By Bryan Armen Graham
Oct. 13, 2011
PHILADELPHIA — Even as he spoke with a reporter last week at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties, Dewey Bozella couldn’t help but admire the figure in the oversized mirror near the back of the room. “That’s right,” he incanted in a warm baritone, inspecting his sculpted deltoids and flexing for good measure. “See that?”
If he comes off as proud, it’s because he’s earned it. After spending 26 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, the 52-year-old Bozella is set to make his long-awaited professional boxing debut Saturday on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV, $54.95).
When Bozella climbs into the ring for the four-round cruiserweight bout, he will fulfill a dream that extends to his days as a promising amateur, when boxing afforded an escape from a horrific family life that bottomed out when he witnessed his father beat his pregnant mother to death. (He was 9.) But an adolescence spent in and out of foster care was nothing compared to the heinous miscarriage of justice that condemned Bozella to more than half his life at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y.
Born and raised in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, Bozella had relocated upstate to live with one of his 11 siblings when he was fingered in the gruesome murder of 92-year-old Emma Crasper, who had apparently walked in on a burglary after returning to her first-floor apartment from a night of bingo at St. Joseph’s Church in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She was discovered bound with electrical cord and suffocated by pieces of cloth and sharp metal.