Bernard Hopkins is training alongside wrongfully imprisoned former boxer Dewey Bozella as part of his preparation for the first defense of his WBC lightheavyweight crown against Chad Dawson on Oct. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Hopkins revealed to RingTV.com on Friday.
“I’m with this guy who is 50-something years old who served more than 20-something years in prison after being falsely accused of something that he didn’t do, and he’s inspired by what I overcame after being in prison for a short time,” said Hopkins, a former convict who began serving five years in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison for multiple offenses at the age of 17.
“Even though we’re training hard, and he’s sore, and I’m sore, you know, it’s just a blast. We’re really having a blast. With him being around me, and me being around him, it’s sort of me telling him that life is not over.”
A former amateur boxer who was born in 1959, Bozella was falsely convicted and imprisoned in 1983 for a murder he did not commit against an elderly woman. Bozella served 26 years before having his conviction overturned in 2009.
On July 13, 2011, Bozella’s life was chronicled in ESPN’s annual ESPY Award show in the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, where he was honored as the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Hopkins said that he is inspired by Bozella’s story and honored to serve as his mentor and surrogate boxing trainer.
“I mean, he reached out to me and I didn’t even know the guy. He’s been put up at a hotel here next to my condo in Philadelphia,” said Hopkins, who is 52-5-2 with 32 knockouts.
“ESPN has been here for three days now filming us, but this is far from being a distraction to me from what I’ve got to do. I mean, I’m just so glad to be a part of this man’s life.”
As the 46-year-old Hopkins trains to defend his belt against Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs), he said that working with Bozella has invigorated him to an even higher level.
“This is something that I’m motivated by heading into my fight on Oct. 15,” said Hopkins, who dethroned Jean Pascal (26-2, 1, 16 KOs) as WBC beltholder in May to become oldest man in boxing to win a significant world title in January.
“I did my crime, and I’m not bragging about it. I mean, every day and every second that I was in prison, I deserved to be in there. But with this guy, the DNA didn’t match, I mean, he was literally the wrong guy,” said Hopkins.
“So when you know that you didn’t do something, and it’s like someone comes into your house, and into your office, and they say, ‘Look, you did something to somebody,’ and you know that you didn’t, and you didn’t even speak to the person, that’s a problem.”
Bozella left prison with the goal of having at least one professional fight a free man. And just as Bozella has a second shot at life, Hopkins would like to see him receive perhaps a shot at ring glory with a professional career.
“I’m not saying that this guy has 10 years in him, and I’m not saying that he’s got three years in him, but trust me, he trains hard and we run and he has skills,” said Hopkins.
“And if they were to match him right, I’m telling you, just from his story alone, they should let him fulfill at least some of what has been taken away from him in his life. I think that he’s very deserving of that.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org