In This Corner: Dashawn Boatwright

by R. Pete Hatcher

You never know when the call is coming.  Staying ready for the call isn’t easy.  When it comes, your answer had better be “yes” and you’d better be ready to do work.  If you aren’t, it may not come again.  DaShawn Boatwright wasn’t just waiting for “the call”, he was just hoping the phone would ring again.  

Boatwright’s journey began as a stout 280-pound football player who fantasized about martial arts watching Dragon Ball Z.  That size and strength put him on the defensive line in high school and afterwards with the Virginia Vipers Semi-Pro football team.  The interest in martial arts put him in kick-boxing at DNA Fitness.  

At DNA one of the female students, Shamika Byars, was talking about an MMA class at American Family Fitness.  This peeked Boatwright’s interest, so he decided to check it out.  Little did he know, it wasn’t an ordinary big box gym MMA class.  It was taught by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and MMA Institute instructor Jacob Young.  As he watched Boatwright excel in the class, Young suggested he take the next step and encouraged Boatwright to visit MMA Institute.  Even though his first fight training class felt like a two-hour beating, he came back the next day and was encouraged by Head Coach Rick McCoy to continue.  

Before long, Boatwright began to test his skills in the cage.  He faired very well, winning his first four fights.  He continued gaining knowledge and cage experience, amassing a record of 6 wins and 3 losses before suffering an injury that led to a year and a half layoff.  The frustration from being inactive tested his patience and had him questioning his why.  He was at his limit and ready to call it quits.   

That’s when he started talking to D’Juan Owens.  Owens, a veteran MMA Professional and training partner at MMA Institute is a man on a mission, actually many missions.  Owens has spent years in Uganda teaching martial arts and focusing on gender-based violence prevention.  Owens told him fighting can provide a platform for a greater purpose.  It can provide you the opportunity to give and help others.  This resonated well with Boatwright, who was taught to pay it forward.  “My pops always told me, as soon as someone does something nice for you, go do something nice for someone else.  It’s your job to pay it forward” said Boatwright.  Whether it’s through DNA Fitness doing charity events and raising money, sponsoring food and toy drives or Boatwright dressing as the Black Panther and visiting school kids, he’s very giving of his time to help other.  

The talks with Owens continued and Boatwright stayed the course.  Finally, he got the callfor his professional debut. Much like his amateur career, his entrance into the professional ranks got off to an incredible start as he won his first three fights.  Unfortunately, a stressed IT band began a series of events that would sideline him for another eighteen-months.  Boatwright tried to remain optimistic that his professional mixed martial arts career would resume.  

Often, it’s not a matter of athletic prowess or a well-rounded MMA game, but the lack of opportunities to showcase those skills.  As time goes on, fighters must choose between a profession that only pays when you reach the big shows, versus a profession that simply pays the bills. Boatwright was no different, he continued to work a full-time job and punch the clock.  He kept training before and after work, during lunches and three-a-day routines when he was off.  He had waited for the callbefore and found himself waiting again.

Two months ago the phone rang and it was the callevery rising pro wants to receive. A call that was seven years in the making.  Persistence had finally paid off and Boatwright was heading to Vegas for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.  It was a short notice opportunity to face 6-0 Alonzo Minifield.  

Three weeks later, fight night arrived and Buck - the 400lb Silverbackwas about to be released.  He felt good.  He was loose and comfortable in the locker room.  He wasn’t nervous, didn’t have any butterflies.  He wanted to make the most of the call.  He wanted to make a statement and get the contract.  He was thinking head-kick.  The walkout music played and he headed out to the cage, gave his coach and hug and thought “this is where I belong.”  He entered the cage, gorilla charged across the canvas and got into position.  Everything was falling perfectly into place.  

The bell rang and the fight was on. The two combatants headed toward the center of the octagon and Boatwright immediately fired the head-kick. Minifield protected, countered and swarmed Boatwright.  He was trying to cover and get himself in a better position, but it was too late.  The referee stepped-in and it was over.

I asked Boatwright for his thoughts on the stoppage.  He quickly replied, “I shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. I was trying for the walk-off home run and should’ve let the fight come to me.”   Instead of making excuses or complaining about the ref, Boatwright showed his genuine, humble nature.  All he can do now is learn from the experience and charge forward.  His night may not have gone as planned, but it was enough to stoke his fire for a quick return.  He wants the feeling of competing at the highest level again soon.

On July 27thBuckis coming for redemption at LFA 46 in Fort Eustis, Virginia.  The journey will resume to provide DaShawn Boatwright a larger platform to deliver his message.  A message of care, compassion and good will for all. He said, “Doing something good for the 2-3 people closest to you is great.  But, imagine being able to spread the same message to millions and they all do something for the 2-3 people closest to them.” Boatwright continued, “Come on out to LFA watch the redemption fight.  And, if anyone does something good for you, make sure you pay it forward to someone else.”