PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 21, 2018  
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Story by John DiSanto


The best Philly vs. Philly fight in years - Bryant Jennings vs. Joey Dawejko - is just one week away. These days, most feel that two Philly fighters squaring off against each other is a mortal sin committed by the powers that be, who want to see just one boxer move forward while the other falls back. But isn't that the basic recipe of boxing? 

We go to the fights to see combat between well-matched boxers, and we know that only one will have their hand raised at the end. This will happen on Saturday night and it is up to Jennings and Dawejko to determine who wins. The fact that both are from the City of Brotherly Love only intensifies the drama.

Presumably, next week at the Liacouras Center, everyone will be quite familiar with both Jennings and Dawejko, and the house will be split between Joey fans, Bryant fans, and fans that can't choose between the two. So, the place will be filled with emotion, conflict, and  if the fighters do their job - excitement.

Both fighters can win the fight, and the result will be determined by their character, the effort they make in inside the ring and the work they did leading up to fight night. And that's exactly how it should be. 

Philly vs. Philly fights insist that the participants do their very best. They know their opponent has come up in the best boxing city on the planet and that everyone attending the fight knows them and their story well.

Next Saturday night, the Liacouras Center will be a crucible, and when it's over, neither Jennings, Dawejko, or we fans will ever be the same. Sounds like a great night to me.  

Jennings and Dawejko aren't the only Philly fighters to take this plunge. Our history is filled with such fights. Here's another PVP classic to consider.

April 7, 1953 – The Arena

These days we all remember that South Philadelphian Joey Giardello was world middleweight champion in the early 1960s. However in 1953, he was still rising in the ranks and taking on all comers in an attempt to land a fight for the title. By the time he took on North Philly’s Gil Turner at the Arena in West Philly, the 22-year old Brooklyn transplant already had sixty bouts with many ranked contenders of the day.   

Giardello kept climbing through the division, but what he didn’t know was that another seven years would pass before he would receive his first shot (a controversial draw against Gene Fullmer) and another three years beyond that before he would win the crown against Dick Tiger.

Unlike Giardello, Turner was a sensation who rose quickly through the ranks and earned a high-profile title shot after about two years as a pro. At 31-0, he faced the great Kid Gavilan in a blockbuster event at Philly's Municipal Stadium for the world welterweight championship.

When Tuner took on Giardello, he was just nine months past his impressive-but-losing effort against Gavilan. Still angling for a rematch with the Cuban Hawk, Turner spotted Giardello seven pounds and fought as a middleweight for their one and only meeting in the ring.

Despite the size disadvantage, Turner was still the 11-5 favorite against Giardello.  

The fight that resulted was an all-action, ten-round, windmill of a battle. Turner started quickly and built an early lead. Giardello was cut in the third and bled for the rest of the night. In the fourth, they traded blows for nearly the entire three minutes. Giardello appeared fully warmed up and as the fight approached the mid-point, he began chipping away at Gil’s early lead.

The fighters continued to punch non-stop in a fight that John Webster of The Inquirer called “one of the most furious hitting duels ever waged in Philadelphia”. By the middle of the fight, Giardello was making his move toward victory, but this was a consistent two-way war.

The tables really turned in round seven when Giardello speared Turner with a long right hand to the chin. The punch staggered Turner, and his legs never seemed to recover. Giardello took control down the stretch, winning rounds seven, eight and nine.

In the tenth round, Turner fought with everything he had, desperately trying to regain control off the fight. Turner was known for his heart and willingness to fight, but Giardello refused to coast and did his best to score a knockout. That knockout never came and the breathtaking battle raged until the final bell ended it. Joey took the unanimous decision, and continued his long quest to the championship.

Turner fought for another five years, and remained in the welterweight and middleweight ratings. He was a popular fighter with many national television appearances and important wins over Gene Fullmer, Johnny Saxton, Charley Scott, and Virgil Akins still to come. However, Turner never made it back to a world title fight.

7,377 fans watched the South Philly vs. North Philly struggle between Giardello and Turner, and it remains one of the most exciting PVP fights in history.  

Next up - Charley Scott vs. Sugar Hart...




John DiSanto - Philadelphia - April 21, 2018