|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - August 06, 2015|
Long before the trio of featured bouts that top the nationally televised ShoBox broadcast gets underway at Bally’s Atlantic City on Friday night, three Philly-area locals will step into the ring for important comeback fights that will set the stage for the next chapter of their respective careers.
Joey Dawejko, Thomas LaManna, and Anthony Burgin all lost their most recent fights, and look to Friday night as their first step toward a common goal of climbing to the top of a very tough profession.
Philly heavyweight Joey Dawejko, 14-4-2, 7 KOs, was last seen in a nationally televised (ESPN2) 10-rounder with contender Amir Mansour in May. Joey started fast in that one, but dried up as the fight entered the second half, allowing Mansour to come away with the decision.
It wasn’t Dawejko’s first setback, but it was the first time he lost since turning over a new 6-bout leaf. That streak put him on the crest of big things in the heavyweight division, and won him the Briscoe Medal as the Breakout Fighter of 2014. Dawejko’s positive roll, which included four consecutive first-round knockouts, stalled against Mansour, but sparked the fighter to move forward more determined than ever.
“I felt bad,” Dawejko said of the loss. “I needed to do more. But even though I took a loss career-wise, I think experience-wise, it was the best thing for me. It taught me who I was and what I needed to do and what else I needed to work on to get to where I want to go.”
After the bout, he returned to California where he trains with relatively new team addition, Buddy McGirt, who came on board as his head trainer for the Mansour fight.
“After the Mansour fight, me and Buddy sat down and we talked it out,” Dawejko said. “It was a learning experience. I know I took a loss. It’s always hard to take a loss, but that fight helped me more than any other.”
So Dawejko and McGirt worked on filling the gaps they had discovered, with the help of Amir Mansour.
“I knew exactly what I needed to work on,” Dawejko said. “More conditioning, throwing more punches, being able to get off the full 10 rounds. That’s basically what I worked on, basically just being a better fighter. It was a lot different this time. We also brought (former Philly fighter, now trainer) Greg Hackett out there too, just to help out a little bit. And it went good.”
Dawejko was a standout amateur who won numerous national and international tournaments as a teenager. He appeared destined for big things in the professional ranks. However, his pro career started inconsistently.
In the beginning, Dawejko took just about any fight offered to him, but did not have the career guidance to steer the ship in any certain direction. He rotated trainers regularly and seemed to have an aversion to serious workouts.
In 2013, after four years in the ring, Joey sat with an 8-3-2, 3 KOs, record, a KO loss to rising prospect Charles Martin, and a clear understanding that his natural talent was not enough to get him anywhere in the sport of boxing.
Dawejko opened 2014 with a surprise win over veteran Derric Rossy. The victory began a new chapter in Joey’s boxing career. Suddenly he was training seriously and his attitude had lifted from the club fighter mentality that he had settled for up to that point.
“In January 2014, I beat a ranked contender, Derric Rossy, and that basically turned my career around,” Dawejko said.
Wins started coming his way. Dawejko signed a promotional contract with Peltz Boxing and defeated prospect Mark Rideout by decision. Next he joined Club 57 Management, taking on Mark Cipparone as his manager.
For nearly one year, Peltz and Cipparone lined up the opponents, and Dawejko mowed them down. David Williams, Yohan Banks, Rayford Johnson and Enobong Umohette all fell to Dawejko in less than three minutes.
The streak led to the big bout with Mansour and Joey’s chance to enter the serious end of the heavyweight rankings. Dawejko came up short in the fight, but realized how close he was to finally making some real noise in the pros.
“After a loss in a fighter’s career, they always want go back in the gym, work hard, and then go back in the ring and show what you can prove,” Dawejko said.
Sometime after the Mansour fight, Dawejko and Peltz went their separate ways, as often happens in the sport. I guess in boxing, when it ain’t broke, the players try to fix it anyway.
So now Dawejko, still firmly aligned with manager Mark Cipparone, steps into Friday’s 8-rounder with Wilmington, DE’s Robert Dunton, 11-14-1, 6 KOs, as a promotional free agent, and with his next date already set.
“I was offered a fight on August 28th with Natu Visinia on ShoBox,” Dawejko said. “And we took that fight also.”
So if he beats Dunton, Joey moves on to that interesting matchup with once-defeated Visinia, in just three weeks. Therefore winning on Friday is critical, and another quick KO wouldn’t hurt either.
“I can’t go in and get hurt or get a cut or something in this fight,” Dawejko said. “As long as this fight (with Dunton) goes smooth, it’s a done deal. I know it’s a good opportunity. Natu is actually a good friend of mine, but we have to put the friendship aside and we have to go to work. He has a family to support and so do I.”
With Buddy McGirt as his trainer, Dawejko is spending much of his time in California. This is something that is helping his development a great deal, but it is equally as hard on his family.
“It’s always tough being away from your family, but it’s a sacrifice that will be beneficial for me,” Dawejko said. “It is hard. I was Face-Timing with my fiancé and my kids probably four or five times a day (while in camp), but I’m home now and I’m looking to spend as much time as I can when them. But then it’s time to get ready for my next fight.”
A win on Friday leads to a TV fight in three weeks. If he can defeat both Dunton and Visinia, Dawejko will be right back on track.
