BALTIMORE — The UMAR boxing program is a staple in Baltimore City.
It’s known for making sure kids take school seriously while they learn how to box. The owner, Marvin McDowell, always had Dennis “Coach D” James by his side.
“I could depend on him for anything,” McDowell said. “He was always there.”
Sadly, Coach D passed away this week and tonight thousands of young people that he touched are mourning the enormous loss.
Coach D embodied everything that is UMAR Boxing.
That means getting kids ready for when they are inside the ring and being in their corner for everything else.
Coach McDowell considered him a brother.
He says he touched thousands of kids and he’s never met anyone who had something negative to say about Coach D.
“He was like a big teddy bear and he had the patience to work with anyone,” McDowell said. “He would teach anyone. He loved teaching and he loved the kids. That’s the kind of people that we need in this city to change the scheme of things in this city.”
For more than five decades he coached everyone from California to UMAR boxing which he called home for years.
“All the kids, he spoiled all the kids,” said Ronnie Boodoo. “We all have our own personalities. We could never match him with that. He spoiled them to the point where if he ever asked them to do anything they have no choice but to do it.”
Cancer caused his body to break down and he passed away last Wednesday.
“This is Coach D’s god daughter.”
The kids he trained were his family, including Ahmad Jones who named coach D as his daughter's godfather.
“He took me off the streets and motivated me a lot to get to where I’m at now,” Jones said. “Without him or Coach Marvin as far as my dedication and motivation to come to the gym and train everyday.”
Jasmine Garland considers Coach D and Coach McDowell as father figures.
“I didn’t know what a real man was until I met them two,” Garland said. “When I was talking to Coach D he would ask me about more than boxing. What I want to do with my life if boxing doesn’t work out because boxing isn’t for everybody.”
For Dominick Robinson, Coach D was a welcome face for a guy from out of town.
“I’m seeing the work that they are putting in for free in this community with these kids every day in this heat,”Robinson said.
The viewing is Thursday June 17th at March Funeral Home at 4300 Wabash Avenue at 3pm with the funeral the next day.
The "No Hooks Before Books" program went virtual this year, but McDowell is hopeful to get the program going in person again for the start of next year.