The Harder They Fall
By Sunset Thomas, Doghouse Boxing (April 10, 2009)  
Frankie Gambino is kind of the kismet type—and why not, he’s a gosh-danged Ghost!

When we were recently in LA for the Sam Peter/Eddie Chambers fight he kept on about how much it reminded him of our previous trip to Los Angeles.

“Kid, remember back in September of ’06?” Frankie asked me for the umpteenth time. “We was here for the Peter/Toney bout—remember? You were sitting at the bar with Dino Duva talking about breaking into the fight game as a manager…”

Frankie was right. At that time, as is the case today, I really wanted to co-manage a fighter and since the Duva family is like my own family, I was inquiring of Dino whether he had a prospect for me (Frankie, always the wiseguy, interjected that the bar was full of prospects—and half of them had already bought me a drink—the man is maddening!)

Anyways, George Willis, the wonderful columnist for the New York Post happened to be sitting beside us and my story wound up in his hugely popular feature, “The Rumble.”

But I could see Frankie Gambino’s point about it sort of feeling like Déjà vu all over again. I mean here we were, back in the City of Angels, Sam is fighting and James Toney is in the house (not to fight mind you, just being James—making a scene, being flashy and funny and looking fit as a fiddle—which was more than I could say for my dear friend Sam Peter!)

Of course, we were the guests of Dino (again), and I was still looking for a fighter to back. So yeah, Frankie had a point—the festivities did have a flavor of history sort of repeating itself…

Anyways, I’m sitting down with Dino and Bobby Lee (a boxing guru and long-time friend from Virginia City, NV) and Frankie is lamenting (he’s always lamenting—such a kvetch!) about the state of the heavyweight division (“A bunch of lightweights!” is what Frankie calls ‘em).

Frankie’s back on his Rocky Marciano rant—he misses heavy’s with heart but especially heavy’s of the Italian heritage and then, almost as though he could hear Frankie, Bobby Lee is telling Dino and I about his hot new prospect. A kid from Philly named Joey Dawejko.

“Last name ends in a vowel, but it ain’t Italian,” Frankie mumbled…

“His dad was Polish and his mom was Italian—a Castellano,” Bobby indirectly countered. “The kid is a sweetheart. Still an amateur with unfinished boxing business in those ranks—but he’ll be pro someday—count on it!”

Now Dino is all ears because, see, Joey was out in Vegas sparring with Sam and rumor had it he gave the big-guy all he could handle. In fact, Sam had nothing but props for the 5’11”, two and a quarter pound, two-fisted, Philly fighter.

Even Frankie is leaning in now. “Kind of short,” I thought. Frankie read my mind, reminding me that The Rock wasn’t but 5’10”—180 lbs.

Bobby Lee is telling us how the kid has a 70-9 amateur record. How he fought at Youth World Championships in October 2008 (in Guadalajara, Mexico) and put a licking on the 6’7” fella who fought for the British Virgin Islands at the Beijing Olympics. And how Joey followed that up with a victory over the guy from Kazakhstan, then the Ukraine before finally whooping Erik Brechlin, the Super Heavyweight from Germany, to take home the medal!

Bobby’s saying that even though Joey has qualified for the U.S. Nationals, he’d really like to turn pro. It’s his lifetime ambition. And it’s such an old school, romantic story. His dad died when he was a baby and his mama passed away when he was twelve. His granddad, Terry, has been his boxing mentor and there for him ever since…

Frankie is mumbling something about Gambino’s and Castellano’s being related. He’s pumped up. Me, I ask Bobby for the kid’s phone number and his granddads too—I smell a scoop!

Terry Tobin told me the story of how his grandkid, Joey, got into the fight game. “Joey was ten-years old when I brought him along with me to a Golden Gloves event. He was fixated on the action. And after a little while he turned to me and said, ‘Grandpa, I want to fight. I want to be a boxer.’

“The kid seemed serious and so I brought him down to the Harrowgate Boxing Club in Philly and introduced him to the renowned Charlie Sgrillo. Joey took right to it. And he hasn’t looked back…”

Now I had to speak to the kid himself. And this time Frankie wanted it on speaker so he could listen in.

Frankie somehow channels my voice inflection and asks Joey the opening question—a question that wasn’t even on my list!

“So Joey,” he says in that smooth, southern, Sunset slither, “Pat’s or Geno’s?” and I know he’s talking about Philly Cheesesteaks and the kid says,

“Frankly, I prefer the joint around the corner from my place—Chink’s Cheese Steak.”

I grab the damn phone from Frankie.

“Joey,” I ask. “What does it mean to be a Philly fighter?” and he says,

“It means everything! Philly is the fight capital of the world—Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins…”

“Are those your idols?”

“My idols? My idol is my trainer—Brian McGinley…”

And now Frankie is rubbing his hands together, he loves this kid.

So I try to be a little confrontational.

“But what of your size? You’re considered a short-sized heavy. What do you say to that?”

“My style,” he continues, without missing a beat, “is made to defeat the taller guys. I have speed and power. I don’t have to adjust to their size, they have to adjust to mine!”

And we get to talking about boxing’s oldest adage—Take out the bottom and the top will follow.

Joey, smiles (I’m on the phone and so I can’t see it, but Frankie is freaky, he can see these things and he swears, Joey smiles).

And me, Sunset Thomas, I’m smiling too because this kid has heart and for all you future betters—me and Frankie Gambino—our money is on the kid from Philly—one Joey Dawejko.

And remember, you heard it here first!

P.S. I’d sure be pleased if all you loyal readers would check out my upcoming erotic/fiction book, “Anatomy of an Adult Film.”

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