Elite Boxing and Randy Dixon Partner with SWITCH Youth
Psychology student, college basketball player, and gang member. Randy Dixon was all three and not necessarily in that order.
In fact, Dixon paired what he had learned in psychology class with his innate court vision as a point guard in his role as a gang leader.
He also had another literally handy skill: boxing. Because other gang members knew he was good with his hands, Dixon didn’t reach for a gun to solve an immediate problem.
In retrospect, that probably saved him many times. Dixon also knew how to mentally spar without raising a hand. He says he’d sometimes let lower-level gang members slide on small missteps to keep them guessing.
“I knew human behavior,” he says.
Today, Dixon, 47, is putting all those skills to better use: He has his own gym, Elite Boxing, in Memphis’s Hickory Ridge Mall, and is a new partner in Memphis Allies’ SWITCH Youth program dedicated to reducing gun violence.
He trains kids as young as 8, but some of the teenagers he sees are living violent street lives. Dixon had balanced his student-athlete life at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., while a gang member.
“I was good at it,” he says of the gang life.
Or at least until he wasn’t. While saying he was fortunate to avoid prison, he rolls up his pants leg to show where he was once shot in the calf.
And then there’s that old story of a dope deal gone bad, evidence that his reading of human nature wasn’t perfect.
“It was my right hand that set it up,” Dixon says.
One of the statistics driving the gun violence in Memphis today – and a primary reason that Memphis Allies exists and seeks to intervene – is that on average one shooting leads to four more.
You have to meet them where they are. That’s where the disconnect comes in.
“I wanted to kill him,” Dixon says, recalling when he was ready to retaliate. “That’s the game. If I wanted to stay in the game, I had to kill him. So, I chose to get out.”
Now, in his gym and in nearby neighborhoods, Dixon is known simply as “Coach” or “OG.” He says the first thing he does when teens and young men come to his program – and many of them are without a father in their lives – is tell them that he loves them.
“Most of them have never heard that from a man.”
Dixon lived the dead-end life of a gun-toting gang member and managed to come through to the other side. He is an example of what’s possible, but now needs help to scale up his outreach.
All of this, says Memphis Allies Executive Director Susan Deason, makes Dixon an ideal community partner.
“A win-win,” Deason says.
So, Memphis Allies is providing resources, including a used van to help Dixon get SWITCH Youth participants and others back and forth to his gym.
Dixon, who started his Elite Performance Foundation in 2020, has kids coming from area schools, from juvenile court, and by old-fashioned word of mouth. He has a small board of directors and a psychiatrist who acts as a consultant as he works with young people on lessons to be learned outside the boxing ring.
“You have to meet them where they are. That’s where the disconnect comes in,” he says, adding, “Boxing gives you self-esteem and discipline.”
Dixon has three children of his own and his 18-year-old son, Iversinn, (and yes, the name was inspired by NBA legend Allen Iverson) is now the “right hand” he can trust, helping him at the gym.
Meantime, Dixon will continue speaking truth he has already lived, truth that he and Memphis Allies interventionists and life coaches can help young people take to heart.
“I’ve met a couple of gang leaders here,” Dixon says. “And my question to them is: `What’s your end game?’”