The path to reach greatness is full of obstacles and setbacks along the way, yet the ultimate goal remains unchanged. In the sport of boxing, other fighters have tried to reach the milestone, but have come up short.
For heavyweight boxer, Adam Kownacki, (20-1, 15 KOs) he is not letting his last performance in the ring deter him from one day fulfilling his dream. For Kownacki, he is still setting his sights high on becoming the first Polish born heavyweight boxer to capture one of the prestigious heavyweight boxing titles.
Six Polish fighters have challenged for a heavyweight world title: Artur Szpilka, Mariusz Wach, Albert Sosnowski, Andrzej Wawrzyk, Tomasz Adamek and Andrew Golota. All of them fell short of achieving their dreams.
The American Dream
At age seven, Kownacki and his family moved from Lomza, Poland to Brooklyn, NY to the Greenpoint neighbourhood, that has a very large Polish population, which made their transition a little easier.
For Kownacki, he began to learn how to speak English from conversing with other kids in his neighbourhood and watching the action superhero television series, Power Rangers.
Kownacki explained, “I was able to make a quick transition. For the most part kids pick up things a little faster and it helped that I was around other children that were speaking English.”
His passion for fighting began as a young child watching action movies from the 1980s Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport to Enter the Dragon, with his grandfather and cousin back in Poland. When he started to watch boxing, Kownacki closely watched Golota’s fights and how it brought the Polish community together.
As a young teenager, with no boxing gym in his neighbourhood, Kownacki tried karate, as it was the closest thing for him to try at this stage of his life.
At age 15, Kownacki first stepped into a boxing ring to spar with other heavyweights and was able to hold his own with other men in the gym. Catching on to boxing quickly, he won his first New York Golden Gloves heavyweight tournament at the age of 17. His boisterous style of a non-stop punching machine made his matches a must see attraction.
“I worked hard and learned a lot in just over a year,” Kownacki said. “At my age and with limited experience, I really thought that was quite an accomplishment.”
While growing up, Kownacki held different jobs from working construction, to working security and helped out with different tasks at a lawyer’s office in his neighbourhood.
The thrill of excitement from his fights and reaction from the crowds, made Kownacki push harder to be successful at his first love, the sweet science of boxing.
“It was a great feeling, getting in the ring and having so many people come out to support me in the Golden Gloves tournaments,” Kownacki said.
As a professional, Kownacki has set up his home base at the Barclays Center, where he has held his last five fights and been a part of 10 fight cards.
Kownacki’s most impressive victory, in his professional career came against former USC football player, Gerald Washington back in January, 2019. From the opening bell, Kownacki swarmed Washington and connected with a high rate of punches that did damage to the taller Washington. Before the bell sounded, at the end of the first round Kownacki connected with a straight right hand that had Washington off balance and stumbling backwards.
When the second round started, Kownacki pounced on Washington again and knocked him off his feet with a devastating right hand punch. Washington struggled to his feet, but Kownacki continued to deliver a mix of damaging punches that ended the fight when referee Harvey Dock ended the one-sided contest.
“When I hit him with a one, two, three combination of punches I could tell he wouldn’t be able to deal with the pressure I was putting on him,” Kownacki pointed out.
In August 2019, Kownacki looked to move up the ranks when he stepped into the ring, veteran heavyweight, Chris Arreola. The fight lived up to its billing of a heavyweight slugfest.
The two fighters combined to break CompuBox records for most combined punches thrown (2,172) and punches landed (667) in a heavyweight fight. With the perfect balance of punch volume, fighting courage and mixed with a little sloppiness, this phone-booth brawl saw both overcome fatigue and Arreola fight through an injured left hand after Round 5.
Kownacki laughed, while mentioning that is not a record he wants to be known for setting, as both fighters dished out a good amount of punishment to each other during their heavyweight bout.
In the end, Kownacki out-slugged Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KOs) via unanimous decision (118-110, 117-111, 117-111) on all three judges’ cards.
“I have been following his career and knew going in that he is a tough fighter,” Kownacki said. “Chris came in to the fight in great shape and he left everything on the line inside the ring. We were able to put on a good show that night. I really believe the fans enjoyed it.”
Kownacki acknowledged the fight helped him build his resume and establish his name further with boxing fans and the media.
Bump in the Road
Billed as an eliminator between heavyweight contenders in early March of this year, Kownacki headlined a card at the Barclays Center against contender Robert Helenius.
Helenius known as the ‘Nordic Nightmare,’ made Kownacki’s night truly turn into a bad dream, as he shocked Kownacki with a fourth-round TKO in front of a heavily home town crowd.
Helenius’ upset marked Kownacki’s first pro loss, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the Polish fighter, considering the bout was a WBA heavyweight title eliminator.
“I have to give Robert his due, he caught me with a very good shot,” Kownacki said. “It is boxing in the heavy weight division, one shot can change everything.”
In the 4th round, Helenius caught Kownacki with a left hand that was ruled a slip, but he knew the damage was done. He continued to throw heavy punches, before a right left combination dropped Kownacki. When Kownacki got up off the canvass, Helenius continued the barrage of punches until the referee stoppage.
Kownacki acknowledged after watching replays of the fight that he shouldn’t have moved forward towards Helenius after the knockdown, making it easier for him to bring more punishment with combinations of punches.
Kownacki wants another opportunity to avenge his loss to Helenius, but realizes he will have to remain patient, as Helenius reviews his options. A future decision looms, will Helenius wait for his chance against unified world heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua or decide to give Kownacki a rematch.
“Honestly, it will depend on Robert, with the current state of the world, and the postponements of other fights. If he wants to wait it out or if he decides to be active and fight,” Kownacki said. “Right now, I know he is feeling confident after beating me in our last fight. He has to think it over and make his decision. If he wants to make the fight with me, I’ll be ready for him.”
For Kownacki, he knew achieving his dream wouldn’t be easy. In the meantime, he is treating his last fight as a setback, as he trains working on his footwork and conditioning for the next time he will enter the ring.