SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 5, 2020 – Brooklyn’s Adam Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) returns to his home turf on Saturday at the Barclays Center hopeful that a showcase win over Robert Helenius of Sweden (29-3, 18 KOs) achieves his immediate goal to join the current heavyweight division sweepstakes.
Kownacki vs Helenius headlines a trio of heavyweight fights Saturday, airing live on PBC on Fox and Fox Deportes, starting at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.
Kownacki continues to work his way toward a title fight with this WBA title eliminator on Saturday against Helenius. “Fighting for a shot at the title is truly motivating,” said Kownacki. “I know this is a big fight for Robert as well and he’s trained hard, but my title opportunity is right around the corner. I could have waited, but I decided to take on this big test. I’m going to show off why I’m ready to fight for the title soon.”
The Swede has faced a handful of opponents just outside the top tier. His best outing was a razor-close split decision over Dillian Whyte in 2011. Six months ago. Helenius was knocked out by Gerald Washington, who then suffered his own knockout loss to Charles Martin on the Wilder Fury 2 undercard.
Helenius said he’s been healthy in recent years after a series of hand injuries and says he’s much better prepared. “This fight we came two weeks earlier to the U.S. My body has gotten used to the difference. Plus, the sparring in Alabama at Deontay Wilder’s gym really helped get me ready.vWe’re doing everything right and training has been great. We’ve sparred so many rounds, I feel very sharp and ready to get into the ring against Kownacki.”
Kownacki’s last fight was a blowout decision win over Chris Arreola of Escondido, California. Fans enjoyed the all-action fight in a very large phone booth. The 30-year-old native of Poland and the 38-year-old veteran Mexican American set a CompuBox record for most punches thrown and most punches landed in a 12 round heavyweight division fight. Kownacki landed 369 of 1,047 punches thrown (35 percent), with Arreola adding his 298 punches landed of 1,125 thrown (26 percent).
“Helenius is a totally different opponent than Arreola,” said Kownacki. “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.
“He’s very experienced and he’s been in there with a lot of talented fighters. 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,” said Kownacki.
Kownacki will have the benefit of a full house of screaming supporters on Saturday. “It’s truly amazing to see the Polish fans on fight night. I was an Andrew Golota fan and Tomasz Adamek after that. Now I’m trying to be the next motivation for young Polish kids. I want to show them that they can make it … I love hearing the fans yelling on fight night and that definitely gives me extra energy and motivation to fight in the later rounds.”
Kownacki says he’s looking for a “spectacular knockout,” and this plus lots of Polish posteriors in the seats will boost his chance for a fight against the top tier of heavyweights.
“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-ten 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.”
Efe Ajagba returns against Razvan Cojanu
Also appearing on the card in the co-main are heavyweights Efe Ajagba of Houston (12-0, 10 KOs) vs Razvan Cojanu of Romania (17-6, 9 KOs). Ajagba, a native of Nigeria, was involved in a wild and wacky fight on the Charlo vs Harrison 2 undercard in December against Iago Kiladze, who rose from multiple knockdowns and caught Ajagba sleeping. He was fortunate to survive.
“In the Iago Kiladze fight I had him hurt and tried to finish him, but I went too wild and left my guard down,” admits Ajagba. “That’s why he landed a shot and knocked me down. I felt okay when I got up and I came back and finished him off.” Ajagba says he expects Cojanu to try and box with him. “If he can’t take my power, then I’ll be able to win the fight by knockout. If he can take it, I will be ready to win a decision.”
Cojanu’s record looks shaky, but he’s fought quality opponents including Daniel Dubois, Nathan Gorman, Luis Ortiz, and Joseph Parker. He lost all of them but went the distance against Gorman and Parker, and he’ll make a good test for Ajagba.
“Efe is a fighter I respect a lot. He’s a great prospect. But I’m ready for him,” said Cojanu. “I feel very confident in myself. I had a great six-week training camp. Everyone who supported me, I’m going to make them proud on Saturday.
“For this fight I got the chance to work with Henry Tillman and it’s made a huge difference in my game. I know the coach can’t fight for me, but I believe in his plan and his judgment … People think Efe has already won the fight, but I feel good. There’s no pressure on my shoulders. I have nothing to lose.”
Sanchez vs Dawejko in opening fight
In the opener, it’s heavyweight prospect and Cuban native Frank Sanchez of Las Vegas (14-0, 11 KOs) against Joey Dawejko of Philadelphia (20-7-4, 11 KOs). Dawejko presents a step up for Sanchez. He suffered three losses in a row before winning a decision in his last fight. He’ll have his hands full with Sanchez, who’s a buzzsaw with six inches of height and eight inches of extra reach over Dawejko.
“I wish Joey luck but not too much luck … He’s not knocking out anybody,” said Sanchez. “With my defense and movement, he’s not going to be able to hurt me. I have everything I need to dominate this fight.”
I know they’re moving him fast, but I think they took the wrong fight,” said Dawejko. “They should have waited a couple more fights for me and I’m going to prove it. Frank is a good fighter, but he’s not ready for me. He’s going to try to box me, but I’m going to be too much.”
With two additional heavyweight bouts on the undercard, five of Saturday’s eight fights are in the heavyweight division. Go big in Brooklyn or go home.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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