Former amateur boxer Dewey Bozella, who was released from prison in 2009 after being wrongfully accused of murder and serving 26 years, was approved by the California State Athletic Commission to fight on the undercard of the light heavyweight bout between RING and WBC titleholder Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, Bozella told RingTV.com on Thursday.
Bozella said that a professional fight was one of the first things he had hoped for upon being released. Now, he will get that chance.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s very, very much appreciated. They’re giving me a chance, and that’s all that I’ve asked for,” said Bozella.
Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya said he was overcome with emotion while watching Bozella receive his approval papers.
“The look on his face, there are no words to describe it. He was just extremely happy. But this is a man who truly deserves it. He was in jail for over 25 years. What amazes me is that he didn’t come out of jail blaming anybody, being angry or being bitter,” said De La Hoya.
“I’m just very blessed and appreciative,” said Bozella. “I didn’t let them down, I didn’t let myself down and now I’ve got to go out and prove that I’m worthy of receiving this gift.”
De La Hoya seemed eager to give it.
“Dewey came out of jail knowing that he has a second opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it,” he said. “He’s living the dream. So, you know what, just to be a part of something like this gives you hope to keep on following your dreams, and to never give up. I can’t wait until Oct. 15, seeing him inside that squared circle. He’s going to be like little kid in a candy store.”
Pending the commission’s approval of an opponent, the 52-year-old Bozella will compete on the show that is being televised on HBO Pay Per View from The Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“This is a really good feeling. Dewey just asked for a chance, and we’ve done everything possible to give him that chance,” said Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez . “But Dewey’s the one who really did everything. I just feel so happy about it.”
Bozella has been housed in Philadelphia, where he is training alongside the 46-year-old Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) as Hopkins prepares for his first defense opposite Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs).
“I had never been through that type of strenuous training before, so the first couple of days, I went from being 210 pounds all the way down to 195, and that was within four days. That’s how hard they worked me,” said Bozella.
“Now, I’m between 190 and 195 or 196 at the most, so I’m going to be fighting as a cruiserweight. I’m already there. They’re giving me a few pointers and they’re pointing things out, and they’re not playing any games. I still have a lot to learn, you know, because the last time I had a fight was back in 1990.”
A former amateur boxer who was born in 1959, Bozella was falsely convicted and imprisoned in 1983, at the age of 23, for the murder of an elderly woman.
Before his conviction was overturned in 2009, Bozella became the prison’s light heavyweight champion.
So talented was Bozella, that he was set up with a special fight against southpaw former WBA light heavyweight 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.
The push to get Bozella licensed began soon after the ESPY’s, with De La Hoya, Gomez, Golden Boy Promotions’ CEO Richard Schaefer and Hall of Fame promoter and Golden Boy associate Don Chargin leading the charge.
“Oscar and them were here today, celebrating with me, and with Bernard Hopkins and Golden Boy Promotions, I’m just appreciating everything that they’re doing and everything that they’ve done. I got a break. They’ve let me get my license. So I can now fight on the Bernard Hopkins under card,” said Bozella.
“I feel excellent. I feel good. I’m happy about that. But now, it’s time for me to step my game up. I’ve got to go back to the Bernard Hopkins’ camp and really, really work on a few things, because I’ve got to win the fight, man. I’ve got to win the fight, it’s as simple as that right now.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org