From Court, to the Ring and Beyond: Alfy Smith’s Journey to Restoration

From Court, to the Ring and Beyond: Alfy Smith’s Journey to Restoration

l-r Judge Gene Reese and Alfy Smith embrace during an emotional reunion in Tine Davis Gym.
l-r Judge Gene Reese and Alfy Smith embrace during an emotional reunion.

Nearly forty years ago, Alfy Smith stood in front of Judge Gene Reese’s courtroom in Montgomery, Alabama after being arrested, charged and sentenced to jail on minor marijuana-related charges. It was his first-ever criminal offense and after he was charged, he had spent three months in jail and a few months in a rehab facility.

Smith was a Faulkner Eagle at the time and played on the men’s basketball team for coaches Jim Sanderson and Floyd Murry, who continued to support and encourage him and have remained good friends years later. 

The decision Judge Reese made that day in the courtroom, would change the trajectory of Smith’s life. Decades later, Smith is now a success both in his professional and personal life. He met a young boxer named Roy Jones Jr. and began a long career as a boxing coach in Pensacola, Florida. He earned his way into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame and published a book, entitled “Trade Off” that shares his life’s story, his faith and how he helps others to seize their dreams.  

His new lease on life wouldn’t have been possible without the second chance he was given on that day years ago in the courtroom.

Smith recounted the moment during an emotional reunion on Faulkner University’s campus on December 15, 2023 between himself, his former coaches and now retired Judge Reese. Faulkner President Mitch Henry, Faulkner’s men’s basketball team, staff and friends were all present to witness the special moment. 

“I remember I stood before Judge Reese. He had just finished looking over my court documents and my recommendation letters. I’ll never forget this, he took off his glasses and placed them on the bench before him and crossed his arms. He looked out at the courtroom and said, ‘I want to address the court. Here is a case where this young man should never have had to spend a single day behind bars. It has hurt him more than helped him.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Smith I am letting you go, but I want you to finish school and I will need to put you on probation. You can transfer it to Pensacola and  you are free to go and I don’t want to see you back here.’ I said, “Thank you and I promise you the next time we meet, it will be because of something positive.’”

“Now here we are finally meeting again and this is that something positive,” Smith added as he handed Judge Reese an inscribed copy of his book. 

Judge Reese was very early in his career as a circuit judge at the time Smith’s case came before him.

“As a judge we handle so many cases over the years that we seldom have someone in our court come back to say ‘Thank you,’ so today is very special and very heartwarming,” Reese said. “I’m thrilled to know that Alfy used his second chance in such a positive way and I will be forever grateful to have participated. Alfy’s story really shows what someone can do with a second chance and just look at what he has been able to accomplish.”

Through it all, Smith continued to play basketball whether is was in the prison gym or awaiting his court date and gained the respect of the guards at the correctional facility. They saw the wasted potential and encouraged him to have his case looked at again. 

It was also in the gym after he was released where he met friend Roy Jones Jr. a professional boxer and Olympic silver medalist of 1988. Smith’s book, “Trade Off,” explains the tradeoff he made to set aside dreams of basketball fame to help Jones Jr. in his boxing career. Smith had a keen eye and picked up boxing quickly. He saw things many of the experienced boxers would miss. Jones Jr. persuaded him to be his trainer and the two have been life-long friends ever since that later resulted in Florida Boxing Hall of Fame careers for both of them. They were inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame’s 2023 class with Jones Jr. winning 66 out of 76 fights in his 34-year career. 

Smith has become a local legend in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida. He began as a basketball star using his God-given talent to win a state championship for the Pensacola Youth All-Stars basketball team before continuing his athletic career at Concordia Junior College in Selma, Alabama and then at Faulkner University. 

Blessed with a second chance, Smith has found a way to give back to others, especially young children as the current coach and substitute teacher for Lighthouse Point Christian Academy in Pensacola, Florida.

“At Lighthouse, all the children were given my book to read,” Smith said. “There was one girl who came up to me after reading it and said the book made her want to live again. It touched me so much. You never know how your life is going to impact someone else’s.”