Dewey Bozella’s life changed forever when he was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for a murder he did not commit. Throughout his 26 years behind bars, Bozella found strength and purpose through boxing, becoming the light heavyweight champion of Sing Sing Prison, and made it a goal to be proven innocent and box professionally once he was released. ESPN Films chronicles Bozella’s journey from prison cell to professional boxer in 26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story premiering on Thurs., March 15, at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN/ESPNHD. Fans can join the conversation about the film on Twitter at #DeweyBozella.
Unyielding in his innocence, Bozella never gave up fighting—both in and out of the ring. He was offered more than four separate chances for an early release if he would only admit guilt and show remorse, but Bozella consistently refused to accept freedom under such conditions. After a law firm took on his case and uncovered new evidence that exonerated him, Bozella was released and returned to boxing as a volunteer trainer to kids and aspiring fighters. When Bozella was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 2011 ESPYs in July, he caught the attention of light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins and boxing great Oscar De La Hoya who then helped make his dream to fight one professional fight as a free man come true.
Directed by award winning producer/director Jose Morales, 26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story follows Bozella on his quest to earn a professional boxing license at age 52, and sheds light on a man who never gave up fighting for his freedom. The film is narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne and includes interviews from Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, and Bozella’s wife Trena and attorneys.
Quotes from 26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story:
Dewey on why he continued to box after being released from prison: “I didn’t want to fight amateur. What I really liked to know was what it feels like to be a pro. And I believed that it was something that I needed to find out for myself.”
Oscar De La Hoya before Dewey’s second attempt at passing his boxing license: “I don’t wish for the commission to look at his speed and his punching power. I want them to focus directly on his heart and think about what he has accomplished, what he has gone through to be right here today. Doesn’t get any tougher than that.”
Dewey on how he felt going into his first professional fight: “Bring it. You can’t hurt me no more than I’ve already been hurt. Black eye, busted lip, busted nose, broken rib… you can’t hurt me no more. You can’t. I’ve been knocked down so many times I had no choice but to get back up or lay down and die. And I ain’t ready for that yet, so I’m going to fight.”
26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story trailer
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing compelling sports stories. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. Additional projects from ESPN Films include, among others, the critically acclaimed and Television Academy Honor-winning 16th Man, Cannes Film Festival official selection The Two Escobars, and the Peabody Award-winning Black Magic. Catching Hell, from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and Renée, from filmmaker Eric Drath, were featured in the latest ESPN Films series that aired in fall 2011.