In 1983 amateur boxer Dewey Bozella was accused and later convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. It took 26 years in New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison before his name could be cleared. Now a free man, Bozella, 52, finally got the chance to live out his dream of being a professional fighter when he stepped into the ring on October 14 and went against 30-year-old fighter, Larry Hopkins, at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Against all odds, Bozella not only finished the fight but won against an opponent 22 years his junior. The redeemed pugilist ended the evening saying, “Don’t ever give up.” In light of Bozella’s determination and story of redemption, BlackEnterprise.com takes a look at seven notable figures that were able to find success despite carrying the stigma of being formerly incarcerated. —Amber McKynzie
CHARLES S. DUTTON
Best known for his TV role as Roc Emerson in the 1990s sitcom Roc, Dutton has established himself as a credible actor. But before the Maryland-born performer became a regular face on primetime television, he spent more than seven years behind bars for assault with a deadly weapon when a 17-year-old Dutton stabbed a young man to death in the street. Initially sentenced to three years in prison, the rowdy youth assaulted an officer, which earned him additional time. Dutton put the extra time to good use as he refocused his energy on more positive things. Upon his release, he enrolled in the Yale School of Drama, which gave him the skills to embark on a successful acting career.
JUDGE GREG MATHIS
Before becoming one of TV’s favorite afternoon judges, the honorable Greg Mathis was a member of Detroit’s infamous Errol Flynns gang. With numerous arrests as a youth, he was once held at Detroit’s Wayne County Jail, where his mother revealed she had colon cancer during one of her visits. The news inspired Mathis to go straight, which he did upon his release on probation. Since his troubled teen years, the reformed citizen became an activist and earned his law degree. Although his criminal past barred him from practicing law for several years, Mathis finally made his dream come true in 1995 when he was elected a superior court judge for Michigan’s 36th District, making him the youngest person in the state to hold the post. Now he reaches out to teens in prison making “PEER appearances” at various detention centers across the country and keeping the kids who don’t want to change behind bars.
Before appearing in such films as Spy Kids, xXx, Once Upon A Time in Mexico and Machete or television series like Grounded For Life and Desperate Housewives, Trejo spent an 11 year span going in and out of California’s San Quentin prison for excessive drug addiction and armed robbery. But while in prison, he found an outlet for bottled up anger through boxing. Becoming a lightweight and welterweight boxing champion while incarcerated, Trejo embarked on a 12-step rehab program that helped him turn his life around. In 1985 he began speaking for Cocaine Anonymous, where he met a friend who later called him for a meeting. The meeting turned out to be about getting cast as an extra on the movie Runaway Train. Trejo got the part and his acting career blossomed from there.
Before there was the political leader known as Malcolm X, there was Malcolm Little, a small time crook with no direction. That was until January of 1946 when he was arrested for burglary and later charged with larceny and breaking and entering, which carried a hefty sentence. It was during his incarceration that Little was introduced to the Nation of Islam and he slowly began changing his ways and eventually his name to Malcolm X. In the years following his release, X rose up the ranks of the NOI and became a prominent minister and civil rights activist. A skilled speaker and leader, X eventually parted from the Nation and formed his own religious organization until his assassination in February 1965.