Don’t forget about Adam Kownacki. You might think the heavyweight division consists of mainly three people with all the talk about Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. Kownacki hopes to add his name to the narrative when he faces Robert Helenius in a 12-round WBA heavyweight title eliminator Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Kownacki will look to improve his unbeaten record when the Brooklyn-based heavyweight takes on Helenius in the main event of Fox’s PBC Fight Night and on Fox Deportes. Fury captured the WBC heavyweight championship by stopping Wilder in the seventh round of their fight on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas. Joshua owns the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, after winning his rematch with Andy Ruiz. Wilder has said he’ll exercise a clause for a rematch with Fury. Their third meeting is expected to take place in July, while Joshua will take on mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in June. Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) is hoping for a shot at any of the titles if he can beat Helenius (29-3, 18 KOs), who is from Finland.
“The division is wide open,” Kownacki said. “Right now, Tyson Fury is considered number one. But his previous two fights before the Deontay Wilder rematch weren’t that great. So how good is Fury really? If you look at the top-10 heavyweights, I’m the only one with a clean record, no losses or draws. On Saturday, I have to prove that I belong in a title fight.”
This will be Kownacki’s 10th fight at Barclays Center and the second time he has fought in the main event. He was a headliner in August when he defeated former title contender Chris Arreola by unanimous decision. At 6-foot-6, Helenius is three inches taller than Kownacki and has been fighting professionally since 2008.
“Helenius is a totally different opponent than Arreola,” Kownacki said. “He’s much taller, which poses a new set of challenges. Against Arreola, it was easy to get on the inside. With Helenius’ height, I’m going to have to work behind my double-jab and then let my punches go.”
Kownacki, who was born in Poland, has become a fan favorite in Brooklyn, especially in the Polish community, for his hard-hitting, aggressive style. There’s not much sweet science in Kownacki’s approach. It’s more seek and destroy.
“I grew up in Brooklyn, so seeing my face everywhere on ads and billboards is a great feeling,” Kownacki said. “Having the whole New York community, especially the Polish fans, coming out to support me really feels amazing. There’s definitely a little bit of added pressure being in that situation, but diamonds are made with pressure.”
Helenius, who has won three of his past four bouts and is fighting in the U.S. for the second time, thinks he can outbox Kownacki.
“Adam is a heavy brawler and a good fighter,” Helenius said. “But his boxing skills are not that strong. That’s where I believe I have the advantage. I know that I can out-box him if that’s the best strategy on fight night. The fans are going to see two different styles collide.”
Whatever adjustments Kownacki has to make in the ring, won’t compare to those he has made at home since the arrival of his 6-month-old son.
“With the baby, I’m sleeping less for sure,” he said. “But this has been a really strong camp. It’s pretty much the same routine training-wise and it’s always the same dedication that we put in every day.”