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Dewy Bozella, Boxing and Redemption

By Dale T. Irvin, President

The Universe Bends Toward Justice is the title of Professor Obery Hendrick’s most recent book. Every once in a while we get to see evidence that this is true, that the universe really does bend that way. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like, but in the end the arc of history points not only toward justice, but redemption. NYTS graduate Dewey Bozella is an example of one of those moments when justice and redemption show their face at the end of a long and arduous journey. You have read about his story in the New York Times, and seen it on ESPN, ABC, CBS, and CNN. Some of you have now seen the video of Dewey at the age of 52 boxing in his first professional fight last week in California, and winning a decision.

For twenty-six years Dewey was imprisoned by New York State for a crime that he did not commit. During those years, he never gave up hope of being exonerated, even turning down a plea bargain agreement with the prosecutor which would have gotten him out of prison earlier but would have required him to admit guilt to a crime that he did not commit. During those years in prison, Dewey completed his high school GED and a college degree, then enrolled in and completed the NYTS Masters of Professional Studies degree at Sing Sing (class of 2006). Meanwhile he continued to press his claim. Eventually the Innocence Project picked up his case and was able to establish Dewey’s innocence beyond a shadow of doubt. Three years ago he was released.

Dewey had been an amateur boxer before being sent to prison. During his years at Sing Sing he continued the sport, and according to at least one of his friends from his Sing Sing days who is now also released, Dewey was the best fighter in the institution. He continued to train after being released. Last summer ESPN picked up his story. Boxer Bernard Hopkins heard about him and invited him to fight on the undercard of a title fight. Dewey passed the physical exam and was given a license to fight by the state of California. Last Saturday night he did so, and won a four-round decision over a much younger opponent. Dewey says he has hung up his gloves professionally for good, that he only wanted one fight to fulfill that life-long dream. He expects to open a training gym in or near his home in Newburgh, New York.

All of us at NYTS congratulate Dewey and applaud him for his courage, determination, and perseverance. We applaud the spirit that he showed through his years of incarceration, refusing to become vindictive but also refusing to give up. There is justice in the universe, and as Dewey’s story points out, opportunities for redemption to be realized. These moments may appear at first to be small on the overall horizons of history, but they promise to grow, as Dewey’s fame and stature have done in recent days.

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