Bernard Hopkins (right) tangles with Chad Dawson during their light heavyweight title fight on October 15.
Bernard Hopkins (right) tangles with Chad Dawson during their light heavyweight title fight on October 15.

Story highlights

NEW: The crowd boos as the Hopkins-Dawson fight ends in controversy

NEW: The referee doesn't declare a foul after Dawson throws Hopkins to the canvas

Dewey Bozella spent 26 years on a murder conviction

(CNN) —  

Two compelling storylines played out Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles – one that produced a fairytale ending and the other that ended in a controversial call.

Dewey Bozella, a 52-year-old cruiserweight who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, won his professional boxing debut by a unanimous decision in a four-round match against Larry Hopkins.

But Bernard Hopkins, 46, failed in his attempt to become the oldest boxer to defend a world title when he lost to Chad Dawson early Sunday morning. Dawson won the fight by a technical knockout in the second round.

After Hopkins threw a right and leaned over Dawson, the latter threw him on to the canvas. Hopkins landed on his left shoulder.

The referee did not call it a foul, and Dawson won the fight on a technical knockout. The crowd erupted in boos.

Hopkins, who first became a world champion 16 years ago, made history in May when he was awarded a points victory over Canadian Jean Pascal to become the sport’s oldest-ever holder of a global belt.

With the win in Montreal, Hopkins surpassed the record held by compatriot George Foreman.

But on Sunday morning, the World Boxing Council (WBC) light heavyweight champion, was upstaged by a much younger opponent.

Dawson, currently ranked by Ring Magazine as the fourth-best light heavyweight in the world, is 29 – 17 years younger than the Pennsylvania-born Hopkins.

In the first fight of the night, Bozella won with a hard right to his opponent’s jaw.

Exonerated inmate wins professional boxing debut

Bozella served time in New York’s Sing Sing prison after he was found guilty of murder in 1983. His conviction was overturned two years ago.

According to a biography on his website, Bozella was offered several opportunities for an early release if he would admit guilt and show remorse.

“Anger at his imprisonment gave way to determination and instead of becoming embittered, he became a model prisoner” and earned several degrees, the site says.

While incarcerated, Bozella was crowned the Sing Sing heavyweight champion.

President Barack Obama called the boxer last week, offering him encouragement in his fight.

Bozella’s story resonated with Hopkins, who served a five-year stretch in Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania between 1983 and 1988.

So impressed was Hopkins with Bozella that he trained with the newcomer ahead of his much-anticipated fight.

“It inspired me,” said Hopkins of Bozella. “He chose to do what he did, and not only did he get freedom, but he got humanity. An opportunity to do something that was taken from him years and years ago. To be on a major, major fight card.

“And now that we became, I can say friends, and have understanding about that dark place that I put myself in, you know, I wasn’t innocent. But we still understand that dark place. Everybody has a story, but his is beyond a story.”