PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - September 16, 2019  
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Story by Jennifer Birch


The city of Brotherly Love is synonymous with boxing and has had a long and colorful history of fighting dating back to the late 19th century.  It is home to some of the great boxers of our time who have defined the Philly fighter. Men like Tommy Loughran, Joe Frazier, and Bernard Hopkins are classic examples of fighters who possessed a high boxing IQ, skilled on the finer points of counter punching, inside fighting and old school tactics. It is from Philly’s long and storied tradition of fighters that Joseph Thomas Dawejko’s love of boxing was born. Encouraged by his grandfather, young Joey fell in love with the sport at The Blue Horizon, when he was just 10-years-old.

Dawejko took to the gym like a natural and loved everything about it, the training, physical work, the running, and sparring. Despite losing his first amateur fight, Dawejko’s grandfather helped guide him to a 56-12 amateur record and 14 amateur championships. He became the youngest ever to win the Eastern Olympic Trials at 16 and won a gold medal at the 2008 World Youth Championship in Mexico. In 2009, Dawejko turned pro and working with two-time world heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, he won his first bout by unanimous six-round decision. The Tank remained unbeaten through his first 8 fights, losing for the first time to New York heavyweight Dorsett Barnwell in a six-round bout in Atlantic City.

From then on, he suffered only three more defeats out of 18 fights before finally claiming a WBC regional title. This happened in December of 2017, in a match against the previously undefeated Puerto Rican heavyweight, Kelvin Nunez. Dawejko took an eight-round unanimous decision and claimed the vacant WBC FECARBOX heavyweight championship in the process.

The Tank’s most storied and talked about fight, however, has to be against fellow Philly native Bryant Jennings. In what came to be called the Battle of The Philly Heavyweights, Jennings earned a unanimous decision over Dawejko at the iconic Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. It was the kind of match that was always key for Philly fans: a showdown between two of their own, the classic “Philly Special.”

This year, Dawejko made more headlines when rumors circulated that he knocked out former unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, while they were sparring in Miami. Dawejko was one of the fighters recruited to help Joshua prepare for his bout against Anthony Ruiz, during the latter’s training camp in Miami.

What made the rumor so newsworthy is that it came right before Joshua’s stunning defeat to Ruiz that lost him his heavyweight titles. The 29-year-old Olympic gold medalist lost via TKO in the seventh round in New York. Dawejko, however, refused to confirm or deny that he knocked out Joshua and that it led to his defeat at the hands of Ruiz. For his part, Joshua also denied the rumors and merely said he lost to the better fighter.

Whatever the case may have been, and conspiracy theories aside, Dawejko’s current 20-7-4 record is a fact. As a powerful boxer, he is very poised for his age. He can throw punches from any angle and he is powerful with either hand. When he hits, his opponents really feel it. One of his advantages is that he’s short and stocky – so many big heavyweights feel awkward fighting him.

With a dream that started with his grandfather and a unique style and work ethic that’s second to none, Dawejko embodies the spirit of the Philly fighter.

Article exclusively written for by Bertrice Juel. 




Jennifer Birch - Special Contributor - Philadelphia - September 16, 2019