There are many life stories throughout history of individuals who have overcome adversity and long odds only to ultimately find redemption and vindication. These stories tend to inspire us and give us hope and restore our faith in humanity. Perhaps no story typifies the redemption story like the story of Dewey Bozella who after 26 years of false imprisonment not only walked out of prison a free man cleared of his crime, but went on to win his first professional boxing match at age 52.
Dewey Bozella was born to a troubled family and certainly was no stranger to hard times. At the age of 9 Dewey saw his father beat his pregnant mother to death. As one of 9 siblings Dewey saw one of his older brothers stabbed to death with a kife through the heart and another brother killed with a gunshot to the head. He had a third brother who died of AIDS. By 1977 Dewey was 18, had lived in multiple foster homes and ran with a rough street crowd.
While he was 18 Dewey was suspected of breaking into the home of a 92-year old woman and killing her. Although there were no fingerprints, no DNA, no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence, Dewey was convicted of the murder and was sentenced to 20 to life. Over the years informants who testified to Dewey’s guilt recanted and admitted to lying at trial, and prosecutors admitted to withholding evidence that proved Dewey’s innocence. Dewey wrote to the Innocence every week to no avail. Even with a new trial in 1990 Dewey still could not earn his freedom. 4 times Dewey came before the parole board and could have been freed if he would admit his guilt. Dewey refused to do it and continued to serve out his sentence. It was not until the law firm of WilmerHale agreed to take his case that Dewey’s case was overturned in 2009.
Many in prison spend most of their time trying to stay out of trouble and survive. Dewey however used his time to improve himself in every way. While in Sing, Sing Dewey earned both a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree as well as 52 individual certificates. With an amateur boxing background prior to his incarceration, Dewey also worked tirelessly to perfect his fighting skills and eventually became the prison light heavyweight boxing champion.
Upon his 2009 release from prison Dewey had the opportunity to take many paths to shape the rest of his life. True to his character, Dewey took the high road. He got a job at a local New York gym; teaching kids both how to box and how to stay out of trouble. Certainly understanding the time that can be lost to long-term incarceration, Dewey was the perfect candidate to teach youth to stay away from gangs, drugs and street crime.
In addition to helping the kids follow their dreams in boxing, Dewey pursued his own boxing dream.
On October 15, 2011 Dewey Bozella finally got his opportunity to “start” his boxing career on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson title fight. At age 52 Dewey decisively won a 4-round bout against Larry Hopkins, proving that you are never too old to fulfill your dreams. Mr. Bozella may not go on to become heavyweight champion, but he is already a champion and a hero in the eyes of many, including ESPN who earlier in 2011 awarded him with the Espy for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Dewey Bozella epitomizes the will of a man who never gives up. Certainly he knew the odds were stacked against him, but he fought anyway. He didn't have the resources to fight the legal system, but he fought anyway. Life dealt him a terrible hand, but he fought anyway. The thing that makes him truly inspirational is that after he fought (and won) his freedom, he used that freedom to pursue a dream.
Dewey took lemons and made lemonade. The one thing you have in prison is time, and Dewey used his wisely. Building his body and perfecting his physical talent, Dewey became the prison light heavyweight champion. Perfecting his mind, Dewey earned both a Bachelors and Masters degree as wels as 52 additional education certificates.
As a man who lost so much time in his life, he still selflessly spends his time trying to inspire and encourage others. Reasonable people can debate whether prison rehabilitates or destroys men, but we do know that prison did not break Dewey Bozella.
"The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs". - Dewey Bozella quoting legendary trainer Cus D'Amato at the 2011 Espy Awards
To read more about the amazing details of Dewey Bozella's story, please read this ESPN article "Dewey Bozella's Fight for Justice".
To find out more about his new project to help children, The Dewey Bozella Foundation, please visit the official website www.deweybozella.com.
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