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Underdog Helenius stops Kownacki

By Robert Ecksel on March 7, 2020


“He hit me with a good shot. I knew what was going on, but it is what it is.” (Getty Images)

Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in a WBA heavyweight title eliminator, 35-year-old Robert Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs), the fringe contender from Mariehamn, Finland, by way of Stockholm, Sweden., upset 30-year-old Adam Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs), the 40:1 favorite from Brooklyn via Lomza, Poland, stopping him via TKO at 1:08 of round four.


Kownacki was ahead on all three scorecards when referee David Fields waved it off.


Facing a taller opponent with a longer reach, Kownacki got off to a slower start than usual in the opening round, while Helenius used his jab to keep the Polish fighter at bay.


Both men traded punches in the second, fighting as if they wanted to end it early. Kownacki was the busier of the two and outlanded Helenius 23 to 19, but Helenius looked like he had found the range with solid rights to the body and head.


Kownacki roared back in round three. He caught Helenius several times, but the bigger man had found the range and was firing back. He closed the round with several shots that stunned Kownacki as the round drew to a close.


In round four, Helenius dropped Kownacki with a right hand that was ruled a slip, but he was hurt and his defense, never his strong suit, was nowhere to be found. Helenius jumped on Kownacki and began landing at will when a hard right followed by a left dropped him a second (or first) time. Kownacki didn’t bother to take advantage of the count and Helenius seized the moment by connecting with a barrage of punches to the retreating favorite’s head.  No longer punching back and getting nailed by everything in Helenius's arsenal, the ref stepped in to save Kownacki from further punishment.


“He just kept coming and coming,” said Helenius after the bout. “He’s a good fighter. I have to give it to him. My strength is to punch back when people come at me.


“I knew that I hit him hard and I knew I just had to continue. I knew he was still hurt after that punch.”


The stoppage silenced the crowd of Kownacki partisans. His top-10 ranking by the four major sanctioning bodies, as well as his formerly unblemished record, is no more.


“It wasn’t my night,” Kownacki said. “It’s boxing. It’s a tough sport and things just didn’t go my way tonight. It was a learning experience and I’m going to go back to the drawing board and get back to work.


“He hit me with a good shot. I knew what was going on, but I’m just upset with myself. It is what it is.”

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