When former amateur boxer Dewey Bozella was released from prison after being wrongfully accused of murder and serving 26 years, among the first things that he desired was to have a professional fight as a free man.
The 52-year-old Bozella could land on the under card of an HBO Pay Per View televised main event featuring 46-year-old RING and WBC lightheavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) making his first defense oposite Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“What we’re trying to do is to get him his professional debut on the Hopkins under card. That’s what we’re working on,” said Gomez. “We just have to get him tested. The California State Athletic Commission wants to test him.”
Bozella is being housed in Philadelphia, where he is training alongside Hopkins, according to Gomez.
Hopkins is impressed with Bozella’s skills, he told RingTV.com.
“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.
“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.”
Bozella will be tested by the California Commission on Sept. 29, said Gomez.
“They want to re-test him, because he already tested one time, and they didn’t pass him. But he wasn’t in shape, and he wasn’t getting ready for a fight,” said Gomez. “Now, he’s in camp with Bernard Hopkins, and he’s getting ready for a fight. We’re going to test him properly.”
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.
Before his conviction was overturned in 2009, Bozella became the prison’s lightheavyweight champion.
So talented was Bozella, that he was set up with a special fight against southpaw former WBA lightheavyweight titleholder and cruiserweight contender Lou Del Valle (3-6-2, 22 KOs), who once floored Roy Jones in a bout.
“It was one of those fights. It was a war,” said Del Valle, in an ESPN video that chronicled Bozella’s life. “He was one of those guys who just kept on ticking.”
Although Bozella held his own, he eventually lost the fight on cuts.
“I was the lucky one, because I would have gotten cut, he probably would have won,” said Del Valle. “I walked out of that Sing Sing prison and I was like, ‘I dodged a bullet.’”
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.
“ESPN has been here for three days now filming us,” said Hopkins, “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.”
After watching him receive his award at the ESPY’s, Schaefer said that one of the owners of the Staples Center, AEG CEO Timothy Leiweke, expressed interest in seeing Bozella’s dream become a reality.
“They were hosting the ESPY’s, and I got an e-mail from them and they had dinner with the chairman from ESPN, and they made me aware of this man, Dewey Bozella,” said Schaefer.
“They said, ‘Hey, look, it would be great if you could have Dewey Bozella fight and to help him to accomplish his dream.’ Obviously, his dream is to have a professional fight. So, I said, ‘Let me see what we can do.’”
Schaefer considered the Oct. 15 show, and, coincidentally, the background of Hopkins, who spent five years in prison for multiple offenses before being released at the age of 22 and embarking on a professional career.
“We thought that the Staples Center would be a perfect spot to do it as part of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson card on HBO Pay Per View. So we started talking to ESPN, which is very motivated. They believe that it is a major story. So we are trying to see if we can get him licensed in California and to fulfill his dream,” said Schaefer.
“If we can help him to do that, I believe that it will be a very emotional moment not only for him, but I think that it will be an emotional moment for those who have followed his story, which is absolutely amazing. If we can fulfill his dream and have him fight — and I hear that he’s in tremendous shape — I know that the thousands of people that we are expecting to be there will give him a standing ovation as he enters the ring. He deserves this opportunity.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org