Polish heavyweight top contender Adam Kownacki continues his pursuit of a title shot against veteran Robert Helenius when the two collide in a WBA world title eliminator on Saturday, March 7 at Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York. Their clash headlines a Premier Boxing Champions card airing on Fox and Fox Deportes, 8 p.m., ET.
Tale of the Tape
Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) enters this fight having stopped five of his last seven opponents. In his most recent bout, he triumphed over another veteran in Chris Arreola, back in August. Their exciting slugfest broke CompuBox records for the most combined punches thrown (2,172) and landed (667) in a heavyweight fight.
It was a tough 12 rounds where neither man hit the canvas or was seriously hurt but judges ruled unanimously in favor of Kownacki on account of his superior activity. Arreola famously promised that he would retire with a loss but has not yet acted on that proclamation.
‘Babyface’ Kownacki stopped Gerald Washington in January 2019, who owns a stoppage win over Helenius. Previous wins over Charles Martin (UD) and Artur Szpilka (TKO 4) round up Kownacki’s other noteworthy fights, but a world title shot has eluded him.
Kownacki was rumored to be in negotiation to face former world title challenger Dominic Breazeale with Christian Hammer being another option but PBC ultimately went with Helenius, yet a future clash with former unified world champion Andy Ruiz Jr has been touted with victory on Saturday night.
Known for his relentless and aggressive style, the Brooklyn transplant is vying to become the first Polish heavyweight champion. Kownacki has made it clear that he wants to face Tyson Fury who stopped Deontay Wilder in the 7th round to add the WBC version of the heavyweight title to his lineal claim to the title on February 22.
The entertaining heavyweight needs a win over a name fighter to really put him in a title eliminator to challenge for a world title shot and the Helenius matchup doesn’t quite fit the bill but should be interesting for as long as it lasts.
Bombs from ‘Babyface’ 👶
— BoxNation (@boxnationtv) March 4, 2020
The Sweden-born Helenius (29-3, 18 KOs) was once regarded as one of the division’s fastest rising contenders a few years ago. During that period, he defeated Dereck Chisora along with former titleholders Samuel Peter and Sergey Liakhovich, while building his undefeated record.
Fast forward to present day and you have a very different picture. In the past four years, ‘The Nordic Nightmare’ has lost three times to John Duhaupas, Gerald Washington and Dillian Whyte.
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The defeats to Duhaupas and Washington were both by highlight reel knockout and has pushed the 36-year-old towards retirement.
Helenius is coming off of a 2nd round knockout over Mateus Osorio on November 30 but it appears that his time as a top contender are over.
The only lucrative fights for Helenius are all against the division’s top fighters like Brooklyn’s favorite Kownacki, who’s ranked #3 IBF, #3 WBO, #4 WBA and #8 WBC.
Kownacki is the heavy betting favorite in this showdown and will be fighting for the tenth time at his hometown arena. He is also the younger man with less wear and tear on him.
Helenius has the edge in experience but has been on a downward slide for the past several years given his string of recent losses.
The Pole just doesn’t give up and has an impressive engine despite his large stature [think Andy Ruiz]. It’s a high stakes match with the winner receiving a WBA eliminator status to eventually fight for a world title. Look for Kownacki to eventually grind the towering Swede down and get the stoppage in the 7th round.
Ajagba vs. Cojanu
The night of heavyweight boxing begins at 8 p.m. with a lineup headed by the co-feature that will see top heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba in action. Ajaba (12-0, 10 KOs), a 2016 Nigerian Olympian fighting out of Stafford, Texas, will face replacement Razvan Cojanu (17-6, 9 KOs).
He was supposed to battle Ruann Visser (18-2, 17 KOs) but the South African pulled out before the fight was officially announced.
Ajagba gained widespread notoriety in August 2018 when his opponent, Curtis Harper walked out of the ring after touching gloves to start the first round over a salary dispute.
Harper was subsequently disqualified and Ajagba was awarded the win without throwing a single punch.
The undefeated heavyweight sensation has since increased his opposition by beating fellow 2016 Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen in July and most recently getting off the canvas to stop Iago Kiladze in December.
The sense going into this fight, is that the 32-year-old Cojanu is not much of a step up from Ajagba’s last win. However, the Romanian did serve as a last minute replacement for then WBO titleholder Joseph Parker in 2017, losing by a wide unanimous decision.
Cojanu is coming off an October win over club fighter Tamaz Zadishvili back in October. He’s gone 1-3 since the loss to Parker, losing three straight to Luis Ortiz, Nathan Gorman and Daniel Dubois. Both Ortiz and Dubois put him away while Gorman shut him out over 12 rounds.
Ajagba will be making his 2020 debut and third career ring appearance at Barclays Center. Cojanu is a ‘safety fight’ for Ajagba after the Kiladze match showed that he can be caught and hurt. That said, Ajagba still showed tremendous heart and that will be invaluable in future fights. Ajagba should prevail by 4th round knockout.
The opening attraction on the non-televised undercard will feature rising heavyweight Frank Sanchez (14-0, 11 KOs) against Philadelphia’s Joey Dawejko (29-7-4, 11 KOs) in a 10-round contest.
Cuba’s Sanchez remains unbeaten since turning pro in 2017. He scored knockouts in his first six bouts, and added nine more victories in 2018 alone. Last time out, he bested Jack Mulowayi by unanimous decision in October.
Philadelphia’s Dawejko is battle-tested, having faced stiff competition since 2009. The 29-year-old was last seen in action last July when he defeated Rodney Hernandez.
The Philadelphian can punch, despite his deceptive record. He boasts a draw with Jarrell Miller but has losses to Bryant Jennings, Andrey Fedosov and Sergey Kuzmin. He’s also been stopped by ex-Joshua foe Charles Martin.
Dawejko is perhaps best known for allegedly knocking out world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in a sparring session before the first Ruiz fight. However, that report has been widely disputed.
Franks Sanchez is a bit of a monster and boasts a strong heritage as a Cuban national champion whilst compiling an impressive 214-6 record. He also regularly trains with fellow Cuban like big-punching Luis Ortiz. He has solid fundamentals and good overall punching power. This fight will not go the distance and I see Sanchez winning by TKO in the 5th round.
In addition, exciting Brooklyn native Zachary “Zungry” Ochoa (20-1, 7 KOs) will face Angel Sarinana (10-9-3, 4 KOs) in an 8-round super lightweight fight.
Cuban heavyweight Robert Alfonso (19-0-1, 9 KOs) battles Puerto Rico’s Carlos Negron (20-3, 16 KOs).
Rounding out the action will be heavyweight prospect Steven Torres (2-0, 2 KOs) in a 4-round bout against Alex Ajabor (2-0, 1 KO) while Boston’s Francis Hogan makes his pro debut.