Broken Dreams

When Bernard Hopkins defended the two versions of the World Light-heavyweight title that he held against Chad Dawson in 2011, the fight ended in a very unusual way. Halfway through the second round Dawson lifted Hopkins off his feet causing him to fall and injure his shoulder, the fight was stopped. And after much legal bickering outside of the ring the fight was eventually classified as a ‘No Contest’ which of course meant Hopkins retained his 2 precious titles.

But on the undercard that night another very unusual fight had already taken place. I say unusual for the fact that one of the boxers was an unbelievable 52 years of age (mind you Hopkins boxed until he was 51) but there is a massive difference between them because unlike Hopkins, this was 52 year old Dewey Bozella’s very first professional contest! This doesn’t mean to say that Mr Bozella was a complete newcomer to boxing; on the contrary, he was in fact the ex-light heavyweight champion of the infamous Sing Sing prison and as a teenager had even sparred with the legendary Floyd Patterson in a gym on Floyd’s chicken farm in New York village.  

I know the words A Troubled Background, are all too often bandied about these days usually as a lame excuse for some badly behaved teenagers who have landed themselves into more trouble than they can handle. But sadly it can sometimes be true, and when it is true, a young person’s character can be horribly corrupted before it’s had a chance to develop naturally and the differences between right and wrong which most people clearly see becomes blurred to them.

Dewey Bozella came from a troubled background; and in his case the word troubled is a massive understatement. His father was a huge violent bully of a man who often brutalized his wife and children, and once cracked young Dewey’s skull open with a baseball bat when he was just 8 years old, and at 9 he was forced to watch as his father beat his pregnant mother to death. From that moment onwards his life was spent in an endless cycle of care homes and foster families, and to compound his problems even further one of his brothers was stabbed to death, another was shot and killed and a third died from aids! And with no responsible person around to advise him differently is it any wonder he fell in with the wrong crowd. He was no angel, and he did get into trouble and he was put away for a few months. But when he came out his whole outlook on life had changed for the better, and when introduced to the noble art of boxing he immediately fell in love with it; this is when he started training at Floyd Patterson’s gym. He told Floyd I know what it is I want out of life now I want to be a professional boxer. But the cruel hand of fate was waiting to slap him in the face one more time.

In 1977 a little 92 year old lady was brutally murdered during a robbery at her New York apartment, and the police arrested the 18 year old Dewey Bozella for it, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity like in the Reubin Carter fiasco, this was a deliberate malicious undertaking by the police to frame an innocent man for a crime he did not commit. In 1983 after a long drawn out and disjointed trial Bozella was found guilty of murder and sentenced to serve 20 years to life imprisonment. Not surprisingly he was devastated but bravely vowed to clear his name.

Admirably, whilst in prison; and in the full knowledge that his freedom depended on it, he four times rejected the parole board’s offer of a rehabilitation hearing which may have seen him released early; but this would have meant him confessing to the heinous crime and there was no way he was going to do that, so he legally challenged the Supreme Court on the validity of his arrest and conviction instead. His first attempt failed, but after serving 26 soul destroying years in jail he finally got justice and was completely exonerated of any wrongdoing and awarded $7,500,000 for wrongful imprisonment.

After his long hard wait he was now a free man and decided to put his time and money to good use; besides making sizable donations to young people’s charities, he formed dozens of boxing clubs to keep the kids off the streets and made a point of warning them of the dangers of joining gangs and the lure of easy money. He told them how he had lost 26 years of his life because he associated with the wrong type of people, he told them how boxing had healed him inside prison and how if they embraced it, it could heal them too! Sadly, his own aspirations of becoming a pro-fighter had faded into dust and were now trampled into the dirt and gravel of a prison exercise yard floor.

However, and unbeknownst to him, Dewey’s wife Trena, contacted former 10 time world champion Oscar De La Hoya at his Golden Boy Promotions headquarters and told him of her husband’s broken dreams of being a professional boxer; she told him the full story of what had happened to him and how he had frustratingly been illegally incarcerated for more than a quarter of a century. The story moved him, and together with the help of Bernard Hopkins, who owns a part share in his company, they made arrangements for the human scapegoat’s dreams to come true.

And so; like a priceless heirloom pieced together with lashings of sticky tape Dewey Bozella’s broken dreams did come true on one momentous evening at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles when with his head held aloft he proudly stepped into the ring as a fully licenced professional boxer.

We will never know and can only guess at what this victim of collaborate injustice might have achieved in the boxing world had he been allowed to follow his dreams, but maybe; and let us hope that he does, he finds solace in the fact that he can now say with pride that he is an ex-professional boxer who retired with a perfect boxing record, one fight, one win!