Opinion Sports Columns

A Fighter’s Will

Terrence Payne

Sports Editor

Saturday night, WBC Light Heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins put his title on the line against former WBC light heavy champ “Bad” Chad Dawson.

Unfortunately, the main event finished before the second round even ended. Bad Chad lived up to his name, winning back his WBC title after tackling, yes tackling, Hopkins. The 46-year-old Hopkins landed on his left shoulder and couldn’t continue. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable night of boxing.

Referee Pat Russell erroneously awarded Dawson with a technical knockout instead of a no contest.

The crowd at the Staples Center voiced its displeasure by sending a parade of boos down towards the ring.

The scene was ironic, seeing as just hours before the entire LA crowd gave a standing ovation to the efforts of one fighter.

Dewey Bozella fought in the undercard that night against a much younger Larry Hopkins. The 52-year-old Bozella defeated Hopkins by a four-round, unanimous decision in his boxing debut after serving a 26-year sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.

In 1977, Bozella was convicted of murdering an elderly woman, even though the evidence stacked against him was questionable to say the least.

Bozella was sentenced to 20 years to life at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. It was at Sing Sing where he first discovered boxing.

While serving time, Bozella kept professing his innocence and said he would one day fight as a free man.

In 1990, he got a retrial, and it looked promising that he would get leave as a free man again. The District Attorney came to him with a deal: if he admitted his guilt, he would walk out a free man. Bozella refused, never willing to admit to doing something he didn’t do. He was sent back to prison, ready to die there before he admitted to that crime.

Bozella wrote a letter each week for five years to the Innocence Project, an organization that helps the wrongly accused.

The Innocence Project couldn’t help him because police had destroyed the evidence, but the project referred it to a powerful law firm in New York.

Finally Bozella, the 2011 recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, had the resources to prove his innocence. In October 2009, Bozella was released from prison.

Saturday night his dream of fighting as a free man came true.

Bozella is the prime example of a boxer; overcoming the obstacles, both mentally and physically, showing his will to fight.

How can you not root for him?

Not only for all he overcame, but all he stands for.

Look at today’s boxing.

The sport’s two biggest stars, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, can’t seem to agree on a fight due to disputes over money, drug tests and the fear of losing.

Even though he will probably never have another big-time fight again, it’s refreshing to see a fighter like Bozella, who embodies what boxing is really about.

Terrence Payne may be reached at tpayne2@springfieldcollege.edu

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