Bryant Jennings earned a unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center, winning the “neighborhood war” between the two Philadelphia fighters, as well as the Pennsylvania heavyweight championship.
Philadelphian Jesse Hart also won — a controversial technical knockout over Demond Nicholson of Laurel, Md. — to take the North American Boxing Federation super-middleweight title.
The taller Jennings’ long jabs reddened Dawejko’s face by Round 3, and they traded combinations early. Dawejko tried to change the dynamics by punching in close rather than working at arm’s length. In Round 5 he took a low blow for his effort to move nearer, then returned fire with an angry flurry.
But Jennings never let Dawejko cause damage. Jennings circled with loose arms and began landing freely and frequently. He bloodied Dawejko’s nose in Round 8. Dawejko never ran out of gas, backing Jennings to the ropes and slugging through the final moments of Round 10, but he never found a way to overcome Jennings’ agility and boxing skills.
“That’s pretty much the Joey that I expected,” Jennings said afterward. “As many prayers as he launched, he didn’t really land any. I was just trying to be cautious and not get caught with some desperate shot.”
“I fought 10 hard rounds, but I should’ve picked up a little bit more,” Dawejko said.
All three judges scored the fight 98-92, eight rounds to two for Jennings. Jennings is now 23-2. Dawejko is 19-5-4.
With the victory, Jennings snagged the frequently unoccupied Pennsylvania state heavyweight championship. But the win really is a stepping-stone toward a bigger prize. He lost his challenge for the world title against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, and dropped his next fight after that. Since then, Jennings has won four straight.
He hopes for another world title shot, possibly against WBA champ Anthony Joshua, who defeated Klitschko in 2107, or WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder.
In the super-middleweight fight, Hart knocked Nicholson down twice in Round 3 and outboxed him, but the ending in Round 7 was messy.
Nicholson got hit on the head, turned, and squatted, putting his gloves on the canvas. That’s technically a knockdown, but referee Shawn Clark let the fight continue rather than stop for a count.
When Nicholson stood, Hart bore in on him, as Nicholson backed away, seemingly more interested in filing a protest than fighting. Hart knocked Nicholson down for real, and after an extra long count, with Nicholson still complaining, the referee called a TKO.
Hart too wants to get back in the ring for a world title. He lost to world champ Gilberto Ramirez in September.
“I dream about the Ramirez rematch every night,” he said.
Hart now is 24-1 with 20 KOs. Nicholson falls to 18-3-1.
In the lively main event, challenger Isaac Dogboe of Ghana slugged out an 11th round TKO over Jesse Magdaleno of Las Vegas to take the WBO super bantamweight title.
In other bouts featuring local fighters, Philly bantamweight Christian Carto stayed undefeated at 15-0 with an 8-round unanimous decision over Edwin Rodriguez (9-5-1) of Puerto Rico. Allentown super featherweight Joseph Adorno (7-0) landed a body shot that stopped Jorge Patron (3-2) in Round 1, his sixth first-round KO. Philadelphia junior middleweight Marcel Rivers (5-0) won by a Round 2 TKO when opponent Ronald Logan (0-3) injured an ankle and had to stop.
A crowd of 3,727 watched at the Liacouras Center.