PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 23, 2018  
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DAWEJKO VOWS TO GIVE HIS ALL IN
DO-OR-DIE FIGHT WITH JENNINGS

Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. / dcobbjr.com
 

 
   

Many who have watched Philly heavyweight Joey Dawejko ply his trade in the ring know that heís a bit of a puzzle. Physically, he looks like a pure puncher Ė short and stocky, with close cropped hair and a fixed smirk on his face that implies heís hiding something. However when the bell rings, Dawejko is more boxer than puncher, with surprisingly mobile feet and slick defensive moves. Perhaps this is the secret that his smirk keeps.

Or maybe Dawejkoís biggest secret is that his skillset and potential as a fighter have always seemed much greater than the story told by his inconsistent performances and 19-4-4, 11 KOs, record. On one hand, this discrepancy could be a secret weapon, potentially making him a spoiler for any fighter, matchmaker or promoter who takes him lightly. However, Dawejko himself has always been a full partner in the business of underestimating his true potential.

You see, with Joey Dawejko, the only real question is whether or not heíll show up on fight night in good enough shape to deliver. His performances have often been hampered by his spotty conditioning, and therefore Joeyís prospects for success have always been held hostage by this missing piece of his game.   

On Saturday night, Dawejko and his Achilles heel will be tested like never before in a hotly anticipated collision with fellow Philadelphian and heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings. Their 10-round bout, with the PA State Heavyweight Championship and both of their careers at stake, is the best Philly vs. Philly bout staged in years and is part of a mega-watt fight card at the Liacouras Center in North Philly.   

The match is an interesting one. Despite their geographical similarities and comparable weight class, Dawejko and Jennings are very different animals.

Dawejko began fighting during his childhood, while late bloomer Jennings started as a grown man. Joey garnered many amateur trophies, while Bryant got in and got out of the amateur ranks in the blink of an eye.

As professionals, Jennings mounted a fast-rising campaign that led him to a shot at world champ Wladimir Klitschko, while Dawejko rode his rollercoaster journey to the middle of the division.

Their training regiments are night and day opposites. Jennings, who splits his training time between Philly and Florida, has always put his conditioning first, while Dawejko, who holds camp in California, has always struggled to commit to the toils of the gym.

Yet, both of their paths have led them to Saturday nightís fight, in an assignment that figures to be ďmust winĒ for each heavyweight.

Dawejko claims that heís finally overcome his fatal flaw and that his entire future will be launched with a win over Bryant Jennings. If Joey has in fact trained properly, the fight could be his. However, if he took another shortcut to the ring this time, itís a fat chance that heíll come out on top. We will find out when the bell rings on Saturday night.

I spoke to Dawejko by phone at his West Coast training camp.


HOW HAS TRAINING CAMP AT THE WILDCARD GYM BEEN GOING?
ďItís the best camp Iíve put in in my whole life. Weíve been getting ten to twelve rounds in on our sparring days. We spar Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So, like I said, this is the best camp that I ever put in. Iíve been out here since January.Ē 


HAS IT BEEN HARD TO BE AWAY FROM HOME FOR SO LONG?
ďMy fiancťe, Maria makes it a lot easier for me. While Iím out here, she handles everything back home.  Sheís a bigger trouper than me because sheís taking care of the kids, holding the house down, paying the bills, doing everything she has to do so I can come out here and do what I need to do. So, she has to get props too, because sheís doing just as much as me.Ē 


SO YOUíVE BEEN TRAINING FOR FOUR MONTHS FOR THIS FIGHT?
ďI was supposed to fight in March, and I was already in shape for that fight. A couple of weeks before that, this fight happened to come about. So, this gave me a lot of extra time to be in a lot better shape. Itís been a great camp and Iím about to prove to the world what Iím about.Ē 


DO YOU THINK YOUR CONDITIONING HAS BEEN THE MISSING PIECE? 
ďI always get the people that say I never come in in shape. But this is a completely different thing. Iím doing things Iíve never done before. People always criticized me Ė Ďoh, he probably never raní.  I might not have run as much as people think (I should), but now itís a steady thing for me.  This is a completely different camp. I know that this is life or death. So Iím doing everything I need to do. Iím in great shape. Iíve been running every day. Iím about to prove to the world what who I am.Ē 


NO ONE HAS EVER QUESTIONED YOUR SKILLS
ďI have great skills. Iím a good puncher. Iím fast on my feet. The only thing is if Iím going to show up in shape or not. So, thatís my biggest thing right now. Iím in shape. I feel that Iím a better fighter than him. Iím a bigger puncher.Ē


