|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - May 08, 2015
After almost two months of bad blood, pointed cross-talk and facial hair disputes, Amir Mansour defeated Joey Dawejko via 10-round unanimous decision Friday night at the 2300 Arena in South Philly to win the PA State Heavyweight Title. Although the build-up was slightly more entertaining than the actual fight it produced, this was a good battle that played out in two acts before a sold out crowd of 1,300 and a national TV audience watching at home on ESPN2.
Act One saw Mansour take the opening round on pure energy before Dawejko (fighting with a neatly trimmed beard) took control of the fight's first half, beginning in round two. Joey's success wasn't measured in the amount of telling blows he landed, but rather in slick counter punches and defensive moves that kept a tight Mansour cautious.
Toward the end of round two, the fighters banged heads and Mansour came away with a bloody gash on the outside of his right eye. The stream from the wound clearly worried Mansour as he pawed away at the cut, his face covered with blood. For a moment it looked like he might unravel. However, the bell ended the round in time before any such meltdown.
In round three, Joey continued to box well, slipping shots and firing counters. He also began to alternate to a southpaw stance and landed a strong left to the head. Although bemused by Dawejko's lefty approach, Mansour's emotions as the third round unfolded changed from the panic he showed after the cut to more of an angry sentiment.
Amir was still bleeding heavily from that cut, but seemed to settle into more of a "why me" mood in this round. Everything had him shaking his head - the bleeding eye, the suddenly southpaw opponent, and the pro-Dawejko crowd. Mansour began playing to the crowd when they chanted Joey's name. All of these behaviors were signs that Dawejko was getting to Mansour mentally.
However, just when it looked like Joey had things in control, the fighters clashed heads once again. This time Dawejko came out of it with an obvious wince, and even worse, his own bloody slit to worry about. Immediately, Dawejko was spewing blood from the nasty gash. His face was streaked down the middle, and Mansour's misfortune of the round before had been evened out. Amir wasn't shaking his head at this new development, and he let his hands go with the site of Joey's blood.
In round four, the pattern continued - both fighters were bleeding, Mansour threw his heavy bombs carefully, and for the most part, Dawejko circled away and shot out a few counters.
Suddenly from the southpaw stance, Dawejko hurled a looping left at Mansour. It landed on his temple and Amir buckled. He stumbled forward, almost touching his glove to the floor. However, he stayed upright and pressed forward. This was the best round of the fight, with both boxers at their most active. By the end of the round, Joey was breathing from his mouth.
Despite his energy fade, Dawejko still won round five. The fighters exchanged body punches in the fifth and Joey continued to show real signs of fatigue. At the half-way point in the bout, Dawejko was leading four rounds to one.
Act Two of this play began in round six, when Mansour took charge of the bout. As Dawejko tired, his output slowed considerably. This encouraged Mansour to open up. Generally Amir became busier and his heavy blows flowed more freely. Amir no longer looked tight. He was looser, braver, and more confident.
As the bout went down the stretch, Joey kept switching from righty to lefty and back, but his hands were not moving much from either stance. Mansour's power shots eventually began to find their mark, but they weren't hurting Joey as they had with his previous opponents. Mansour landed his dangerous right hook and then a straight left on Joey's face hit home. Joey felt the shots, but he remained sturdy on his feet.
Mansour was scoring points, winning rounds, and making up ground on the cards. After the eighth, the fight was even on my scorecard, four rounds apiece. The fight was a good one, but it fell a bit short when no Act Three came to turn the fight again.
Instead Act Two continued to run uninterrupted. Mansour edged ahead in round nine as Joey slowed to a near halt. In the final round, it was more of the same, except that Dawejko was huffing and puffing. For Joey, the final bell couldn't come soon enough.
With about one minute left in the fight, Mansour whacked Dawejko with a left uppercut and right hook that nearly bowled Joey over. Dawejko crouched low and regained his balance. When he stood up straight, he let out a big heaving breath. Dawejko was exhausted. The Tank's tank was nearly out of gas. Mansour pressed further and Joey managed a few hard shots to discourage Amir's roll. Moments later the bell ended the fight.
After all the that nasty buildup, this Philly grudge match was over. The fighters embraced in the ring, as fighters usually do, and it appeared the feud was over.
The judges all saw Mansour the winner. Steve Weisfeld scored it 98-92. John Poturaj had it 97-93, and David Braslow saw the fight the closest at 96-94. My tally was the same as Braslow's.
"I didn't doubt that it would," Mansour said about the fight going the distance. "All I knew was that I was prepared to do ten rounds of war, if that was the case."
When asked by one of Dawejko's supporters whether there was any chance of a rematch, Mansour said, "No man. Why waste my time with that?"
There is no reason for a second match between the two. Both fighters gave a good fight and Mansour, 22-1, 16 KOs, won it clearly with his superior conditioning and bigger desire to win.
Dawejko, 14-4-2, 7 KOs, was a big underdog going in, but gave a good account of himself in the fight. He was better prepared for this fight than any of his other recent bouts, but still has some work to do. Without question however, Dawejko's stock went up.
With the gritty victory, Mansour, 42 and now the Pennsylvania State Heavyweight Champion, kept alive his pursuit of landing a big fight. Going in, this one felt like a "no win" situation for him. But he took the fight against his better judgment and he won it. Let's hope for his sake he now gets a fight that can move him up the rankings.
