Sports Illustrated: My Sportsman: Dewey Bozella

November 16th, 2011

Sports Illustrated
By Bryan Armen Graham
November 16, 2011

Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 6. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.

It stares out from the record books unremarkably, like so many of the more than 15,000 professional boxing matches that took place in 2011:

But the above bout, held last Oct. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, went well beyond the usual undercard tussles with purses in the low four figures. In fact, the unlikely pro boxing debut of 52-year-old Dewey Bozella was nothing short of extraordinary.

Bozella was a teenager when he turned to boxing as an escape from a horrific family life that bottomed out when he witnessed his father beat his pregnant mother to death. He spent his adolescence in and out of foster care, but that was nothing compared to the heinous miscarriage of justice that condemned him to more than half his life at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y.

Wrongfully imprisoned in 1983 for the murder of 92-year-old Emma Crasper — he was convicted on the false testimony of two known criminals who cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for their freedom — Bozella was handed a life sentence and spent 26 behind bars. Rather than curse his fate, Bozella was driven relentlessly by the spirit of achievement. One of his few keepsakes was an article on Bernard Hopkins, the convicted felon turned middleweight champion.