WHAT ARE BRYANTíS ADVANTAGES IN THIS FIGHT?
ďHis strength really for a lot of years has been that heís always been in great shape. Heís always been in super condition. Maybe he has some experience over me in the pros, but Iíve been fighting my whole life. So, it doesnít matter what type of shape he comes in. Iím the better fighter, and Iím going to prove it on that night.Ē 


IS THIS THE BIGGEST FIGHT OF YOUR CAREER?
ďYes, it is the biggest fight of my career. I know with a win over Bryant Jennings, where my career can go. It doesnít matter who I fought before, because itís this fight thatís going to matter.  After this fight, Iím going to get bigger opportunities. Letís face it. Heís pretty high in the rankings. So, after this fight, when I beat him, Iím going to be in that position. Iím going to get the big money fights. Iím going to get the bigger name fights. So, yes, this is the biggest fight of my career, and I completely treated it like that. The whole camp, from the moment my manager called me, I knew we were going to put it together and I knew this was going to be the biggest fight of my career.Ē 


IS JENNINGS THE BEST FIGHTER YOUíVE EVER FACED?
ďI donít know if heís the best opponent. Amir Mansour was a great fighter. Iím giving him that respect now. I donít know if Jennings is the best. Iíll have to tell you on fight night.Ē 


THE MANSOUR FIGHT WAS ONE YOU LET SLIP AWAY, RIGHT?
ďMy manager (Mark Cipparone) brings it up to me all the time. He says, ĎJoe, you know that you could have won, and itís your fault (that you didnít).í It is my fault, and thatís everything I was willing to change. I walked out of that ring as a better fighter that night. Itís a shame because it was my fourth loss, but I needed that learning experience. It was the first time I was going ten rounds, the first time I was ever cut. I needed that learning experience. Walking out of the ring, I knew I was a better fighter. Now Iíve put it altogether to be a complete fighter.Ē 


HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FACING ANOTHER PHILLY FIGHTER?
ďEverybody criticizes the Philly vs. Philly stuff, but Bryant Jennings never paid my electric bill. He never put any money in my pocket to make sure me or my kids were ok. So, it doesnít matter where heís from. I donít have any friends in the heavyweight division. There are guys that I talk to, guys that Iím cool with, but none of them are my friends, because eventually weíre going to fight someday. After my career, we can be friends, but as of right now, itís about business.Ē 


YOU HOLD A WIN OVER JENNINGS AS AN AMATEUR AND SPARRED WITH HIM AS A PRO YEARS AGO. DOES THIS MEAN ANYTHING NOW? 

ďBryant Jennings knows exactly who I am. Top Rank gave him, Iím not going to say easy fights, but Top Rank gave him three fights to get back. I think they might be thinking they gave him four fights to get back into title contention. Itís going to be a big upset. Maybe Top Rank was looking at my record and thinking this is just another tune-up for Bryant. But deep down inside, Jennings knows exactly who I am, so heís going to bring it all. He better be treating this like itís a championship fight, because Iím no slouch. Iím giving it my everything. You havenít seen my everything yet, and thatís my fault. But Iím going to give my everything in this fight.Ē 


HAVENíT YOU FELT THIS WAY BEFORE IN YOUR CAREER?

ďMy mind is right. Iím completely focused. I know the opportunity that this holds, and Iím not going to give that up. After I beat Bryant Jennings, it puts me in the rankings. Iím not losing this fight.Ē 


WHAT DOES THE CHANCE TO WIN THE PA TITLE MEAN TO YOU?
ďI love Philadelphia; I love Pennsylvania, but it doesnít mean too much because Iím moving on to beiger and better things.


IN PHILLY, THERE IS A LOT OF BUZZ ABOUT THE FIGHT. ITíS NOT THE MAIN EVENT, BUT IT DOESNíT IT FEEL LIKE IT IS?
ďAbsolutely! This is an intriguing fight. I have respect for everybody fighting on this card. The main event, Isaac Dogboe and Jesse Magdaleno. Iíve known Isaac for a couple years now. He trains out in California. I know Jesse Magdaleno from back in the amateurs. Iíve known Jesse Hart since we were 12 years old. But this is the biggest fight on the card. This is the best fight on the card.Ē   


TO BEAT JENNINGS, YOU HAVE TO MAKE GOOD ON YOUR PROMISE OF BEING IN SHAPE
ďThis is do or die for me. When I win this fight, itís going to bring on better money, so I can provide for my children the way I want to. I want to give them the world. Like I said, this is the biggest fight for me, and Iím doing everything I need to get the win and to move on to a better life for me, my fiancť, and my children. This is where everybodyís going to see the real Joey Dawejko.Ē 

   
 

 

 
 


John DiSanto - Philadelphia - April 23, 2018
 

 
     
 

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