Maybe you think fifty-two’s a little old for a boxer looking for his first shot at a pro fight. Dewey Bozella disagrees.
Twice a week, Bozella applies headgear and the gloves and steps into the ring to spar. Just one pro fight. OK, maybe two ... "He was one of the best middleweights in the state,'' says [his trainer, Ray Rivera], who is working on getting Bozella a fight.
"You gotta understand, for 20-something years I haven't abused my body,'' he says. "I got a young body. I would love to win some bulljive belt and say 'Sayonara.' That would be the epitome of my life.''
Even so. Fifty-two? But then Bozella’s making up for lost time. He’s had to start late because fifty was a little old to be getting out of prison after doing twenty-six years hard for a crime he didn’t commit.
He had just turned 18 when he was taken into custody soon after the murder. He was set free when a grand jury issued a "no bill,'' meaning no reasonable cause to believe he had committed the murder. But Bozella's fight for his innocence had just begun.
The case was reopened in 1983 and he was convicted and sentenced to 20-to-life. The conviction was reversed in 1989 on the basis of a Batson violation — jurors dismissed without a valid reason — and Bozella got a second trial in '90. The result, however, was the same: 20-to-life.
Key trial witnesses repeatedly changed their stories over the 13 years leading to the second trial and testified against Bozella after securing sparkling deals from prosecution. The only forensic evidence connecting anyone to the crime was the fingerprint of a man named Donald Wise, who was later convicted of committing a nearly identical murder of another elderly woman in the same neighborhood.
Bozella could have taken a plea bargain before the 1990 trial. He said he was offered a 7-to-14-year sentence. Or, time served if he copped to manslaughter. He could have walked out of the courtroom, he said, if he signed a piece of paper admitting to the crime. Why not? Why risk another couple decades, maybe a lifetime, behind bars?
"Because,'' Bozella says, his eyes widening, "I was innocent!''
For how Bozella turned his life around in prison, he he became a boxer, how he earned his high school diploma, and his college degree, and his master’s, how he met his wife, how he fought again and again to prove his innocence, how he got out at last, read all of Kevin Gleason’s story, Boxer looking for just 1 more shot, in the Times Herald-Record.
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Photo by Tom Bushey/Times Herald-Record.