"SWIM BUT DON'T GET WET!" My all time favorite boxing metaphors

Throughout the years I have heard a lot of great metaphors that boxing trainers and commentators have used. Whether it is to get a point across or for pure entertainment purposes, boxing metaphors can be very effective.

Boxing metaphors are also very useful as prompts to quickly remind a boxer of a technique in the shortest amount of time possible. I use metaphors during drills, sparring, and while I work a fighter's corner. Here are my all time top boxing metaphors.


The basic boxing stance consists of keeping your hands up, elbows in, chin down, and eyes up. While keeping your hands up, you place your jab hand in front of your face at nose level while keeping your rear hand by your chin. You keep your hand by your chin as if your are "talking on the phone."

The great Olympic boxing coach, Candelario Lopez, turned me on to this metaphor. I constantly use it as a prompt to boxers during training. I would yell, "Talk on the phone! Talk on the phone!" It is an excellent tool to remind boxers if I catch their rear hand dropping, exposing the chin.


Teddy Atlas is not only one of the greatest trainers of all time, he is also an absolute master at communicating his game plan to his fighters. When referring to body shots, he would always say, “Bang that drum” or “Put some water in the basement.”

Teddy would also recommend “Investing" or “Putting some stock in the body.” That means breaking down your opponent to the body in the early rounds so he could be incredibly fatigued later in the fight. As an inside fighter, I appreciate how well Teddy can paint the picture.


There are many styles boxers use when engaging one another in the sweet science. Some boxers fight on the inside, meaning they move in at close proximity, banging the head and body with combination punches. Others like to use lateral movement, circling left to right while working the jab to set up the big rights and lefts.

When two inside fighters are exchanging punches, it resembles as if they are fighting in a telephone booth. Telephone booth is a drill I use for two fighters to shadow box with each other on the inside so they could get comfortable with that particular style. When a boxer is successful in boxing on the outside, I tell him to stay "on his bicycle" or yell out "Twinkle toes!!"


In life, the harder you work, the better you will get. It is true but it can be misleading, especially in the sports realm. Many athletes work out two to three times a day, seven days a week, with little to no rest. It is especially hard on the body when weight is a concern and an athlete has to shed several pounds before competition.

Once that occurs, you "leave it all in the gym" and do not have anything else left in the fight even before it starts. You may look fit, strong, and lean on the outside. But in reality, you're nothing but an "empty can" when you step into the ring. The empty can metaphor is a very important lesson in boxing. Always get your rest. If not, you will pay for it later.


The golden rule in boxing is to hit and not get hit. I remember seeing the great Nazim Richardson working World Champion Sugar Shane Mosley’s corner during one of his title fights. After giving Mosley some tips in between rounds, he said something to Mosley I will never forget. Richardson said, “Swim but don’t get wet.” That description of the boxing golden rule has stayed with me to this day. Such a brilliant way of getting the point across.

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