Downtrodden City Feels Sense Of Pride Over 52-Year-Old's Incredible JourneyBy Tony Aiello

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — He’s gone from adversity to being an inspirational figure.

An upstate man, imprisoned for years for a crime he didn’t commit, won his professional boxing debut, at age 52. When he raised his arms in victory he raised the hopes of a city struggling with poverty and crime.

CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reports on this unexpected role model.

It’s a story just made for a city like Newburgh, which is struggling to get back on its feet.

Young people looking for role models have found one in Dewey Bozella.

“It takes a lot of heart. He’s a strong person. He did it and I look up to him,” aspiring boxer Joel Bruno said.

Bozella won his first pro fight Saturday, proving age is just a number.

But four rounds in the ring were nothing compared to the 26 years Bozella spent in Sing Sing for a murder he didn’t commit. He said boxing kept him sane while he was behind bars.

“It was my freedom, if you really want to look at it like that. It was my escape from where I was at,” Bozella said recently.

Bozella was exonerated two years ago. When the cuffs came off he put on gloves at the old Newburgh Boxing Club.

The streets of Newburgh are nothing short of notorious. Last year, in a gang-related shooting, a 13-year-old was accused of gunning down a 17-year-old. On streets this mean, the story of Dewey Bozella really resonates.

“All the kids were respecting him, looking up to him,” said Ray Rivera, who rank the boxing club up until July, when it ran out of funds and was forced to close.

Though Bozella has said his life in the ring was a one-shot deal, aspiring boxers in the Newburgh area are now hopeful he’ll step into another ring – to help them.

“My next fight is to work with kids, the Dewey Bozella Foundation,” Bozella said.

One young fighter said boxing has turned his life around.

“Out of the temptation of the streets, it keeps you focused in school and stuff,” Eduardo Santos said.

In Dewey Bozella, Newburgh has found an inspiring champ.

The founder of the Newburgh Boxing Club said he’d welcome help from Bozella to reopen.

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