PHILLY RING DEBUT FRIDAY AT BLUE
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 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
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.
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
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.