- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Dino Wells gave up once. It cost him 20 years, a promising boxing career and relationships with his children. Wells can’t get the lost time back, but he’s working on reviving his career and has reconnected with his children.

There are no guarantees in Wells‘ venture but this: He’s done with giving up.

More than 20 years ago Wells was a talented light heavyweight amateur boxer with prospects to go pro. A losing fight at preliminary trials for the Olympics in 1996 along with some bad decisions in his personal life derailed his career.

“I was hanging around with a bunch of knuckleheads and was in the wrong relationship,” he said.

It was the type of situation Wells had gotten into boxing to avoid. Wells, who was born in Chicago, but spent much of his childhood in Eufaula, became interested in boxing after a boyfriend of his mother’s introduced him to the sport. In his teen years, after Wells moved back to Chicago, he used it as an avenue to avoid the lifestyle that was killing many of his friends.

“I love boxing, the physicality of it and what goes on inside,” he said. “I can download what you’re doing into my brain and beat you at your game. You and I both have two fists, but you’re not going to hit me as often as I hit you.”

After Wells gave up boxing, he moved west and worked in the entertainment industry as a production assistant. Success was hard to come by, and just a few years ago Wells was living in a hotel. Broke and depressed, Wells even considered ending his life, but a few critical connections helped turn his life around.

Wells reconnected with his childhood sweetheart on Facebook and embarked on a productive, healthy relationship. He also snagged a job with a film festival and made friends with a filmmaker who was interested in his life story and encouraged Wells‘ desire to resume training and get back into boxing.

It was 2011 and Wells was 40. Finding a gym that would invest time in training him was tough. He was turned down multiple times until Sweet Science Boxing Gym in California took him on. Wells‘ friend, Brad Bores, a filmmaker, documented Wells‘ work and his attempts to reconnect with one of his sons.

The training was tough, and fixing a relationship marred by years of absence was even tougher. Wells stuck with it.

“I wanted to show my children that I was someone they could be proud of,” he said.

Wells made progress in his relationship with his son and with his other children. He now has custody of one of them and is married to the high school sweetheart he reconnected with. Wells also made progress with boxing, getting to fight professionally in 2012 against Marcus Clay. Wells didn’t win that fight, but the film Bores made about Wells‘ life “When the Bell Rings,” won awards at multiple film festivals around the U.S.

Today, Wells is living in Dothan with his family and works on the dock at the Dothan Eagle. He has a speaking part in an upcoming movie, “Same Kind of Different As Me,” starring Renee Zellweger and Greg Kinnear. Sadly, one of Wells children did not live to see his father’s re-emergence. Orlando Wilburn, Wells‘ eldest child, was killed in Montgomery in 2015.

Undeterred, Wells is also continuing to search for a distributor for Bores’ film and is in training to continue boxing. Wells wants a rematch with Clay.

“I may be past my prime, but I don’t have the wear and tear on my body that most older boxers who have been at it for 15 years and are my age have,” he said.

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