Los Angeles - Dewey Bozella, who spent 26 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit, made his pro boxing debut a successful one on Saturday by beating Larry Hopkins in a cruiserweight fight.
The 52-year-old Bozella won by a unanimous decision despite giving away 22 years in age to Hopkins, who was competing in his fourth professional fight.
Bozella didn't get the knockout he was looking for but he dominated the fourth and final round, landing a flurry of blows, including an upper cut just before the bell that sent Hopkins's mouthpiece sailing through the air.
"This is the greatest moment of my life," said Bozella whose dream had always been to become a professional boxer.
Understandably he didn't want to leave Saturday's decision to the judges (or jury) so he smothered Hopkins with a barrage of punches in the last minute looking for the knockout.
"I wanted the knockout. He was tired, I seen it and I tried to take advantage of it," Bozella said.
Bozella did some boxing as an amateur but his professional ambitions were crushed when he was wrongly convicted of murder in 1983.
He was sentenced to 20 years to life in New York's infamous Sing Sing prison after being wrongly convicted of breaking into the house of a 92-year-old woman in 1977 and killing her.
Prosecutors offered him a plea deal at the time that would have reduced the sentence to time served but Bozella refused to admit to something he didn't do. He says he was bicycling miles away at the time.
In October 2009, his conviction was overturned when witnesses recanted their stories and he walked out of jail a free man.
"I would like to thank everyone for everything they have done for me," Bozella said in the ring after Saturday's victory.
Bozella fought on the undercard of the night of greybeards at Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles. The main event featured 46-year-old world champion Bernard Hopkins losing by a controversial TKO to Chad Dawson for Hopkins' WBC light heavyweight title.
Bozella trained with Bernard Hopkins to get ready for his first pro fight.
Bozella threw almost twice as many punches, 208-132, as his opponent, who is no relation to Bernard Hopkins, and won on all three judges' scorecards 38-36, 38-37 and 39-36.
Referee Marcos Rosales took a point away from Larry Hopkins in the final round because the Texas fighter kept losing his mouthpiece.
His mouthpiece fell to the canvas six times, including just moments before the final bell.
The fighter reached out to catch it with his right glove and Bozella seized the moment to go for a one more mighty punch. He landed a straight right to the jaw but Hopkins managed to stay on his feet.
The Hopkins-Dawson undercard also featured Mexican southpaw Antonio DeMarco (26-2-1, 19 KOs) defeating Venezuela's Jorge Linares for the vacant WBC lightweight title.
The fight was stopped in the 11th round with Linares (31-2, 20 KOs) unable to defend himself near his corner and bleeding heavily from a cut on the bridge of his nose.