On May 9, 1939, Boston was born in Laurel, Mississippi. He attended Tennessee State University, where he won the national collegiate long jump championship in 1960. During the same year, Boston broke Jesse Owens’ 25-year-old world record in the event at the Mt. SAC Relays. Already the world record holder, he broke it by jumping 27′ 1/2′′ at the Modesto Relays on May 27, 1961.
He later qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rome, where he won gold in the long jump, setting an Olympic record of 8.12 m (26 ft 7 12 in) and narrowly defeating American teammate Bo Roberson by a centimeter. From 1961 to 1966, Boston won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national championship in the long jump six times in a row. In 1963, he also had the longest triple jump for an American.
Boston moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, after retiring from competition, and worked as the University of Tennessee’s Coordinator of Minority Affairs and Assistant Dean of Students from 1968 to 1975. He was the field event reporter for CBS Sports Spectacular’s domestic track and field coverage. In 1974, he was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, and in 1985, he was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.