The fight was expertly matched and promoted by all involved - Peltz Boxing, BAM Boxing, Joe Hand Promotions, Mansour, Dawejko, their fans, and the various social media platforms. The moment whispers of this pairing started to circulate, it felt like a natural. It didn't take long for the fighters to start talking, the fans to start getting excited, and the promoters to start selling tickets. We need more of these events in Philly. I can't remember there being more anticipation for a local fight in quite a while.
In the co-feature bout, middleweight DeCarlo Perez, Atlantic City, looked sharp in his 8-round points victory over a more experienced Jessie Nicklow of Baltimore. Nicklow had a strong first round, but DeCarlo took over in round two, using a steady body attack and a good jab to control the remainder of the fight.
By round three, Perez was all warmed up and began mixing in a variety of power shots - left upper cuts, straight rights, and hard body blows - to move from controlling the fight to complete dominance of it. Still, the well-seasoned Nicklow remained competitive, landing occasional right hands and left hooks of his own that kept the contest interesting.
As the fight came to a close, Nicklow landed the final volley of the fight, but it was far too little too late. Perez had done enough already to have banked the last round, as well as all the others since the first. The judges scores confirmed this; John Poturaj, David Braslow and Steve Weisfeld all scored the bout 79-73 for Perez, 14-3-1, 5 KOs. My score concurred.
"It felt great to be in there with a guy with more experience and who's only lost to top fighters like Jermain Taylor, Fernando Guerrero and (Olympic Gold Medalist) Ryota Murata."
This was the third straight win for Perez, who impressed his last time out with a stoppage of hard-punching Tyrone Brunson in the same arena. In fact, Perez has been on an excellent streak in the past three years, with only one misstep in his last nine bouts.
"I was very happy to be in there and to do everything we did in training. In the first round he came in with a crazy right hand and wanted to wrestle a lot. That was something that we didn't incorporate in training, the wrestling. But knowing the skills I have and being well-prepared for the fight, whatever he brought to the fight, I was able to take care of and deal with."
Nicklow, now 24-6-3, 8 KOs, lost his third straight, but provided a solid test for Perez, who performed on ESPN2 for the first time.
Between the main event and co-feature, Philly's David Gonzales, 5-0-2, 1 KO, and Wilmington's Ryan Belasco, 18-6-4, 4 KOs, battled to a 6-round draw on national television. It was a sloppy and slow-moving junior welterweight bout, with Gonzales taking the early lead before Belasco pulled the fight even with a surge in the final three rounds.
Many of the rounds were close, so the even verdict may have been the correct call. I scored the bout for Gonzales by a hair. However, two of the three judges, Poturaj and Braslow saw it deadlocked at 57-57. Steve Weisfeld had Gonzales the winner, 58-56.
The result probably came down to the final round. If you gave the sixth to Belasco the bout was a draw. If you favored Gonzales, he wound up two points ahead (4 rounds to 2). I hedged on the round and called it even. Thus my score was 58-57 for Gonzales.
It is significant to note that Belasco is one of the toughest battle-tested vets on the local scene. So, even with the draw outcome, Gonzales, with 21 less bouts on his resume, came away with a victory of sorts.
The evening began with wild, free-swinging Gang-Yong Kim winning a one-sided four rounder in a junior lightweight bout against Edgardo Torres. For Kim, a recent transplant from Seoul, South Korea, it was his first appearance in the USA.
Kim dropped Torres in round one and continued to swarm for the rest of the fight. However, Torres remained upright until the final bell. The scores of the official judges were all 40-35, which mirrored my card as well.
Kim, 4-1, is now a Philadelphian fighting out of the Fast Lane Boxing Club. Torres, Vineland, NJ, lost for the third straight time and went home 2-4, 2 KOs.
In a scheduled 6-round welterweight clash, Baltimore's Kevin Womack, 5-5-2, 3 KOs, surprised Nathaniel Rivas of Berlin, NJ, 5-2, 2 KOs, by jumping out at the opening bell with an overwhelming attack that brought the bout to a sudden end.
Womack hurt Rivas to the body right off the bat and then pinned him to the ropes and fired away. Several hard shots landed and although Rivas sagged a few times, he never went down from the onslaught.
At one point Rivas appeared to escape the mugging, but Womack hunted him down and continued to punch until referee Gary Rosato stepped in to stop the fight. The time was 1:24 of round one.
This was the second straight TKO loss for Rivas, and the first win for Womack since 2012.
In another quickie, Vineland's Ismael Garcia, halted Cincinnati's Tommy Ayers in the first round of a scheduled 6-round junior middleweight fight. Garcia dropped Ayers with a left and once he rose, bashed him with a trio of right hands that forced referee Shawn Clark to end the fight after just 2:06.
The victory kept Garcia unbeaten (8-0, 4 KOs, 1 No Contest), while Ayers slid to 2-5, 2 KOs.
This was the highest-attended Philly show thus far in 2015, and one of the most anticipated local main events in recent memory. 1,300 tickets were sold, including many SRO admissions. The popularity of the Mansour-Dawejko match - measured in both box office and pre-fight excitement - confirms that local pairings are extremely well received by the fans, if still resisted by much of the boxing community. Philly fighters prefer not to face each other, but when they do, it is almost always a recipe for an entertaining show. Mansour-Dawejko, was no exception.