Dante Kirkman is a professional boxer, influencer, visual artist, creative writer, and student at Stanford University.
When did your passion for boxing begin?
I’ve been boxing since I was 10 years old. I’m 21 now, so I’ve been training for 11 years. What really got me into boxing was my father. He was an amateur boxer. He had about 15 fights, but he introduced me to the sport and ever since then I’ve been in love with it. I actually just received my first professional offer, but at the moment, I’m gonna stick to the amateur journey and continue to push for the Olympic trials.
Did anyone in your childhood inspire you to become one of the greats?
For me, it’s gotta be Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward. Both of those fighters were introduced to me through my father. So, Floyd was an undefeated fighter, an amazing fighter in the ring, but also was a great businessman out of the ring, which got me thinking about what I want to do outside of the ring as well. It was funny, it actually led me to interning at Mayweather Productions in Las Vegas a couple summers ago where I got to work some cool events.
I actually met Andre Ward [in Vegas], who’s a Bay Area legend. He was a gold medalist, number one in the world for a period of time, so I got to meet him and we even sparred in a pro gym. Those are just great experiences that I’ll never forget.
You speak with a lot of passion in regard to your sport. Have you always had such a fire for boxing or is it something that’s developed over time?
Since I was 10, I always believed that through hard work, I could achieve whatever I wanted in the sport. I’ve had a world champion trainer, Eddie Croft, who’s always fed my hunger for the sport.
Along the journey of my career, I’ve gotten new goals and motivations to continue to work hard. Wanting to be nationally ranked was a goal that I achieved, training for Olympic trials is the next goal. I had also always had the goal of being the first African American professional boxer at Stanford since 1940, so when I got in, I worked hard and achieved that goal as well. Those have been great motivators and I’m excited to keep pursuing what I love.
You mentioned that you spent last summer in Germany sparring with professionals—can you tell me a little bit about your time abroad?
It was my first time going out of the country, which was cool in itself. So I was invited to spar in a camp with a pro who was preparing for a world title eliminator. It was great—for about a month I was getting different experiences from top pro international fighters from Germany and Russia.
Are your philosophy for boxing and your philosophy for life different? How do you strike the balance between the two?
Boxing has helped me in my everyday life: it showed that through hard work, I can achieve things that I want to achieve. Growing up I was never necessarily the fastest or hardest puncher, so it was really just me relying on the hard work that I put in the gym.
I’ve also taken that philosophy and applied it to my art or whatever I’ve been passionate about outside of the ring. The thought is basically,“Well, if I wanna do this, and if I work hard enough, it’s totally achievable.” I think that’s been my number one takeaway.
Do you find that there’s an intersection between art and athletics?
I think so! I’ve been interning at Mayweather Promotions and with USA Boxing doing ringside photography, writing blogs, social media stuff, et cetera, but I actually find that my art has helped me with my boxing in the sense that I’ve gotten to focus on things like the human body and spaces in and out of the ring. Basically, photography and visual art have helped me study details and nuances in the sport.
What drew you to Stanford?
I’m from Palo Alto and when you grow up around here, Stanford is always the dream school. I have an older brother who attended Stanford and he showed me that it was actually something that was achievable for me. My brother was a great role model for me; he’s a Forbes 30 under 30, so he’s always been a great inspiration. Dante’s brother is Tremaine Kirkman. In 2019, Tremaine co-founded Vori, a platform which helps supermarkets manage their inventories using data analytics.
Is your brother involved in boxing or athletics at all, or is that more your thing?
That’s just my thing. Dante laughs, clearly a point of pride.
Tell me a little bit about what you do at Mayweather Productions.
At the moment I help manage all social media accounts as well as writing blog posts and post fight writeups. I’ll fly out to press conferences, and conduct interviews for those as well. I got to cover one of Logan Paul’s fights, which was a very funny experience.
Ultimately I’m looking to continue with the company by working behind the scenes on the stuff that people don’t see. I’m trying to learn the business as well because I do believe as a fighter, I should know what’s going on, both for my own benefit and other fighters’ benefits.
Do you think that other athletes and individuals in high pressure environments could benefit from incorporating the arts into their lives?
I believe that we’re all creative and self-expression is good for our well-being. I also believe it helps me look at my sport from an outside, calming perspective. It’s nice to be around fighters and boxing but in an environment where it’s not so competitive and I can just appreciate it for what it is. I plan on turning professional in about a year, but alongside that I’m currently pursuing visual communications at Stanford, which ranges from photography to product design, so art will definitely be a big part of my future.
What advice do you have for young athletes?
Nothing is really guaranteed in your sport. You could get an injury tomorrow and you need something to fall back on. So I would really just make sure to keep up with both what you’re passionate about but also your education.
Is there anything that you attribute to being so motivated in all the aspects of your life?
For me, my purpose is to use my life to love and serve God. Don’t be afraid to have conversations about God or whatever your values are. Make sure to share your values because you can learn from other people. I was raised with God as an important figure in my life. It’s been helpful during difficult times in boxing, such as when I’ve had to take months off due to injuries or after a loss at a national tournament. It’s just helped me realize that everything happens for a reason and that in the end everything is going to always work out, which gives you a lot of peace of mind.
What are you most excited about for the future?
Competition. I’m also excited to announce that I’m gonna be doing a vlogging and blogging project visiting colleges that have boxing programs around the country. I’ll start on the West Coast with schools like Cal or UW, checking out their programs there and training there. Boxing is a year-round sport, so really just more of the same. Keep preparing for competition. There’s a saying in boxing—eat, sleep, boxing. As corny as it is, it’s true. It’s true.