Former boxer uses past to help troubled juveniles
By Renee Larr
Fishers resident Alphonso Bailey is using his past to create bright futures for incarcerated juveniles and adults. Bailey created and operates the nonprofit organization Down But Not Out. He goes into prisons and juvenile detention facilities telling his story and how he learned great things are possible in life after incarceration. Like most offenders, his story begins when he was young.
“I graduated from Shortridge High School in 1979 and went to college at Kentucky State University on a football scholarship. I was going into my third year in 1981 and my father passed away. He had a lot of control over my life and when he died, I didn’t have that structure anymore so I found myself doing a lot of bad stuff,” Bailey said. “Nobody on the football team knew about the things I was doing. I came home in the summertime and then went back to school. That’s when everything fell apart. I got arrested on the football field. I was calling a play and the police came out on the field and arrested me. My life took a terrible spin. I went to prison.”
While in prison Bailey took up boxing as a way to pass the time but found it became more than just a hobby.
“I started boxing in prison and got really good. A group of doctors came in and saw me fight. These doctors got together and decided they wanted to help me,” he said. “They got me a lawyer and I got out in two years and nine months. I was doing two 10 year sentences and they dropped all the charges and I was released.”
Boxing provided Bailey with a career, but more than that he found the structure and stability he desperately needed.
“Boxing – the training, the hard work ethic, it’s a lot of discipline. With boxing you have a payoff. The win. To get better and be better and that’s how life is. Boxing played a key role in my life. It was major,” he said.
After a decorated boxing career, Bailey decided it was time to hang up the gloves. He began attending church and decided to share his story, which led to the making of a documentary about his life.
“I left boxing in 1989. In 1990, I started going to a church called Word of Life. I didn’t really talk about my background until 1998 or 1999. I shared with the people there and this guy was working for this company called Just Publishing,” Bailey said. “They loved my story so they did a documentary in 2000 on my life story called Down But Not Out.”
The movie was so successful that in 2006 Bailey decided to start taking his uplifting story to the streets. DBNO teaches inmates that even though they’re in jail, they don’t have to continue down the same path that landed them there.
“I decided to go full time with it going to juvenile facilities and prisons doing motivational speaking. We discuss character building. We’ll speak about making the right decisions. Making a change. Don’t leave the way you came in. Grow a better attitude,” he said. “Nobody owes you anything. You have the opportunity to do it right. We let them know this is not the end of your life but this is the beginning of your life. You can put all this behind you and move forward.”
Bailey’s reputation over the last nine years as a leader in his community recently earned the attention of Governor Mike Pence. His office contacted Bailey and alerted him he was being awarded the 2015 Black Expo Governor’s Award for community service and civic leadership.
“It’s just wonderful. I don’t do this for an award but it’s wonderful to know the people appreciate you and care about what you do,” Bailey said. “It touched my heart. It hit me really hard. Just to know what you’re doing makes a difference is such a reward itself. It speaks in volumes. I can’t even put it into words. It’s blowing me away.”
DBNO has a bright future ahead with Bailey at the helm. He wants to reach help more people and is trying to find ways to do satellite speaking engagements to reach more prisons. He would also love to do more mission trips to other countries.
“My plans are unlimited for what we want to do,” said Bailey.
All about Alphonso
Family: Wife, Marsha. Married 25 years in October. They have three daughters: Portia, 24, Kasey, 23 and Ariana, 16.
Favorite thing about living in Fishers: The schools
Favorite restaurant: Casler’s Kitchen & Bar
Favorite scripture: Luke1:37: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Dream Vacation: Hawaii
Interesting fact people wouldn’t know: He gets inspired from listening to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”