RingTV.com was granted an exclusive interview with Dewey Bozella on Thursday, within minutes of the California State Athletic Commission’s decision to let the 52-year-old former amateur boxer fight on the undercard of the light heavyweight bout between RING and WBC titleholder Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson on Oct. 15.
In 1983, at the age of 23, Bozella was convicted for the murder of an elderly woman and sent to prison, where he remained until being exonerated in 2009. While incarcerated, Bozella became the prison’s light heavyweight champion.
Upon being released after serving 26 years, Bozella’s dream was to fight as a professional — a dream which, contingent on the commission’s approval of an opponent — will be realized at the Los Angeles Staples Center in just over two weeks.
CEO Richard Schaefer, matchmaker Eric Gomez and Hall of Fame promoter and Golden Boy Associate Don Chagrin,
Facilitated by Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya, CEO Richard Schaefer, matchmaker Eric Gomez and Hall of Fame promoter and Golden Boy associate Don Chagrin, 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).
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.
Below is Bozella’s first interview after being declared eligible to fight in October.
RingTV.com: So I hear you have some news?
Dewey Bozella: Yeah, I’ve got some exciting news for you. They gave me my license. They let me get my license, man. 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. I’m just very blessed and appreciative. 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.
RingTV.com: How thrilling was it to hear that you were approved and that you has passed your physical?
DB: Well, 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. 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.
RingTV.com: Well you’ve certainly worked hard with Hopkins so far, huh?
DB: Well, I’ll put it to you like this: 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, you know? Right 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.
Bernard, you know, he has really worked with me and he’s given me a lot of pointers. But I still have a lot to learn, you know, because the last time I had a fight was back in 1990.
That’s been over 20 years, since I was an amateur. Now that they’ve given me this opportunity, I’m very, very, very, very happy about that. I’m pleased.
RingTV.com: What was your life like when you were arrested?
DB: I was 23 and had just turned 24. I was an amateur fighter at that point. I was training at the Floyd Patterson boxing gym. I was going to school at a Dutchess Community College.
I was leaning toward a major in a science. All of that was just taken from me for one sentence, 20 years to life. So now, to have that being given back, that’s the gift. The gift is to never give up.
RingTV.com: How rewarding is this given those years you spent in prison?
DB: People who heard about my story have given me a chance, that’s where the gift for me is. People came to understand and they took a risk with me.
They took this on, and they’re the people who are giving me the blessings, you know? Everybody from Bernard Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya.
These people are taking that risk with me and they’re putting me on that undercard. That’s the gift. So now, it’s time for me to take advantage.
If you do good things, good things comeback tenfold. This is where it comes back at, you know? My thing is not only not to let them down, but not to let myself down.
RingTV.com: Do you realize that you can be an inspiration to a world of people?
DB: Yes, I do. You know, I realize that there’s a world looking at me, and not just Dewey Bozella. I realize that I bring a lot of hope to people who have given up.
People who may have just said, “Nah, life ain’t no good,” or, “I want to commit suicide,” or “I want to get high,” and do nothing with their lives.
But maybe with me, they’ll say, “Hold up, now, this man has been through hell, and he never gave up, so what excuse do I have?”
You know? Being locked up for 26 and a half years of his life for a crime that he didn’t commit.
RingTV.com: Should you win on Oct. 15, will you fight again?
DB: Nah. Hell no. I’ve got to say that with authority, man. Nah. I think that once is enough, man. After that, I’ll look into becoming a trainer. I’m trying to get my own gym.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]