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Adam Kownacki says ‘dad bod’ heavyweights are now taken seriously

Photo by Amanda Westcott - Showtime
Fighters Network
01
Aug

NEW YORK — There was a time when people would take a passing look at unbeaten heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki and dismiss him because of his lack of a chiseled physique. The perception of what a heavyweight champion should look like has been debunked in recent times, thanks in large part to Andy Ruiz’s upset stoppage of Anthony Joshua two months ago to win three of the four major alphabet titles.

Kownacki, a 6-foot-3 banger who routinely weighs in at the 250-260 range, has been doing his part as well and looks to continue so this Saturday when he faces Chris Arreola at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

“Everybody looks at us ‘dad bods’ a little more seriously,” laughed Kownacki (19-0, 15 knockouts), who admits he struggled for credibility early in his career. “Now I think it’s out the bag, especially after my last performance against Gerald Washington. Then everyone said, ‘OK, this kid can really fight.’ Then Ruiz proved again that how you look doesn’t really matter.

“The heavyweight division has always been open because one punch changes everything. If you’ve got a good set of balls and a decent chin, you’re fair game.”



For Kownacki, a native of Lomza, Poland who was raised in nearby Greenpoint, Saturday’s fight is a big step forward in his career. It’ll be his first time headlining a card, and he’ll have the spotlight of a headlining role on a PBC on FOX card (8 p.m. ET) on him.

Kownacki, ranked No. 9 by The Ring (as well as No. 4 by the IBF, No. 7 by the WBA and No. 6 by the WBC), has been New York’s best local draw for a while and his popularity is growing. After selling 1,000 tickets for his fight last September against Charles Martin, Kownacki says he has sold 2,000 for this fight – close to $200,000 worth.

Kownacki began building his following in New York in his amateur days, when he won the 2006 Golden Gloves and finished as runner-up the following two years. He came to the country at age seven with his father, a construction worker, and mother, a homemaker. He later picked up boxing to drop weight and protect himself from other kids who bullied him about his weight.

“It just shows you that the American dream is alive and well. We come from everywhere in the world, end up in the States and then make something of yourself,” said Kownacki, 30.

In Arreola, Kownacki faces his biggest name opponent of his 10-year career. A decade ago, Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KOs) was a fan-favorite chubby brawler who generated interest with his relatable look and expletive-laden post-fight remarks. He challenged three times for a heavyweight title – resulting in his only three stoppage defeats – and is particularly well known in the Polish community for his 2010 fight with Tomasz Adamek, which he lost by majority decision.

“I wanted this fight for a while because to the casual fan, he’s one of the biggest names in the heavyweight division,” said Kownacki. “He fought everybody in the game. If I beat him in a great fashion, my branding and my position will grow a lot.”

Arreola’s last significant fight came in July of 2016, when he retired on his stool during a one-sided loss to WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder. Kownacki is hoping to build his case for a shot at Wilder by continuing to finish off former Wilder opponents in quicker succession after doing so against Artur Szpilka (four rounds to nine) and Washington (two rounds to five).

“I want to be the first Polish heavyweight champion of the world and Deontay has one of the belts. I’ve been beating the guys he’s fought in much better fashion, so I hope I get that call soon,” said Kownacki, who finds inspiration in Manny Pacquiao for the kind of action he looks to bring to the ring.

“My resume’ is insane. I beat two title challengers in Artur Szpilka and Gerald Washington, I beat a former world champion in Charles Martin. Who else hasn’t had a title shot that has that kind of resume’? I think I deserve it.”

Arreola took nearly two years off after the Wilder loss before returning on December 1 last year, well after the Wilder-Tyson Fury main event had concluded. It was an inauspicious return against Maurenzo Smith, with Arreola blasting out referee Thomas Taylor with a thunderous belch before the opening round and laughing as a moth fluttered around the ring between rounds (“There’s a f–king bug,” he pointed out before trying to squish it with a punch after it landed on Smith’s hip.) Smith remained on his stool after the sixth.

His next fight was more telling: Arreola put a beating on previously unbeaten heavyweight Jean Pierre Augustin on the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garcia card, hurting him with his jab before finishing him in the third. The win showed that Arreola can still turn up the heat at age 38.

“I wish that I was a fan watching this fight because there’s gonna be fireworks,” said Kownacki. “Both guys come forward and it’s gonna be a great fight.”

 

 

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

 

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