By: Hans Themistode
Unpredictability has always been the name of the game when it comes to boxing’s Heavyweight division.
Unlike most weight classes, you just never know what you’re going to get once the big guys step inside of the ring. And on March 7th 2020, at Barclay Center in Brooklyn New York, that unpredictability was on full display.
Evaluating a fighter takes a bit of time. So deciding to take out the pen and paper and hand a grade to them during the first few years of their career is incredibly unfair. Yet, in the case of Robert Helenius, the grade on him seemed beyond fair.
Helenius proved that he was a legit contender with solid wins over Samuel Peter and Dereck Chisora. But he also proved that he was more of the fringe variety rather than an actual threat with knockout losses to Johann Duhaupas and Gerald Washington.
He was solid. Nothing spectacular. More of a stepping stone sort of fighter. If you lost to him, then you were never a true contender in the division. If you picked up a win against him, well, you still weren’t considered a contender just yet. But you were ready for the next step.
For the formerly undefeated Adam Kownacki, he was in search of the latter. The Brooklyn raised Kownacki scored three solid wins in a row over Charles Martin, Chris Arreola and Gerald Washington. So when both Kownacki and Helenius met up on March 7th, many expected him to make it four in a row.
Everything seemed simple and pretty easy to follow. Helenius was knocked out by Gerald Washington in the eighth round of their contest in 2019. Kownacki on the other hand, destroyed Washington in the second round of their match in the very same year.
Fortunately for Helenius, that didn’t have a trickle effect on him as he dropped and ultimately stopped Kownacki in the fourth round.
It was a major win for Helenius. And now, he’s trying to use his massive upset to launch himself towards the top of the division.
“I think it would be a very interesting fight,” said Helenius when discussing a matchup with unified champ Anthony Joshua. “I would like that very much. It would be fireworks and tactics, of course. But I think it would be a very, very interesting fight for me.”
Huge upsets in the sport of boxing has a tendency to lead fighters into the biggest fights of their careers shortly after.
After scoring one of the biggest upsets of the year in 2013, with a win over Adrien Broner, Marcos Maidana walked into the two biggest fights of his life with back to back contests against Floyd Mayweather. Corrie Saunders in 2003, grabbed a huge upset win over Wladimir Klitschko which subsequently landed him a one sided butt kicking against his older brother Vitali Klitschko. More recently, Ivan Redkach parlayed a huge win over former champion Devon Alexander in 2019, into the biggest fight of his life against Danny Garcia earlier this year.
It’s scenarios such as those, coupled with Joshua’s recent loss against Andy Ruiz Jr, that has Helenius not only believing that he should be next in line for Joshua, but that he can also beat him.
“I was very surprised that he got knocked down by Andy Ruiz Jr. He made mistakes, but he did well in the second fight. Ruiz and me are very different fighters. We are the same height, Anthony and me. I’ve been there in a sparring camp with him. I have nothing personal against him, he’s a very good guy. I think very highly of him and I like him a lot, but I think I would beat him.”
With fighters such as Dillian Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk, Luis Ortiz and a slew of others still presumably ahead of him, Helenius isn’t expected to walk into a title shot just yet. But he’s alright with that. He simply wants to fight the best.
“I hope I will get the biggest fight. I don’t really care who I’m fighting next. I’m going to be ready for whoever comes in my way.”
By: Hans Themistode
Robert Helenius was supposed to make a quick couple bucks. Come into the ring, get beat up for a few rounds against Heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki and walk out. Nothing more, nothing less.
The script was already written, it just had to be played out.
For the first three rounds of their Heavyweight contest which took place on March 7th, 2020, everything was going according to plan. Kownacki had the Polish, Brooklyn crowd at Barclay Center, on their fight for every second of the fight. It all looked easy. Kownacki was landing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. After two rounds that were easy to score in the favor of the hometown guy, Kownacki almost had his man out of there in the third round.
Helenius managed to make it to the bell, but the fans in the arena were already packing their bags and getting ready to miss the rush out of the building as Kownacki was just about ready to close the show.
The fans were right on their first initial thought. The fight was coming to an end, but not the way many of them were expecting.
Kownacki hit the deck within the first few seconds of the round. Initially, it was ruled a slip. But everyone in the arena knew that it wasn’t. A few seconds later, Kownacki hit the deck again. This time with a thud. He bounced right back up, but things wouldn’t last much longer as Helenius pounded him against the ropes until the referee put a stop to the contest.
It took 12 long years as a professional boxer, but Helenius picked up the biggest and most credible win of his career. And now, everyone is looking at him a bit differently.
Before his contest with Kownacki, Helenius was never viewed as a threat to anyone in the division. Calling him a gatekeeper would be disrespectful to the word. No, he was something below that. A fringe contender. Somewhat of a step up fight for young prospects to jump on.
