PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        February 04, 2010


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The first time I ran into Tacony heavyweight Joey Dawejko was at least three years ago. It was at the Veteran Boxers Club in Port Richmond. His trainer Brian McGinley, a former Philly welterweight and a member of the Club, introduced us one night. McGinley told me that Dawejko was the future heavyweight champion of the world. At a glance, it was easy to see that Joey was a fighter. He just had that look. Although small for a heavyweight, he appeared plenty big and powerful. He was a polite, shy kid who didn't say much that night. But he exuded confidence. I asked him how old he was.

"16", he said, and then a shy smile spread across his face. It was a smile that surely had surfaced before in similar situations. There must be a look on a middle-aged guy's face when he meets a little kid that 1) can already beat the crap out of him, and 2) is probably going to become the heavyweight boxing champion. The smile crawled across Joey's face. It was shy at first but ended confidently - smug even. You could tell that Dawejko believed the touting. And the look on my face probably helped to validate it all in some way.

The best part of local the local boxing scene is when you spot a young fighter and begin to project your own dreams on him. There is something intoxicating about "discovering" a thing that has yet to be discovered. People do it with music all the time. There is always one of your friends that touts some band that no one else has ever heard of. Boxing can be like that too. You see a guy. You like the way he fights, or how he carries himself, and you decide that you want him to make it big. If you do it early enough, somehow it feels like you were part of it all - and maybe even own a piece of it. Perhaps that is one of the secrets that American Idol holds.

So here's this young kid, still an amateur. You've never even seen him fight, and somehow it seems like he really could be heavyweight champ one day. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but that's not all that it was.

Since meeting Dawejko that night, I've seen him fight a couple of times. One was in the annual "Irish Amateur Boxing Show" a couple of years ago. The Irish team came to town and beat the Harrowgate Boxing Club team in every bout that night - except one. Dawejko scored the only home team win that year.

Over the past few years, I've run into Joey many times - at fights, at the VBA, at the gym. Last year Dawejko took home the "Everett Brothers Award" at the annual Briscoe Awards Event.

As an amateur boxer, Dawejko made his mark and did just about all he could to validate McGinley's prediction. At 16, Joey became the youngest ever Junior World Champion. He won numerous other titles as well.

He made his professional debut last October, winning a six-round decision over Royphy Solieau at the Coushatta Casino Resort in Louisiana. Dawejko wanted his first bout to be a six-rounder to shadow the great amateur stand-outs like Sugar Ray Leonard who started that way.

Solieau proved to be a tough first foe. He climbed off the floor in round two and hung in for the full six rounds. But Dawejko came home with his first win, a unanimous decision.

Obviously it is just too early to know if Dawejko will become a professional champ. But his quest continues Friday night at the Blue Horizon. It was at the legendary venue that Joey witnessed his first boxing match, and decided that he wanted to give the sport a try.

He returns Friday night for his second fight - a four round preliminary on a card that is shaping up to be pretty good. Many more experienced fighters will appear on the show - USBA champ Derek Ennis, featherweight Eric Hunter, upcoming Ronald Cruz against wily old Martinus Clay. But the hopes and dreams of most of the Philly fans on Friday night will be riding on Joey Dawejko when he takes on Damon Clement.

It is a fight that will only be a footnote on Joey's overall record, if he does indeed go on to big things in the pro ranks. It's not even his pro debut. But Dawejko's hometown debut is a "can't be missed" moment in local boxing lore. We have to be there - just in case he can prove Brian McGinley correct, and one day, become the heavyweight champion of the world.




John DiSanto - News & Notes - February 04, 2010