How a Professional Boxer Balances Bartending 40 Hours a Week, Three-Hour Workouts, and Maintaining a Plant-Based Diet

Photo courtesy of Stanton Communications.

Dante Cox spends a lot of time at the Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover. Not only does he work 40 hours a week as a bartender at the hotel’s restaurant the Prime Rib, he also trains and boxes professionally in the casino’s boxing series.

The 29-year-old Anne Arundel County resident got his start competing in mixed martial arts in Las Vegas before moving to DC in 2015 to pursue boxing. While Cox says he was initially nervous about getting in the game at a later age than most professional boxers, he’s found a good spot at the casino. (The restaurant even named a specialty cocktail after his boxing nickname, “The Red Comet.”)

“There is a special rush that comes from fighting in what is essentially your home,” he says. “My coworkers from all parts of the casino come to cheer me on. It’s like I’m the home team and it gives me an extra boost.”

Here’s how he gets it done:

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?B O O M? ? PHOTO ?: @lindseymerrellphotography

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“I’ve managed to find a balance between work outside the gym and work inside the gym. Both are really important to me. Depending on how late I worked the night before, I try to get to the gym by 9 AM and train until about noon. Sometimes I will go to another gym after my first session to do strength training before I clock into work at 4 PM.

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?WORK CALL? 10.18.19 ?

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“Most of the time, I don’t eat anything before going to the gym. I feel like I get the best out of my body training on an empty stomach. But I do like to eat, and I am very mindful about what I put into my body. I look to food as a source of fuel and always think about what it will do for my performance. Right now, my diet is 90-percent plant-based. My body feels cleaner and performs better with a diet heavy in fruits and veggies, both raw and cooked, with a lot of smoothies and shakes mixed in.

“One of my favorite smoothie combinations includes beets, coconut water, turmeric, and ginger, with some fruit to give it some sweetness. Beets reduce inflammation and are also a great pre-workout performance booster. When I’m working at the Prime Rib, one of my favorite things to eat is the Buzz’s Salad with romaine hearts, tomato, avocado, egg, Pecorino Romano, and a white balsamic vinaigrette.

“Right before a fight, I change my diet to prepare for the weigh-in. Just as I weigh my body, I weigh my food with a digital scale and eat a lot of sashimi and seaweed salad. These foods pack in a lot of healthy nutrients with little weight.

“I work 40 hours, ​four days a week at the restaurant. I get in around 3:30 PM to prepare the bar before we open at 5 PM. On weekdays, I work until around 11 PM, giving me plenty of time to rest before training at 9 AM the following morning. On weekends I work later, until 1 am, but I don’t train on Saturdays, so staying out late doesn’t affect my mornings too much. I still try to find time to have a little fun.

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“I exercise daily for boxing and incorporate strength training several times a week. For strength training, I do circuit-based body-weight activities and basic deadlifts. One of my favorite exercises currently is using the battle rope for a three-minute round of six exercises, each for 30 seconds. This is the same time as a boxing round, so if I can do the six exercises for three minutes, I know I’ll be in good shape come fight time. Cryotherapy is big part of my recovery process. It has the same anti-inflammatory benefits as an ice bath, but you don’t have to be in the cold for as long.

“Motivation isn’t hard to come by in boxing, especially if you want to be considered among the elite. Fighters you meet and train with always seem to be pushing themselves, trying to get to the next level. Ultimately, I feel if you want the best motivation, look in the mirror. Use yourself.

“​It’s important to have downtime in this balance of work and training. I really enjoy reading Japanese manga, watching anime, and getting some gaming in as well. I also had the chance to do some commenting on a WBGR broadcast of a casino boxing event and would love to do more of that in the future.

“Exercise and health have always been a huge part of my life. As a child, I spent a lot of time at the gym since my mother was a personal trainer. Fitness and wellness are two values I grew up with, and I’ve always tried to incorporate fitness into my life. Couple that with the fact that Bruce Lee was my childhood role model, so by the time I was a teen, my mind was made up.

“Starting at the late age of 19, I definitely had thoughts of it’s too late popping into my head. I decided to surround myself with strong-willed, motivated, and hardworking people, both in the gym and at the restaurant, and I have to say being in that environment has greatly impacted my growth as a boxer, despite the age at which I started.

“My biggest accomplishment has been getting started on this journey in the first place. I began my professional boxing career at a later age than most, but I didn’t let it affect my positive outlook and plans to have a great career in the sport.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.