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Norman Goedecke crouched, leaning in closer with the cross-me-if-you-want-to stance of a junk yard dog, barking orders like a drill sergeant. He urged the boxer to up his game.

This boxer was a boy, so thin that he seemed ready to tip over any minute, overcome by the headgear and gloves. Instead, he skipped strategically on the balls of his feet and followed Goedecke’s orders. “Don’t rush in ... Jab, jab, jab! LISTEN to me!”

To learn more

For information, contact Legends Boxing, 29052 New Market Village Road, Mechanicsville, 240-587-1403, or legendsboxing3@gmail.com.

Goedecke opened Legends Boxing in Mechanicsville last month. Along with training amateurs and preparing professionals for matches, he plans to promote fights in the area. The events, he said, will be sanctioned by USA Boxing and are expected to begin this spring in Hughesville.

Goedecke took a break and excitedly phoned Thomas Snow, a 31-year-old, 115-pound, super-flyweight boxer, ranked 13th by the World Boxing Association, to head to the gym and show off his championship belts. “He’s going to be the headliner,” Goedecke said, making it clear that he hopes to earn notoriety as the major presence for the sport in Southern Maryland.

Snow, who said he’s also represented by boxing promoter Don King, eventually arrived, belt and family in tow, saying he was ready to fight as soon as the event is set.

That same night, Goedecke had about 10 boys and a couple of men in his gym. They threw their weight into punches against large, dangling bags, welded into the ceiling. A roped-off, 18-foot square engulfed the center of the room, the place where Goedecke and the young boxer worked on a sparring drill. “Light ’em up,” Goedecke said. “Catch that jab!”

“I love children. They’re my whole life,” Goedecke said. “I was on the street since I was 15. I know what it’s like not to feel loved.” So, it’s easy to mentor a child, he said. “I don’t want any other kid to have to feel the way I did.”

Most of the action at Legends happens on weeknights. Fathers bring their sons (and daughters are welcome), hoping they’ll learn discipline and self-defense.

Julio Quiros, who also has trained as a boxer, takes his son to Legends to help the teenager calm his emotions. It might sound counter-intuitive, but boxers say the last thing they should do is get angry. It’ll only lead to them forgetting the strategy they came into the ring to execute. That sense of calm, goal-setting and determination has translated to the classroom. In just about two weeks, Quiros said, he’s seen improvement in his son’s work ethic.

“My temper has gotten a lot better,” said John Quiros, 13. He’s working on not “getting an attitude,” not talking back to teachers, not getting into trouble.

And he’s lost 10 pounds in two weeks. “I’ve been sweating like crazy,” he said, giving “100 percent, 110 percent” every time he comes to the gym. He thanks his dad for introducing him to the sport. And, John said, “I’d like to do it, to be honest, for the rest of my life.”

Trying to avoid trouble is exactly how Goedecke said he got into boxing.

After growing up in and around Southeast Washington, the self-described “scrawny white boy” in a black neighborhood got tired of being the odd guy out, sometimes bullied, often disrespected.

“I needed to learn how to protect myself,” Goedecke said. “I took a few butt whippin’s before I could give ’em.”

But he trained. “I stuck with it,” he said. “I just studied it.” Watching films, fights. Once he learned to defend himself, Goedecke said, people didn’t see him as an outsider. He made friends. “I learned we all sleep the same, we eat the same, we bleed the same.”

Through the years, Goedecke says he’s survived gangs, suicide attempts and the loneliness that came from being isolated as a boy. His parents, German and French, came to Washington, D.C., in 1968. His father was a welder who eventually went to college and became an engineer.

His mother, Goedecke said, was a go-go dancer, who eventually remarried. That man, Herbert Lee, “took over and kind of mentored me,” Goedecke said. “He became my father.”

Goedecke, a plumber by day, said he’s saved a large portion of his earnings to build Legends. He lives on the waterfront in Mechanicsville and he’s spent the years raising five children.

At the gym his son, Vinny, also known as “Little G,” demonstrates his footwork, with the same crouch his dad had in the ring. Then, with an quick, agile pivot on the ball of one foot, guard up, the 12-year-old spun out clockwise to dodge an imaginary punch.

Vinny said he thinks of boxing when he’s not in the ring, imagining how to outwit his opponents and blocking out other thoughts. “If your mind is focused on winning, then your mind is going to control the fight, and you’re going to win,” he said.

Goedecke said he’s most protective of his young boxers and wants them to know boxing is a metaphor for life. As his eyes zero in and his voice booms, his attention is on nothing else and it seems that part of Goedecke fades away because he gives it to the kid he’s training.

Follow instructions, he says. “Get back up and do it again.” If they lose one day, they can come back and win the next. “Most bruises and broken bones heal over time,” Goedecke said. He teaches the boxers to have a plan: self-defense first, protect themselves with head gear. And, they don’t get in the ring until he says they’re ready.

He has his 13-year-old daughter, who he says is also a science whiz, donning gloves. “She fights guys. I don’t even let her fight other girls,” he said. “She can take care of herself.”

Somewhere amid all the intensity, Goedecke finds time to be a husband, married about 13 years. And, he still trains for fights. He’s a middleweight, describing himself as 6 feet tall, 185 pounds. “But I fight at 165 pounds,” Goedecke said.

He begins a normal training day with a two-mile run. Stretching. Pivots, rotations. Three three-minute rounds on the heavy bag, then on the smaller speed bag, for a total of nine minutes on each bag. Jumping rope, shadow boxing and sparring with another boxer. Push-ups, sit-ups, arm hang crunches, where he dangles from the arms and brings his legs up to his chest, then some light weightlifting. “In boxing, you don’t want to get too bulky,” Goedecke said. “You become like a robot.”

He stays hydrated, and for events, sometimes hires a nurse to inject him with a saline solution. When he’s training for a match, Goedecke said he triples the exercise regimen. It’s a lifestyle that’s helped save him, one he can’t get enough of.

“There’s no better shape in the world than a boxer,” Goedecke said. “When I leave the gym, I feel excellent. Wonderful. Everyday, I wake up at the age of 44 and I feel like 18.”

He’s not saying he’s a saint. He’s had a few run-ins with the law, such as reckless endangerment while driving in 2009. An officer reportedly said Goedecke blew right past him. Recently, Goedecke explained that his father had just died and, “I went nuts. I lost my mind for a while.” About a year earlier, he faced an assault charge. The report said witnesses saw him with a gun and heard it fire. Goedecke said he was defending himself against several young men disrespecting him in his own home.

Now, Goedecke said, he’s changing his life for the positive, like many others have done in the boxing arena. “I’ve totally turned my life over to God ... Now, I’m trying to give back to the community what I took.”

nclark@somdnews.com