"He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:21)
The Dewey Bozella story is one of dealing with incredible adversity but coming out the other end by sheer determination and undaunted courage. Bozella, who comes from a troubled upbringing, a violent broken family (where his pregnant mother was beaten to death by his father and two brothers died), and having gone through the Foster Care system, was a troubled 18-year-old in 1977 when Emma Crapser, 92, was murdered in her Poughkeepsie, New York, home after returning from playing bingo. Six years later, based almost entirely on the testimony of two criminals who repeatedly changed their stories, he was convicted of the murder.
Bozella maintained his innocence through out the next 26 years of his incarceration at Sing Sing prison in New York. Though there were several opportunities to be freed in those 26 years it would have required Bozella to admit his guilt and show remorse. “I could never admit to something I didn’t do,” said Bozella, "I realized that if I was going to die in prison because of saying I’m innocent, well that was what was going to happen.” He would get out one way, he said, either in a box or as an exonerated man. The box seemed more likely.
Though a lessor man might have rebelled at being sent to jail for a crime he did not commit, Bozella took a different path. He became a model prisoner. At Sing Sing, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and a master’s from the New York Theological Seminary. And he boxed in the prison’s “Death House,” once the scene of electrocutions, then a boxing ring, where he became Sing Sing’s light-heavyweight champion. Bozella remained a model prison for his entire imprisonment.
In the end, he was saved by a miracle. The Innocence Project, a legal clinic dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions, believing in his case but unable to pursue it absent DNA evidence, referred it to the law firm WilmerHale. Lawyers there eventually found the Poughkeepsie police lieutenant who had investigated the case. He had retired, and Bozella’s was the only file he had saved. It included numerous pieces of evidence favorable to Bozella that had not been turned over to his lawyers. On Oct. 28, 2009, he walked out of the courthouse in Poughkeepsie finally a free man.
Despite having lost most of his life and now being in his 50's Bozella wanted to follow his dream of becoming a professional boxer. To do that Bozella needed to take the rigorous California State Athletic Commission test on Aug. 24, 2011, to get licensed to box in the state. He failed. It seemed that his wrongful conviction not only took the prime of his life but also his dream. But Bozella did not give up. He went into strict training.
Bozella's trainers were skeptical. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to kill this old guy,’ ” said Danny Davis, one of Bozella's trainers. “There’s no way this guy can make it through my training.” But Bozella got tougher, leaner and more nimble, dropping 10 pounds in little more than a week. He sparred with, and took serious lumps from, a world-class fighter: Lajuan Simon, a middleweight title contender. Bozella took the test again on Sept. 29. This time he passed.
Bozella scheduled his first professional match. Bozella took on Larry Hopkins, 30, of Houston, who was 0-3 as a professional. The purse in the pay-per-view bout was in the very low four figures. That was not a motivating factor for the 52-year-old boxer whose ultimate goal is to open a gym and work with at risk teens. “I want to go out there and give 100 percent and then move on with my life,” he said. “This is not a career move. It’s a personal move and a way to let people know to never give up on their dreams. My favorite quote is ‘Don’t let fear determine who you are and never let where you come from determine where you’re going.’ That’s what this is about.”
On Saturday October 15th, 2011 Bozella won his pro boxing debut against Hopkins, beating him by unanimous decision. It was, he admits, his dream come true. Bozella will now go on and inspire people with speeches. His foundation will help raise money so that he can build a gym and help kids in Newburgh, which one magazine recently called "The Murder Capital of New York."
Dewey Bozella retires undefeated.
Never give up is the message that Bozella wanted people to take away from his life of tragedy and troubles. Never give up.
When God is at work in your life He takes your troubles, tragedy and trials and transforms them into the very things that change us into His image. "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) God takes the garbage in our lives and transforms it something of value and worth. Romans 8:28 promises, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I do not know what the "all things" you are facing--marital troubles, financial worries, watching a child struggle in life, health issues--with God your troubles become a crown God fashions upon your brow. So, we cannot give in or give up. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17) Let Jesus encourage you in your struggles with his words, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) It can take time but dreams still come true. Your victory in Jesus is secured. Wait. Don't give up. Never give up.
Prayer: Father, we look to Jesus who overcame this world and we find the courage to fight the good fight, to never give up. You have the won the victory through Jesus all we must do is claim that victory in our lives. Take these trials and tribulations of ours and work them out for good according to Your will. We patiently wait to see Your glory shinning in our lives through Your Son, Jesus, amen!