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Jennings vs. Dawejko Rekindles A Philly Tradition

Philadelphia, PA: When heavyweights Bryant “By By” Jennings and Joey “The Tank” Dawejko square off in their 10-round heavyweight bout Saturday, April 28, it will revive memories of the some of the great all-Philly matchups that helped to make the Quaker City one of the leading boxing centers in the country.


The Jennings-Dawejko match is one of three bouts at the Liacouras Center at Temple University to be televised live by ESPN, beginning at 7 pm EST. The card is being promoted by Top Rank and Peltz Boxing.

Topping the show is a 12-round contest for the WBO junior featherweight title between defending champion Jessie Magdaleno, of Las Vegas, NV, and mandatory challenger Isaac Dogboe, of Accra, Ghana. The 10-round semifinal features Jesse Hart, of Philadelphia, against Demond Nicholson, of Laurel, MD, for the vacant NABF super middleweight championship.

First live fight begins at 4 pm EST and all undercard bouts will be streamed on the ESPN App.

Always a leading center for boxing, Philadelphia built its reputation by matching fighters from different neighborhoods in front of large, enthusiastic crowds. Artist Jim Meehan’s drawing (above) lists several of those great matchups, among them the classic 1928 showdown at Shibe Park between Hall-of-Fame junior lightweight champion Benny Bass and unbeaten crosstown rival Harry Blitman in front of 24,000 raucous fans.

“My dad went to that fight with his dad,” promoter J Russell Peltz said, “and he’d always tell me about it. My dad went to school with Harry Blitman and he never got over the fact that Blitman smoked cigarettes and still was successful as a fighter. My dad sat on the second row and he used to tell me about the sweat that flew off Blitman’s hair every time Bass nailed him.”

Bass, who boxed from 1919 to 1940, won by knockout in six rounds and went on to a career record of 158-29-6 with 72 K0s. Blitman, who boxed from 1926 to 1934, finished at 53-11-4, 25 K0s, including a victory over Hall-of-Fame lightweight champ Tony Canzoneri.

“There were so many great all-Philly fights that you simply cannot list them all,” Peltz said. “The heavyweight bout between a couple of Joe Louis victims, Al Ettore, of West Philadelphia, against Gus Dorazio, of South Philly, belongs on that list, as well as the world lightweight title fight between Hall-of-Famer Bob Montgomery and Wesley Mouzon, who had knocked Montgomery out three months earlier in a non-title fight.”

Peltz, who began promoting in 1969, rates the first meeting between middleweights Bennie Briscoe and Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a 10-round draw late in 1975 at The Spectrum, as one of the greatest action fights in Philly’s long and storied boxing history.

“Now we’ve got Jesse Hart, Cyclone’s son, on the card,” Peltz said. “I believe Jennings vs. Dawejko is the biggest all-Philly matchup in 36 years. That goes back to 1982 when Jeff Chandler successfully defended his WBA bantamweight title by knocking out former high school classman Johnny Carter in six rounds at the Civic Center. We’ve had some good ones since then, but none as big as Chandler vs. Carter.

“A lot of 21st century boxing ‘experts’ don’t like to see all-Philly fights. They wonder why we would want to knock off a local attraction. I guess they’d rather me import some scrub from the South or the Midwest to get his brains beat out. They’d rather watch that than a competitive all-local fight. The most recent major local showdown was in 2010 when junior middleweight Derek Ennis beat Gabriel Rosado at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia.

Guess who got knocked off in that one? The winner, Ennis, who soon faded from the scene. The loser that night, Rosado, went on to climb the ladder and make a lot on money and he’s still going strong.

“Jennings vs. Dawejko is my kind of fight. I guarantee there will be more action in one round than there was in 12 rounds of the recent heavyweight unification match between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.”