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
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
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
The match is an
interesting one. Despite their geographical similarities and
comparable weight class, Dawejko and Jennings are very
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.
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.
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
Yet, both of their
paths have led them to Saturday nightís fight, in an
assignment that figures to be ďmust winĒ for each
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
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
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
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
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
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