Northern Liberties: Pee Wee Dawson’s Journey

Dawson looking on during a sparring match

For Stanley “Pee Wee” Dawson, boxing is more than just a sport. It’s a life-long passion. Dawson, 63, has been involved in the sport for nearly 50 years and sees no end in sight.

“I first got into boxing in 1968,” Dawson said. “I had known [Jimmy Arthur] in passing and he asked me one day why don’t I come into the gym and work out? So I took up that offer.”

Arthur was a major influence in Dawson’s life. He credits Arthur with being the man who made him who he is today.

“He was like a father figure to me and he took me under his wing and I learned a whole lot from him,” Dawson said. “His son told me I remind him so much of his father because of the way I train, with the patience and tolerance I have with these fighters.”

Despite his commitment to the sweet science, Dawson was always an all-around athlete and got a chance to make his mark in the NFL.

“I was a walk-on with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972,” Dawson said. “They liked me and invited me back the next year, only to be beat out by Po James.”

He didn’t let that keep him down as he played semi-professional football for the next six years. Football never prevented him from boxing however, and he was constantly around the sport.

It was in 1973 when Dawson had his first and last professional fight. After being told between rounds that he was supposed to throw the fight, he became disenfranchised with being a professional.

“I’m a winner,” Dawson said. “I don’t like losing. To be told I’m not supposed to win? That took the wind out of the sails.”

In 1979, Dawson turned his efforts toward training and has been doing that ever since. He enjoys being able to teach younger people the sport he has loved for so long. He wants to spread his knowledge.

Dawson working with Chris Sanchez between rounds
Dawson working with Chris Sanchez between rounds

“I feel a great sense of pride. I can’t do it anymore so I give it back,” Dawson said. “I like to watch a client start from scratch and watch them develop.”

After training in many gyms around Philadelphia, like Passyunk Gym and Joey Eyes Gym, two years ago, Dawson was invited by Peter “Petey Pop” Papaleo to train at Joe Hand Gym in Northern Liberties.

Dawson still finds inspiration in his life that he uses in his training. For example, his 8-year-old grandson has Cerebral Palsy and is teaching his grandfather lessons that he uses in his training.

“He teaches me, an adult like myself, patience and tolerance,” Dawson said.

Just like Arthur did with him, Dawson hopes to leave an impression on the young men and women he works with.

“I stuck around and I taught people,” Dawson said on his post-fighting career. “I gave them my wisdom and knowledge.”

-Text, images and video by John Iatesta

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