Kownacki on the other hand, was a star in the making. He had a fan friendly style and had the sort of fanbase that would lead you to believe that he is the best Heavyweight fighter since Muhammad Ali. A win wasn’t just needed, it was expected. Yet, Kownacki didn’t deliver.
So what now? Kownacki will need a few fights, maybe even a few years to rebuild his image. But what about Helenius? Knockout losses to Johann Duhaupas in 2016, and Gerald Washington in 2019, had given many the impression that he wasn’t a contender in the slightest. But with a win over Kownacki, he has officially placed himself in the front of the line as their contest was a WBA title eliminator.
In just a few short hours, Helenius went from the bottom of the barrel, to the top of the food chain.
At the moment, the WBA title is in the hands of British star, Anthony Joshua. But at this point, it isn’t about if, but when, Robert Helenius takes on Joshua, does he have a chance? It’s hard to tell isn’t it.
Joshua has proven that he can be beat, but Helenius would seem to be in over his head against the unified Heavyweight champion.
Is Robert Helenius a true contender? Or did he just get lucky on the night?
Sure Adam Kownacki looked every part of a true contender, but maybe he wasn’t. If you ask Helenius, he’ll tell you that he can beat anyone. That’s what he is supposed to say.
James “Buster” Douglass knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990, in what many still believe is the biggest upset in boxing history. He would go on to lose his very next fight against Evander Holyfield. Leon Spinks handed Muhammad Ali a surprising loss in 1978. He would also go on to his very next fight, and 16 more throughout his career.
Helenius seems destined for that same fate. It may have been a great win for him, but as far as being a big time player in the Heavyweight division, it seems unlikely.
By: Hans Themistode
Boxing contenders seem to arrive on the scene every other day. They often flash a bit of speed, power and defensive acumen. But more than anything, they seem to have that “it” factor.
In the case of Heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki, he never really checked all of the boxes. He was never considered a fighter with fast hands. Nor was he thought of as a huge puncher. Sure he does have 15 knockouts in his 20 career victories, but Kownacki is known much more for his volume punching. Case in point would be Kownacki and his last opponent, Chris Arreola breaking the Heavyweight record for the most punches thrown and landed in a contest.
So let’s go over everything so far. Does Kownacki have fast hands? No. Power punching? No again.
So how about his defensive acumen? Well, Kownacki has become known as a fighter who will jump in the line of fire in order to get his own offense off. So once again, Kownacki doesn’t check off that box either.
That leaves us to our final box. The “it” factor.
The “it” factor is always something that is difficult to explain. It essentially means a fighter who gives you the belief that he can beat anyone. That no matter what is thrown his way, he will walk right through it and come out on the other side unscathed. Most importantly, the “it” factor is a fan favorite fighter.
Kownacki may not have checked any of the previously mentioned boxes, but when in terms of the “it” factor, no one seemed to exhibit it more than the Polish born, Brooklyn raised star.
Unlike past years where getting a shot at the Heavyweight title was considered a cakewalk, making your way up the ladder takes a lot more work.
For the past 11 years, Kownacki was doing just that. Working his way up the Heavyweight ladder and making real headlines along the way.
In a boxing world that mostly rewards the loud and overbearing type, Kownacki was the exact opposite. His fans, on the other hand, had his back.
They screamed from the top of their lungs every time their man stepped into the ring. And for the past 11 years, it worked. But on March 7th, 2020, at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, the screams of Kownacki’s fans that were usually met with their man pushing himself past his limits, fell on deaf ears.
Kownacki made his way to the ring on the night with the biggest fight of his life waiting in front of him. No, his opponent, Robert Helenius, was not the best person he’s ever faced. He wasn’t the most dangerous either. But the prize waiting for Kownacki at the end of night was exactly what he was hoping for. A shot at the WBA Heavyweight title.
At this point, the only thing that mattered was when, not if, Kownacki was going to take on current champion Anthony Joshua.
No one gave Helenius a chance to win that fight. His 30-1 odds represented just that.
As Helenius sauntered his way to the ring, he smiled as if to say he had everything under control.
The moment the opening bell rang however, that smile went away quick, fast and in a hurry. Kownacki poured the pressure on his man, and seemed well on his way to an early night.
Fans did in fact get a chance to go home early, but not because of the reasons they were hoping for.
Helenius beat down the crowd favorite to the tune of a fourth round stoppage. The cheers from Kownacki’s fans turned into dead silence as their man picked up the first loss of his career.
Everything changes now. Kownacki was viewed as a legitimate title contender. Now however, not so much.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Kownacki during the post fight presser. “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.”
The road to a championship hasn’t come to an end, but the hype train that is Adam Kownacki officially fell off the rails.