So a heavyweight title eliminator awaits fans at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Saturday night. Adam Kownacki and Robert Helenius meet in a WBA Heavyweight title eliminator headlining FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes.
This is not Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, or Anthony Joshua. Those are the top three names associated now with a rejuvenated heavyweight division. Fury, (WBC title) and Wilder will have their trilogy in July.
Joshua, the other part of this equation will defend the unified WBA/IBF/WBO titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev at the new 70,000 seat Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on June 20.
And after two Fury-Wilder fights, one that resulted in a draw and the other that received a lot of hype, this heavyweight division has created a buzz and new faces.
Though, Kownacki, Polish-born and residing in Brooklyn, is no stranger to the Barclays Center. This will be Kownacki’s 10th fight there, where he has not only become a fan-favorite but established himself as a contender in the red-hot heavyweight division.
March 7 gives Kownacki another chance to showcase that he has what it takes to end up on top of the heavyweight ladder and become the first Polish heavyweight champion in boxing history.
And this is that WBA title eliminator, 12 rounds, with those implications. Kownacki, (20-0-15 KOs) is undefeated. Brooklyn is his home. He knows a win and that heavyweight title opportunity will await.
Though this heavyweight has that share of convincing wins in Brooklyn, Kownacki’s road to reach Fury or Joshua may have to wait. Basically, the heavyweight division has become more interesting and any potential title fight with one of the champions won’t come soon.
It doesn’t matter to Kownacki. He will wait for the opportunity because the road to get here was not easy.
“The division is wide open,” said Kownacki. “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, March 7, I have to prove that I belong in a title fight.”
The 30-year-old’s first headlining performance in Brooklyn came in August on FOX, when he won an exciting action fight against former title challenger Chris Arreola. Now he will face a new challenge in the veteran Helenius, who has faced top competition throughout the world and stands over 6-foot-6, making him one of Kownacki’s most imposing opponents to date.
Once, the boxing world did not look at Fury as a serious contender in the division. The British star, who overcame battles with depression and substance abuse, is now the sensation of boxing and the heavyweight division.
Kownacki also has that potential. This is not a Tyson Fury story. Nor does he have that power right, a punch that placed Deontay Wilder in the talk of an all-time heavyweight great.
But, Kownacki is a draw and has a good story. Brooklyn has welcomed him with fans and billboards. Quickly, though, Kownacki has become a part of that mix in a heavyweight division that has that cast of characters.
“This will be my second time headlining at Barclays Center and having the whole New York community, especially the Polish fans, coming out to support me really feels amazing,” said Kownacki.
“I grew up in Brooklyn, so seeing my face everywhere on ads and billboards is a great feeling. There’s definitely a little bit of added pressure being in that situation, but diamonds are made with pressure.”
He says about his opponent, Helenius (29-3-0) of Finland, “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.”
Yes, that’s the height advantage, 6-foot-6. Helenius also brings a 56.25% knockout ratio to the ring in 32 bouts.
“He’s very experienced and he’s been in there with a lot of talented fighters,” Kownacki said. “He fought Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte, going the distance with both, and he’s a former European champion. So, his experience is something I have to be careful with. I’m not looking past him at all.”
And Fury also did not look past Deontay Wilder. We all know the outcome of their second fight that prevented Wilder from throwing that right punch.
“Helenius is going to come in with the mindset as if I’m a world champion,” Kownacki said this week. “I know he’s going to try to take my spot in the rankings. I’m starting to feel like when fighters get in the ring with me, it seems like they’re extra-motivated,”
But the motivation, again at Barclays Center, will be those fans from his Polish community that will become a third man in the ring.
It has become this type of heavyweight division. Anything is possible.