THE BROKEN bones have healed. He no longer is confined to a wheelchair. But the wounds to Rock Allen's mind and spirit aren't quite as visible, and they continue to hurt him in ways that may be beyond absolute repair.
Allen, the North Philadelphian who was the 140-pound representative on the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing team that competed in Athens, Greece, was 15-0 with seven knockouts as a professional when he was involved in a horrific automobile accident on June 7, 2011, that nearly killed him.
He has not fought since he scored a unanimous, six-round decision over Adan Hernandez on April 10, 2009, in Tucson, Ariz., and, although he has not officially announced his retirement from boxing, it seems highly likely that he never again will be seen doing his thing in the ring.
The one-time amateur phenom, who along with his identical twin brother, Tiger, were once considered to be future world champions, turns 32 on Sept. 5. His age, long stretch of inactivity and medical history strongly suggest that Rock's window of opportunity to fulfill his vast potential has slammed permanently shut.
It is virtually certain that Rock Allen will not be in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall tomorrow night, when two fighters he defeated at the 2004 Olympic Boxing Trials and Box-offs, Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander - now world champs - appear in separate Showtime-televised bouts. Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs) takes on Argentina's hard-punching Lucas Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs) in a 12-round catchweight bout in which Peterson's WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles will not be on the line, while Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) defends his IBF welterweight crown against England's Lee Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KOs).
"He's seeing guys that he beat go on with their careers, and they're the faces of their respective divisions right now," said Allen's father and trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson, best known these days as the trainer of ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins, the IBF light-heavyweight champion who at 48 is the oldest man ever to win a widely recognized world title. "And it's not just Lamont and Alexander. It's [world-ranked contenders Marcos] Maidana and [Breidis] Prescott, too. You don't think it bothers him that he won't - can't - be where they are? It does, man. It hurts.
"It's like when I talk to him about his old girlfriend. I said, 'Look, Rock, if you sit there and dwell on it, it'll tear you down. You need to spend more time thinking positive things and not so much about negative stuff.' Time is what you make of it, and right now time is destroying my son. But it shouldn't be like that. What happened, happened. Maybe it happened because God has a different purpose for him.
"You got to move on because if you don't, if you live in the past, it can only bring you down. Rock works here and there, but mostly he just works at being Rock. He has to know he's out of it. He's on the Internet all day, every day, but he doesn't keep up with boxing. When somebody asks about him and I tell him about it, he says, 'Why are they interested in me? They should be talking about Dynamite. He can fight his ass off. [Karl 'Dynamite' Dargan, Rock's cousin, is 13-0 with seven KOs as a lightweight.] I say, 'Yeah, Rock, but the world is always interested in a story, and you're still a story.' "
It is a story that, post-accident, the semi-reclusive Rock - who did not make himself available for comment - would rather not discuss any more. But once, he did reference the night his life changed amid a tangle of twisted steel and torn flesh.
Tiger, who retired from boxing with a 3-0 record in 2007, was behind the wheel, ferrying Rock to a date with a woman he considered the love of his life. But although Tiger was badly injured, bad enough to spend 3 weeks in the hospital, Rock was hospitalized for 3 months, much of that time in a coma, and he spent many months after that convalescing.
"They told me I had a bad head injury," he said in an article that appeared in the Daily News in December 2011. "They told me both my legs were broken, my right leg in two different places. I had a broken lower spine, broken ribs. Pretty much everything below my chest was damaged or broken."
The good news is that Rock eventually was able to rise from his wheelchair, which is more than can be said of Paul Williams, the former WBO welterweight champion who was left paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a severe spinal-cord injury in a motorcycle crash in May 2012.
But while Rock walking again is undeniably a blessing, it comes with the knowledge that his legs may no longer enable him to glide gracefully around the ring, or his body unable to withstand the punishment any boxer must accept in the plying of his trade. Not only that, but the girlfriend with whom Rock had hoped to spend the rest of his life bailed after his accident.
"Paul Williams can sit there in his wheelchair and says he accepts it and who knows, maybe he does," Richardson said. "But when most people say it, they're lying. Great spirit, my butt. We can pretend real hard and say stuff to inspire other people, but there's no way to feel good about not being able to do what you love and what you do best. Rock can say he's pulling for Lamont and Alexander, but you know he has to be thinking, 'I used to handle these dudes.'
"Sometimes I find him watching a fight on TV, but I don't press him about it. I know how I feel about it and I know how his mother feels about it, so I can only imagine how he feels. Everybody is telling him he ought to be a trainer, but I say it's better to let him go at his own pace. If it's meant to be, it'll be. But if it isn't meant to be, let him find something he finds interesting and fulfilling. This kid never had a normal job. Boxing was his life."
For their part, Peterson and Alexander profess compassion for Allen, who put an end to their Olympic dreams in 2004. Rock - who, after a first-round bye in Athens, lost to eventual bronze medalist Boris Georgiev of Bulgaria in the second round - defeated Alexander at the Trials on a tiebreaker after their computer-scored bout ended in a 16-16 standoff. He then outscored Peterson, who had beaten Alexander in the consolation-bracket final, by a 27-12 margin in the Box-offs.
"I offered my condolences in some of the interviews I did after I heard about his accident," Alexander said when asked about Allen. "It just goes to show how a life can turn. He did beat me at the Olympic Trials and, of course, I did want to get back at him for that. But I've moved on."
Peterson, who was 1-4 in the amateurs against Allen, said much the same thing.
"A lot of things that you want and expect never happen," he said. "I hope Rock has a full recovery. I did talk to his father once or twice last year and he gave me an update on him. I'm sad he won't be able to continue his career because he really could fight. But the main thing is that he's alive."