Adam Kownacki: ‘If I’m able to destroy Charles Martin, I think I proved myself’
From Poland, from the city of Lomza, they came, when the baby-faced man was a boy, aged seven.
He hid his feelings well behind a good poker face. You see it now, when he’s going about his business in the ring. Heavyweight Adam Kownacki wears the face of a studious craftsman who isn’t going to portray lows, or convey highs, through his visage.
But 22 years ago, his insides were stewing. “It’s terrifying not knowing the language, all new friends,” Kownacki told me, the day his Sept. 8 fight against former titleholder Charles Martin was announced. “We were lucky to have some family here that helped us out. My brothers and I are in good positions in life now. So I thank my parents for raising us well.”
The Kownackis hit a win in a green card lottery, so they have been able to relax and go about the business of acclimatizing. I was curious, did little Adam know that one day he’d be far beyond the feelings of terror felt by a new entrant to these shores, and that he would be an athlete on the cusp of prominence and high level wealth?
“I always had that in the back of my head,” said Kownacki (17-0, 14 knockouts) who last fought Jan. 20 when he stopped Iago Kiladze at the Barclays Center. And on Sept. 8, the 260 pounder’s peeps will again be packing into the arena to cheer on “Babyface”. Kownacki, who is rated No. 9 by The Ring, grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Melville, on Long Island. If he downs Martin, he is thisclose to the type of fights that bring him into megabucks territory. Wherever he lives in Melville, he’ll be able to get something triple the size and a front, back and side yard. Yes, he’s close to game-change territory.
I wanted to figure out how he sees himself, right now. Is he now a prospect, and a win over Martin makes him a contender?
“One foot in. On September 8, both,” Kownacki answered.
And what does he think about Martin (25-1-1, 23 KOs), who beat Czar Glazkov for the vacant IBF title in January 2016. “He is a former world champion. Maybe if Glazkov didn’t injury his knee it would have been different. But it is what it is.”
Martin won and then was done – quick – when he was battered to defeat by Anthony Joshua three months later. He was burned but, to his credit, he didn’t fade away. The 32-year-old southpaw has beaten two journeymen since his only defeat and will be the underdog versus the Pole. “I think it’s another challenge for me to get a title shot,” said Kownachi. “I beat Artur Szpilka in four, and if I’m able to destroy Martin, I think I proved myself to get in line.”
Promoter Lou DiBella has a hidden gem and there’s a reason why Kownacki has been off the radar. “People sleep on Adam because he isn’t a huge, ripped guy,” DiBella said. “He can flat out fight, though. I think he’s a legit top 10 contender.”
Another thing to know about the N.Y.-based pugilist—Kownacki does like to get stoppages. “Lost a couple BS decisions as an amateur and learned not to leave it in the judges’ hands,” he explained.
And if Martin gets bludgeoned, does Kownacki have a “To Do” hit list? AJ . . . Fury?
“Whatever they line up, AJ or Wilder, doesn’t matter. I want to prove I’m the best. In order to do that, I have to fight the best. They have the belts so that’s who I’m going after. But first I have to take care of Martin. That’s the main key right now.”
Kownacki has the look of a guy who would get the better of a couple of toughs going at him with Louisville sluggers; like he’d take a bat to the head and barely bat an eyelash. He is flying high, not in a cocky zone, but cognizant of the fact that he has a grasp of his craft and will surprise folks who judge books by their covers.
Kownacki might even surpass his predecessor Andrew Golota if he does better at staying focused. “I think I would surpass Golota if I get to win a title,” he said. “Andrew is a Polish legend but never was champion. Came close with his draw against Chris Byrd.”
And will it be tough, repping Poland, after living two-thirds of your life in America? “It is weird because I’m proud to be Polish,” Kownacki said in closing. “But America is a great country and provided me with a better life.”
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