MANSFIELD - Doyle Baird walked into the Ohio State Reformatory late Wednesday morning on different terms.
Baird, 80, of Akron, returned to the prison-turned-museum, where he served 39 months for manslaughter and burglary from August 1959 to 1963. The prison is famous for having served as the set for the movie "The Shawshank Redemption."
Baird turned his life around after leaving the prison, which is where he first put on boxing gloves.
On the outside, he fought as a boxer for years, training amateur boxers in the Akron area even after his retirement.
"This place really did me good. I almost got famous being a boxer. I fought the light heavyweight champion of the world. I fought the middleweight champion of the world, I fought him to a draw in the Akron Rubber Bowl," Baird said.
He learned to box while in prison. He said the prison's boxing ring was in the chapel's gymnasium. That building has since been torn down.
Baird recalled that he got into a boxing tournament and got to the championship fight and Baird was whipping the other inmate but he got cut, so the prison officials stopped the fight and awarded the trophy to the other fellow.
Baird said the other boxer offered him the trophy, saying he had been winning the fight.
"But I wouldn't take it," he said.
After an amateur career, he turned professional in 1966 under the wing of Don Elbaum. After defeating Ted Wright two years later, he had amassed a 23-2 record. On Oct. 14, 1968, Doyle fought middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti in a non-title bout at the Akron Rubber Bowl.
Wednesday, he walked along the east cell block and reminisced about his time spent in cells on both the east and west cell blocks.
"I had some good friends here. It's hard to believe, but I did," he said.
He recalled the lower level of the cell block was called the gray range and it was a place you were sent for bad behavior.
"You lost all your benefits. You didn't get to go to any movies, no ball games. In them days you stayed here, no radio, nothing," he said.
Baird worked in the prison print shop. He has visited OSR one other time since his incarceration.
"I came to a David Allan Coe concert here at OSR," he said. "David Allan Coe and I worked together in the print shop."
Baird said the print shop printed a weekly newspaper that came out on Saturdays and had all the boxing and baseball reports from inside the prison.
He walked into the prison on Ohio 545 at age 22.
"I was scared," he said.
As he toured the facility, he asked to see solitary confinement. He spent time there after he was caught stealing some paper from the print shop for a buddy.
"You slept on the floor," he said. "They gave you a pair of overalls and you put them on the floor to lay on.
Baird said he was incarcerated after he got into a fight with a guy and the man was ran over by a car he was riding in. The man died, something he has never forgotten.
His parents visited him in prison. His father was a minister in Akron and later in Columbus.
"I had two sisters and they were meaner than me. That ain't no joke," he said.
Baird said he was married young, at 18, and had two children before he came to prison. When he got out of prison, he learned he was divorced.
He was married to his second wife, Janet, for 50 years. They had four children.
As he and his friends who brought him to Mansfield walked throughout the humid prison, he said life could be tough behind the prison walls.
"It wasn't really so bad," he said.
But on the flip side, he and other inmates even played basketball against Ohio State legends Jerry Lucas and John Havlichek.
Baird said he felt "funny" as he stood looking up at the tiers of cell blocks.
"It's kind of getting deteriorated since I left in '63," he said.
The spry man said after leaving OSR, he devoted his life to family and boxing and then working for the Akron Beacon Journal as a newspaper delivery truck driver.
The reason for the trip?
He said he just wanted to see the place one more time.