Dewey Bozella, who was released from prison in 2009 after serving 26 years of a wrongful conviction, has won his pro boxing debut by beating Larry Hopkins by unanimous decision in a cruiserweight bout on Saturday night at The Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The 52-year-old Bozella, who received a call of support from President Barack Obama on Thursday, passed a physical administered by the California State Athletic Commission on Sept. 29 allowing him to face the 30-year-old Hopkins (0-4) of Houston.
The victory satisfied Bozella’s dream of fighting as a professional boxer on the undercard of the light heavyweight bout between RING and WBC titleholder Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson on HBO Pay Per View.
During his post-fight, in-the-ring interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, Bozella was asked what his next fight would be.
“My next fight is to work with kids. The Dewey Bozella Foundation. That’s what I’m trying to get started,” said Bozella. “To work with kids and to keep them off of the streets and to let them know that through boxing, they can turn their lives around. That’s what this was all about.”
And then, Bozella took the microphone from Kellerman and addressed the crowd.
“You know something? I would like to say that dreams do happen if you never give up hope,” said Bozella, to loud cheers. “Always believe in yourself. Don’t let nobody tell you what you can’t do.”
Bozella then turned to Kellerman and said, “And I want you to know that you’re one of my favorite announcers. Thank you.”
Promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, Bozella had spent his time training in Philadelphia alongside the 46-year-old Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) as Hopkins prepared for the title defense opposite Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs).
Bozella battered the winless Larry Hopkins throughout the second half of their four-round fight. Hopkins also lost points for spitting out his mouthpiece six times in the final round, apparently exhausted and unable to match Bozella’s conditioning.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for this opportunity. It’s something that was taken away from me when I was a kid. Just to have this opportunity to come in here and to win, this is my first and my last fight, so I think you all very much,” said Bozella.
“This is a young man’s sport, you know. This isn’t for an old-timer like me, unless I was 20 or 30 years younger. So I wanted to thank you all for the support that you’re giving me right now, and it’s very much appreciated.”
Bozella had to overcome a difficult first round, during which he was nailed by a couple of overhand rights.
But by the second round, Bozella had established a rhythm. He clipped his rival and broke him down with uppercuts and crosses. He shuffled and danced with his feet.
Encouraged between the third and fourth rounds by trainer Danny Davis, Bozella came back with his left hook off of his jab and mixed his attack to the head and the body.
“Well, I realized that when you haven’t fought for over 21 years, you just getting back into the ring at 52 years old, it’s kind of difficult, you know?” said Bozella.
“Once I got the hang of what he was doing, I stepped up my game and I was able to take him out in the fourth, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Asked by Kellerman if he was looking to score a knockout, Bozella said, “Absolutely.”
“If I can get it, definitely. That way, it leaves it not up to the judges. It just falls on my hands,” said Bozella, who was also asked about Hopkins’ repeatedly spitting out his mouthpiece in the final round. “He was tired, and I seen that, and I took advantage of it.”
In 1983, at the age of 23, Bozella was convicted for the murder of an elderly woman in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and given a sentence of 20 years to life, of which he served 26 years before being exonerated in 2009 by new evidence. While incarcerated, Bozella became the prison’s light heavyweight champion.
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.
“This was one of the greatest moments of my life, just like receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. I would like all of the fans for supporting me. Thank you. Thank you very much, man,” said Bozella.
“I would definitely like to thank Oscar De La Hoya for giving me this chance,” said Bozella. “Definitely Bernard Hopkinsand Danny and all of the people who worked with me to get me ready for this fight. It’s very much appreciated.”
Photo / Dave Londres – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org