Adam Kownacki ready for ‘do-or-die’ rematch with Robert Helenius on Fury-Wilder 3 undercard
Heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki was rapidly climbing the rankings and in position for a likely world title opportunity when he was ostensibly staying busy with a fight against 10-to-1 underdog Robert Helenius.
They met at Barclays Center in Kownacki’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York, on March 7, 2020 in the last major bout before the coronavirus pandemic shut boxing down until June.
Kownacki, whose goal has long been to become the first Polish fighter to win a heavyweight world title, dished out a beating for three rounds until Helenius rallied. He stunningly dropped and stropped Kownacki in the fourth round, dashing for the time being any notion of Kownacki fighting for a world title and sending his Polish army of fans home in shock.
Kownacki exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch and although it has taken time to schedule the bout, they will meet again in a 12-rounder on the undercard of the third fight between Ring/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former world titlist Deontay Wilder on Saturday (ESPN/Fox Sports PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Kownacki knows the fight is of the utmost importance if he is to get back on track toward the title shot he covets.
“A win puts me back on the map and would show that the last fight was just an accident,” Kownacki said. “I think that I got a little tired and tried to end the night early, so I rushed in and got caught. But being Brooklyn-born, when someone puts you on your ass, you want to show the kind of character you have, come back and beat them. I come from a hardworking community of mostly immigrants. So I don’t shy away from hard work or tough tests.”
Before the loss to Helenius, Kownacki had put together a good run of wins against solid opposition, including former IBF titlist Charles Martin, former world title challengers Chris Arreola, Gerald Washington and Artur Szpilka, and brawler Iago Kiladze.
Now, the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs), 32, needs to get past the 6-6, 239-pound Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs), 37, a Sweden native fighting out of Finland, who was widely regarded as one of the heavyweight division’s top rising contenders nearly a decade ago.
“This is do or die for Adam right now,” said Keith Connolly, Kownacki’s manager. “He was on a path to fight for the heavyweight title and the loss to Helenius derailed that plan. Now, if he can win this rematch, he is back on track.”
Connolly said that he, Kownacki and trainer Keith Trimble re-watched the fight, discussed it in detail and “identified things that Adam needs to do differently this time to win the rematch. We really do have a game plan, but much different from the last fight.”
Whatever the specific plan Kownacki has, one thing he wants to do is avoid Helenius’ counter shots.
“Helenius is a good counter puncher and that’s what I got caught with,” Kownacki said. “I got reckless. Every fighter in this division can pack a punch. Everyone who’s seen me fight knows that I come forward and try to destroy people. As always this fight is going to be action packed. I’m going to show everyone that my last fight was an accident and that I’m back to being my old self.”
Kownacki has regularly boxed in New York, particularly at Barclays Center, where he has been a big draw. But the rematch with Helenius will be his first in Las Vegas. Connolly believes that will be good for him.
“I think fighting in Las Vegas, and on the undercard, will mean a lot less distractions for Adam than when he fights in the main event in his hometown, where he gets pulled in all different directions all the time leading up to his fights,” Connolly said. “This will be better for him. Before the first fight with Helenius, Adam was going to all these appearances and dealing with tickets. We told him he needed to slow down, get some rest. But he wants to please his fans. He’s such a man of the people that he didn’t want to let anyone down. But that’s why I think being way from home and not having all those distractions is definitely an advantage to him for this fight.”
Kownacki agrees that being away from home will be better for him and he also claims to have gotten in better shape for the rematch than he was for the first fight.
“I’ve been eating healthier and feeling a lot better,” Kownacki said. “I’ve been sparring with Otto Wallin and Brandon Lynch. We cut down sparring to two days a week, but we’re doing eight and 10-round sessions, so it’s been great work. With the rematch being postponed a few times, we’ve basically had three or four mini camps going all the way back to January.
“At this point, I just can’t wait to get back in the ring with Helenius. I’m going to be ready for the bright lights for sure. There actually might be less distractions for me in Las Vegas, compared to being in Brooklyn. I’m not looking to make any excuses, but my son was born just months before my last fight and there were lots of sleepless nights leading up to it. For this fight, my son will be staying back home with my wife. I’ll miss them, but I should be able to totally focus during fight week.”