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Dewey Bozella Wins Pro Debut at 52

By Michael Montero

By now you’ve all heard the inspirational story of Dewey Bozella, the man who did over twenty-six years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and was recently released when proven innocent. His lifelong dream was to be a professional boxer, but the system took that dream away. All these years later, at the age of 52, he finally realized his goal as he fought on the Hopkins-Dawson undercard in his first professional boxing match. He came into the ring as a cruiserweight, weighing 190 pounds; facing off against the 0-3 Larry Hopkins (192 pounds).

Photo: Tom Hogan/Golden Boy

Both fighters started off feeling each other out, obviously shaking off nerves. Bozella ate a flush right hand from Hopkins about a minute in, and several more shoots as the round went on. It appeared that the winless Hopkins did enough to take the first round, leaving many in the arena with a nervous feeling. .

In the second round Bozella appeared more comfortable and began jabbing. It was a close round that could’ve gone either way as neither man definitively controlled the action, but Bozella came forward and seemed to do more. Still, through the first two rounds the Beacon, New York native had landed just 10 punches to Hopkins’ 11 and he had a red bruise forming under his left eye.

Photo: Michael Montero

Bozella ate a few solid shots in the first minute of the third, but took them well and never stopped moving forward. He came back to land a few hard body shoots in the last minute of the round; this seemed to be the turning point in the fight. The body worked by Bozella paid dividends as his opponent looked visibly exhausted.

The fourth round brought controversy, as Hopkins spit out his mouthpiece numerous times. Bozella dominated and every time he landed flush, Hopkins would spit his mouthpiece out to look for a break. He was backing up and in complete survival mode. Bozella was having fun in there and enjoying his moment – he played to the crowd, shuffled his feet a few times and had folks chanting his name. Just before the bell rang, he backed his opponent into the corner and landed a big right hand. It was a signature ending for his professional debut.

The judges scored it 39-36, 38-37 and 38-36 for Bozella and many in the crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was a touching moment for a man who’s been fighting his whole life and in the end, always manages to come out a winner. In the ring interview with Max Kellerman, he said this would be his first and last fight and thanked the crowd for all the support. “This is one of the greatest moments of my life” he said. Kellerman asked him if he thought his opponent was spitting out the mouthpiece on purpose. “Absolutely”, Bozella said, “he was tired. I saw what he was doing and I took advantage of it.” Later on at the post fight press conference, Bozella stepped to the podium to another ovation from the press. He thanked fellow undercard fight Paulie Malignaggi, who had dedicated one of his recent fights in Chicago to Bozella – before he was mainstream news. He also took a moment to talk about his foundation, which seeks to help troubled youth. Finally, Oscar De La Hoya came to the podium and spoke on his behalf. “Dewey showed the world that you can never, never, never give up”, he said. “Thank you inspiring myself, and all of us.”

Indeed, it’s hard not to cheer for Bozella. This writer thanks the man for setting a great example, showing what hard work and self-belief can achieve, and putting on an entertaining fight.

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