The undercard hadn’t given the fans in attendance all too much bang for their buck, so many in the stands at Barclays Center Saturday evening were hoping and thinking that the main event would over-deliver. By that, the assumption was that Adam Kownacki would keep his momentum going, and he’d handle a vet on the downside, the so called “Nordic Nightmare,” Robert Helenius.
The Finnish born Swede was on the ascent, in 2011…but it had been a bumpy ride since then. He’d get Ws over lower level foes, but take Ls when meeting hitters B level and above, by and large. Thus, Team Kownacki weren’t cocky, but yes, were thinking the 20-0 PBC heavyweight pugilist would move a step closer to a title crack, by getting a victory over a name heavy, like Helenius (now 30-3).
And it was looking promising early, as in rounds 1, 2 and 3 Kownacki was aggressive, working low and high and seeming to be on message in this PBC on Fox main event. Then, the fateful fourth; a left hook-right hook setup felled the 30 year old Kownacki, but it was ruled a slip. Action resumed, and then down went Kownacki, for real. A left-right cross-left hook combo put the Polish Power on his back. He hopped right back up, by five. The 36 year old Helenius knew what to do, as a vet would—press the issue. He was throwing hammers, backing up AK, who wouldn’t go down. So, ref David Fields, knowing he’d been down once, and wasn’t defending himself all that well, stopped it.
At 1:52 of the fourth, Kownacki learned a harsh lesson, in this WBA title shot eliminator. Last fight, he’d learned not to assume a vet past their prime, in that case Chris Arreola, would be ripe for the taking.
Arreola had plenty left in the tank, though, and Helenius still possesses power and on this night, a tank full of fire. Now, now Kownacki gets it, and we all realize how much Helenius meant it when he told us he was confident he’d get that victory.
Here is the release PBC sent out, detailing the main event specifics, and sharing deets on wins by Efe Ajagba, and Frank Sanchez, the other heavyweights who triumphed on Fox’s three-scraps TV package.
BROOKLYN (March 7, 2020) – Robert Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs) scored an upset victory over previously unbeaten Adam Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) by stopping him in the fourth round of a WBA Heavyweight Title Eliminator headlining FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday night from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.
“I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity,” said Helenius. “Kownacki is a tough fighter. I worked hard in training camp and it paid off.”
Brooklyn’s Kownacki was fighting for the 10th time at Barclays Center in front of his hometown crowd, but was unable to keep the taller Helenius off of him after being hurt early in the fourth. A clean Helenius right hook hurt Kownacki, before a left hook put Kownacki down.
“I knew that I hit him hard and I knew I just had to continue,” said Helenius. “I knew he was still hurt after that punch.
“Kownacki just kept coming and coming. He’s a good fighter I have to give it to him. My strength is to punch back when people come at me. It was a good fight and a tremendous opportunity for me to be here.”
While Kownacki outpaced Helenius landing 84 punches to 49 according to CompuBox, it was Helenius’ 12 power punches landed in round four that made the difference. Helenius kept up the relentless attack, consistently hurting Kownacki and pushing him around the ring until referee David Fields waived off the fight 1:08 into the round.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Kownacki. “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.”
In the co-main event, heavyweight sensation Efe Ajagba (13-0, 11 KOs; below, in photo by S. Trapp) delivered a ninth-round stoppage of Razvan Cojanu (17-7, 9 KOs), knocking him down twice en route to the victory.
Ajagba showed the prolific power that has made him a highly-regarded heavyweight nearing a jump from prospect to contender. Cojanu came to fight and had success at various points in the action, landing hooks on Ajagba and slowing down his attack in the early rounds.
In round eight Ajagba’s offensive arsenal began to break through, as Cojanu’s left eye started to swell before eventually closing. Late in round eight, Ajagba connected on a powerful straight right hand that forced Cojanu to take a knee.
“Ronnie told me to attack the body behind the jab,” said Ajagba. “It was very effective and it started to slow him down. When he got close to me, I knew to throw more and punish him.
“Cojanu has a lot of experience. When I threw my jab, he used his right hand to block my vision, so I couldn’t throw as many combinations as I wanted. It was a good challenge.”
While Cojanu was able to make it through the round, Ajagba continued to press forward in round nine, punishing Cojanu with power shots. On the night, Ajagba out landed Cojanu in power shots by a 176 to 81 margin. A flurry by Ajagba late in the round forced Cojanu down again, and prompted referee Ron Lipton to halt the bout 2:46 into the round. Watch the stoppage here. Additional highlights can be viewed here.
“It’s up to my team who we fight next, but I want hard fights,” said Ajagba. “My team has a plan and we’ll keep following it.”
In the televised opener, rising heavyweight Frank Sanchez (15-0, 11 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko (20-8-4, 11 KOs) to remain unbeaten.
“I was well prepared and I thought I fought very well tonight,” said Sanchez. “I dominated the fight. I showed good footwork and movement and did exactly what we worked on. I expected a lot of pressure, but with my boxing ability, there was no way he was going to catch me.”
The Cuban fighter dominated with his movement, rarely being flustered by Dawejko’s attack as he bounded around the ring and avoided the incoming Philadelphia native. Sanchez was also superior in punch output and accuracy, out throwing Dawejko 352 to 242 and out landing him by a 116 to 46 margin.
“I knew he was going to fight on the outside and he stayed on the outside,” said Dawejko. “Not much to say, he just did what he had to do. He was scared that’s why he was running around. He kept jumping back and staying away, so I guess he made it easy on the judges.”
Sanchez was able to punch open a cut on Dawejko’s right eye in round five, which he continued to batter throughout the remainder of the fight with jabs and right hands. After 10 rounds, all three judges saw the bout in favor of Sanchez, with scores of 100-90 twice and 98-92.
“I didn’t want to fight Dawejko’s fight, and he realized that and it frustrated him,” said Sanchez. “He might have thought he’s faced guys like me, but there’s no other heavyweight like me.”
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ABOUT KOWNACKI VS. HELENIUS
Kownacki vs. Helenius saw undefeated Polish star and Brooklyn native Adam Kownacki take on Robert Helenius in a 12-round WBA Heavyweight Title eliminator in the main event of FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday, March 7 from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.
FOX PBC Fight Night began at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and featured undefeated heavyweight sensation Efe Ajagba facing former title challenger Razvan Cojanu in the 10-round co-main event and rising heavyweight Frank Sánchez stepping in to face Philadelphia’s Joey Dawejko in the 10-round televised opener. The event was promoted by TGB Promotions.