“Basically I just want to stay healthy, get through these two fights, and see where I’m at,” Dawejko said. “I do want to stay active. Last year was the most active year of my career. I had five fights. So I want to keep it going, stay active this year, and eventually be in line for a title shot.”
All of that begins on Friday night.
In another 8-rounder on the same Friday night card, Millville, NJ middleweight Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna, 16-1, 7 KOs, looks to bounce back after his first career loss. Cornflake takes on familiar foe Joshua Robertson, 7-8, 2 KOs, on the off-TV portion of the show. LaManna and Robertson met almost two years ago, with Cornflake winning a shutout 6-round decision.
“He’s tough, durable,” LaManna said of Robertson. “He really came to fight last time. He brought a real tough fight, but I still won the fight easy. I won every round, and I think I won every second of the fight. I definitely want to stop him this time. I want to make a statement.”
Getting back into the ring after tasting defeat for the first time is big on LaManna’s to-do list. His loss to unbeaten hopeful Antoine Douglas in March was a rude awakening for Cornflake. After sixteen relatively easy victories – really only Jamaal Davis gave him a tough test – LaManna found himself in a storm of danger against Douglas.
Cornflake fought tough, but was dropped three times in round six, and lost by TKO. He begged for a chance to keep fighting, but had to go home with his first “L” and a feeling he’d never felt before.
“A huge chip on my shoulder,” LaManna said. “They say in boxing, ‘you’re only as good as your last fight’. My last fight I lost and I got stopped. I considered not fighting anymore. Took a lot of time off from the gym. Went into a little bad stage, a depressed stage. But at the end of the day, nobody’s perfect, losing is a part of boxing, getting stopped is a part of boxing.”
LaManna struggled with the situation but found his desire to fight again.
“They have a saying,” LaManna said. “It’s not that you get knocked down, it’s that you get back up. I definitely got back up. I found that oomph in me to keep it going.”
Cornflake is convinced that the setback against Douglas has made him a better fighter and looks forward to proving it.
“This is a fight to show everyone what I’m about,” LaManna said. “Coming off a loss, it definitely made me work harder. It made me understand. It made me more humble. I worked on a lot of things since my last fight. I definitely want to make a statement and get him out of there. It’s an 8-round fight, the last time it was 6, so I have more time. I’m not looking to blast him out in one round. I’m looking to do it however it’s meant to be done. I just want to take my time and be sure to do it right and look impressive.”
He should be safe on Friday night, but having already dominated Robertson in a previous fight didn’t make LaManna take his preparations lightly. He just has too much to prove.
“By the time Friday comes, I’ll be in camp ten weeks,” LaManna said. “That’s ten weeks of anger and animosity inside me, thinking about that loss. A day does not go by that I don’t think about the Antoine fight. I know that wasn’t me that night. I learned a lot, I learned a whole lot. Friday night is going to be a get back for me. That feeling was horrible, that feeling was absolutely horrible. I can guarantee that it’s never going to happen again.”
So it’s on to Friday night and a chance to get back on track.
“It’s going to be a really good night and I’m looking forward to it,” LaManna said. “Bally’s is my favorite place to fight. Everything about fighting at Bally’s is great for me. It is like my backyard. I’m looking forward to getting back in the win column and just enjoying my night. Get this chip off my shoulder. As soon as I get that chip off, I’m going to be alright.”
Philadelphia lightweight Anthony Burgin, 8-1, 1 KO, also looks to return from his first loss as a pro, a 5th round TKO at the hands of Amos Cowart in April. After his solid amateur run, Burgin zipped through his first eight pro opponents with relative ease.
The only red flags from those bouts were a shortage of knockouts and one shocking trip to the canvas against Frank Trader. But Burgin won that fight, and all the rest, and remained a Philly fighter to watch, loaded with talent and built for success.
Then came Cowart. Burgin fell to the slightly more experienced Cowart, who also fights on the Bally’s card Friday night.
A fighter’s first loss, especially by KO, often drapes him in questions. Burgin is no exception. He will be out to prove to everyone, including himself, that he still has a future in the ring.
His opponent on Friday, Justin Johnson, 7-8-4, is a familiar trial horse from Pittsburgh. Johnson has fought on the scene for years – Bally’s, Resorts, the Sands in Bethlehem, as well as other spots well known by local fight fans.
The key to this match is that Johnson is a light puncher. So Burgin should be able to get in there and reboot, without too much threat to his suddenly suspect chin. First things first. Burgin needs this win, and then he can answer some tougher questions later.
One loss does not mean a fighter can’t still be a factor. But as LaManna said, you’re only as good as your last fight. On Friday night, Joey Dawejko, Thomas LaManna and Anthony Burgin will do everything they can to raise their stock and prove that they are better boxers than the last time we saw them.
The featured bouts on Friday’s card are a 10-round middleweight clash between Sergiy Derevyanchenko, 5-0, 4 KOs, and veteran Elvin Ayala, 28-6-1, 12 KOs, an 8-round middleweight match between Ievgen Khytrov, 10-0, 9 KOs, and Nick Brinson, 17-3-2, 7 KOs, and an 8-round junior welterweight meeting between Regis Prograis, 14-0, 12 KOs, and Amos Cowart, 11-0-1, 9 KOs.
The show is promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Fight Promotions Inc. Doors open at 6:30, with the first bout scheduled for 7:00. The Showtime telecast begins at 10:00 pm.