be aware of your opponent, but you also need to pay attention to your trainer and the official. Stay focused on your game plan, but keep your ears open as well. Without proper communication skills, you’ll either lose important insight from your trainer or jeopardize your standing with the official.

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