Thursday, March 23, 2023  |



Adam Kownacki outpunches Chris Arreola to decision win in heavyweight brawl

Photo by Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

NEW YORK — At a time when boxing fans are forced to question why they love the sport, Adam Kownacki and Chris Arreola reminded us just why we tune in.

The two put on as good a show as one could expect in a PBC on Fox headliner, trading heavy punches with few moments of rest between them for twelve rounds on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The final scores – 118-110 and 117-111 on the other two cards, all for Kownacki – did not reflect the sacrifice that both made to entertain the public.

The two fighters set a new Compubox record for most punches thrown (2172) and landed (667) in a heavyweight fight that they had tracked. The previous records were held by David Tua-Ike Ibeabuchi (1730) in 1997 and Tua-David Izon (650) in 1996.

The win keeps Kownacki (20-0, 15 knockouts) undefeated and on track for a heavyweight title opportunity. The thousands of Polish fans wearing red and white among the announced crowd of 8,790 proved that Kownacki had the drawing power to remain on top of the bill after his first main event.

“Chris is an Aztec warrior. He’s a great fighter. I knew it would be a tough fight and I prepared for it. The CompuBox numbers prove it was a great fight,” said Kownacki, a native of Lomza, Poland who grew up nearby in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

“I just have to keep training hard, getting better and sharpening my skills. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully next year I’ll get the title shot.”

The two fought the only way they knew, trading bombs from the opening bell. Kownacki, the heavier man by 22 pounds at 266 (a career high) came forward behind a heavy jab and right hand, mixing in body punches and uppercuts. Arreola, himself an all-out aggressor, showed he had a bit more verstality

Kownacki took a different approach in the fourth, backing up with his jab and running off combinations as Arreola came in. Arreola raised his glove to the heavily partisan Brooklyn crowd after the round, perhaps seeing a minor victory in being able to convince Kownacki to try a Plan B.

The pattern continued in the fifth with Arreola surviving a big rally from Kownacki early and pushing Kownacki back and ripping hard left hooks to the body. Kownacki slowed down, and his punches began looking more labored. Arreola punctuated a round in which he got the better of the two-way traffic with a left hook and right hand that snapped Kownacki’s head.

Kownacki turned the action back his way, showing he could take Arreola’s best punch better than Arreola could take his, landing his right hands with more of a thud  and forcing Arreola to play catch up with the pace. By the midway point they touched gloves to end the rounds, a sign of respect between two of the most durable and combative practitioners in their sport.

Arreola was backed to the ropes by Kownacki’s heavier blows in the ninth, with even the blocked punches moving him around. Arreola never wobbled and would shake his head to show he wasn’t hurt, but the manner in which he backed off after taking right hands said otherwise. He appeared to be a spent force at the end of the tenth, and a lengthy doctor’s visit before the eleventh suggest others had gotten that memo as well. But the show of concern seemed to awaken him, and he started the round landing the hardest, cleanest right hands he had in several rounds.

“I tried to follow up when I had him hurt but I was throwing two punches instead of three or four,” said Kownacki, 30. Props to Arreola because he proved he could still hang. I’m sure the fans would want to see him again.

Kownacki was even less inclined to show distress, never changing his facial expression. His babyface was marked with blood reddened lips and a black and blue shiner on his left eye, but he handled business each round as he had the last.

Photo by Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

The two hugged in a sign of mutual respect to begin the twelfth, and then proceeded to land flush right hands on each other’s faces for another three minutes. Arreola made one last attempt to pull the fight out, pushing Kownacki to the ropes and swinging right hands, hoping each would be the one that finally did the job the dozens before it couldn’t.

The arena had been rocking from the opening introductions, but the decibel level rose in the twelfth to the point where you couldn’t hear yourself speaking. Kownacki landed the last big shot, another percussive right, before the final bell.

The Polish fans that had booed Arreola before the fight now applauded his fortitude as he stood on the ropes in the corner to salute the crowd.

Arreola, now 38, had sat out for two years after his TKO loss to WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder in 2016. After plenty of wars and losses at the top level of the sport, Arreola says he’s not sure how much longer he wants to put his body through that sort of punishment.

“Retirement is something I need to talk to my family and team about. I gave it my all this fight. I let it all hang out. After breaking my hand, I kept fighting because I believed I could win,” said Arreola.

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]