Dorian Bostic, known as "the educated boxer," will fight May 25, in Charlotte. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)
It seems only fitting that UMAR Boxing, a gym in West Baltimore that pointedly insists, “No hooks before books,” is the base for “The Educated Boxer.”
Dorian Bostic earned a diploma from Patterson High, an associate’s degree from CCBC Essex, a bachelor’s degree from Coppin State and a master’s degree from the University of Baltimore, and is studying for his doctorate in human services administration at online college Walden University. Now he has set his sights on accomplishing a first in the ring.
“I will be the first African American Ph.D. that’s a world champion in boxing,” Bostic vowed. “We’ve never seen it before, but you’re looking at him. I’m speaking it into existence.”
Bostic’s first step toward that goal begins Saturday, when he makes his professional debut in Charlotte, N.C. Fighting as a lightweight, he will tangle with 20-year-old Geral Thomas, listed at 6 feet 1 and 135 pounds, of North Carolina.
“I will say I’m a little nervous,” the 5-8 Bostic said, adding he has to shed a few pounds to get to the weight class’ 135-pound limit. “I won’t say too anxious because it’s going to come. I just know that I’m going to win by any means necessary. So I’m not really worried about anything.”
Bostic’s confidence stems from the obstacles he had to overcome to reach this stage in his life. Born and raised initially in South Carolina, Bostic, 31, said he can’t remember when he moved to East Baltimore with his parents, Michael Watson and Lisa Bostic.
But when his father moved to North Carolina and his mother turned to alcohol and drugs, Bostic entered the foster care system and bounced around, sleeping on friends’ couches. When he was a teenager, Bostic’s father was sentenced to prison in South Carolina to serve 30 years for manslaughter.
“Before my father was incarcerated, he was trying to be a better parent,” Bostic said. “He was trying to do right by me. Whenever he had it, he would get me top-of-the-line [items]. He tried to spoil me in his own way, but my mother, I think, she just couldn’t overcome her substance abuse issues. I actually remember my dad showing and trying not to let them put me in the [foster care] system.”
Bostic, who now works part-time as an assistant social worker at a rehabilitation center, said he has witnessed too many family members and neighbors overdose on drugs and too many friends die prematurely.
“These things, I was witnessing as early as elementary school,” he said. “I feel like my gift and my curse is my memory, my brain because I’m ‘The Educated Boxer,’ and I have several college degrees. But then there’s this part that I can still remember and harbor all this pain from my childhood.”
Bouncing around from family to family, Bostic found some semblance of stability in sports, participating in football, basketball, wrestling and track and field at Patterson. Roger Wrenn, the former football coach at Patterson for 32 years, recalled football providing structure for youth such as Bostic.
“There are kids that sort of run out of school as soon as it’s over, and then there are kids that come to practice and then when practice is over, they want to hang around the gym,” Wrenn said, adding his wife, Linda, brought Bostic an apple or orange every day after he told her he didn’t get enough fruit at home. “You just kind of get the feeling that they’re a lot happier to be here hanging out than on the way home and getting to where they get. Dorian was one of those gym-rat kind of guys.”
A scatback who once rushed for 164 yards as a Patterson senior in 2005, Bostic initially enrolled at Frostburg State. But he left the Western Maryland university before eventually deciding to return to school at CCBC Essex.
I feel like my gift and my curse is my memory ... But then there’s this part that I can still remember and harbor all this pain from my childhood.
Boxer Dorian Bostic
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“I just wanted to change my situation, and I think that’s where the education part comes in,” he said. “I was like, ‘You know what? Just do it all. Do whatever it takes to get me out of the hood and break my generational curses,’ because like I said, I’m the only one that’s like this. I’m the only man in my family — whether it’s my mother’s side or my father’s side — that’s doing what I’m doing.”
Bostic said he was 19 or 20 years old when he got involved in boxing.
“I was told that I wouldn’t be good at it,” he said with a grin. “So I love a challenge. Just people being negative because my thing is, I was told I wouldn’t be surviving in life. So who are you to tell me that I’m not going to be good at something?”
Bostic, who won a United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association title at 141 pounds in 2017, said he began to pursue boxing when he held his own against better boxers. He said the mental challenge of defeating an opponent appeals most to him.
“I enjoy the thinking aspect of it because that’s where I feel like my advantages are,” he said. “I feel like I’m really smart. Most humans don’t use both sides of their brains, and boxing is like chess, and it makes people use both sides of their brains. So I feel like that’s my advantage, to be able to think and to add different styles.”
His trainer, Marvin McDowell, said it has taken Bostic some time to absorb the nuances of boxing.
“He was raw, and to tell you the truth, he’s still kind of raw,” McDowell said, adding Bostic’s punching power is his greatest asset. “But he has really improved since I’ve had more time to work with him personally. He’s really picking it up, and he’s really ready for this fight. I think he’ll get a knockout.”
Bostic said his late start in the sport might actually be a blessing.
“Sometimes you’ll see kids with 100 or 200 amateur fights, [and] they get burnt out pretty easily,” he said. “It’s just like, ‘All right, I’m tired of fighting.’ With me, I’m fresh. … Even if I wasn’t so-called ‘old’ in this sport, I still would be in prime shape. I still would be working out because I believe that wealth is health.”
McDowell, who said Bostic had an amateur record of 18-7, said he has not seen Bostic crumble under the weight of his past.
“We’re talking about stuff like being successful. We don’t really dwell on the past because that’s what it is — the past,” McDowell said. “He’s got a future, and he’s just looking forward to the future.”
Bostic’s manager, Luis Navas-Migueloa, started a GoFundMe page to help offset the cost of expenses for the fight, and as of Wednesday it had raised about $2,500 toward their $3,000 goal.
Wrenn, the former Patterson football coach, said Bostic was always driven to succeed.
“I know that he has the work ethic that certainly won’t take a backseat to anybody,” Wrenn said. “He’ll give his best and he’ll give his all, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was prominent in the world of boxing. … I’m sure he’ll do well, and certainly I’ll be rooting for him.”
Bostic said he is eager to get in the ring against Thompson, who is seeking his first win in four bouts as a professional. Despite some nerves, Bostic figures instinct will take over when the opening bell rings.
“You just do what you’re taught,” he said. “I’ve been with UMAR for a while. So you just do what you’re taught. It’s almost like second nature. I’ve been fighting inside and outside the ring my entire life. So this is nothing new of a battle. I’ve fought hard to get to this point where I’m at, and this is just the beginning of something special.”