By Thomas Gerbasi
It says something about the rising profile of unbeaten Brooklyn heavyweight Adam Kownacki that most observers are looking at his September 8 meeting with former IBF belt holder Charles Martin simply as a showcase bout, one that could propel him into the title picture.
Kownacki hopes that’s the case, that a win over Martin will get him a title fight, but as far as a victory being a foregone conclusion, the 29-year-old isn’t going that far.
“There’s a good saying: ‘Don’t assume because you make an ass out of you and me,’” Kownacki laughs. “So I don’t assume anything. He had the belt and was a world champion, and I know he’s training hard, so I hope he comes in the best form possible, so when I beat him, I beat the best Charles Martin, and I’ll know I’m ready for a title shot.”
If you talk to Poland’s Kownacki for any length of time, it’s clear that he’s thought he was ready long before he steps into the ring at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in a couple weeks. But he wasn’t one to make a lot of noise. He understood that this was a process, and that the only way to truly make sure you got noticed was by performing when the bell rang.
That means fighting as hard in a walkout bout against Ytalo Perea as he does in a televised bout against former world title challenger Artur Szpilka. No complaints. No crying. Show up and fight. Win, beat the right people and, eventually, they’ll call your name.
“It’s that mindset that the time will come,” Kownacki said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the backing like some of these other guys, but I knew if I kept fighting and kept winning, the people would keep coming out to support me.”
Go to any Kownacki fight in his adopted hometown and you can’t miss the support. Just follow the red shirts that are there wherever their favorite sits on the card, and once you see them, then you can hear them when “Baby Face” enters the ring.
“The sea of red is getting bigger and bigger, so now it’s like, ‘We have to put this kid on TV because he’s getting the results,’” said Kownacki. “Even though I didn’t speak so much about it, I think I made enough noise with my fists in the ring, and that did the talking. And the fans that came to watch and support this good boxing and the style that I bring, they proved that this is the kid they want to see. So the people spoke. All I could do is keep winning, keep training hard and I think people will recognize what’s real and what’s not real. If I keep paying my dues, the time will come. And right now, it’s almost there. It’s a lot closer, I still have a couple steps to achieve what I want to achieve, but it’s around the corner, so I just keep focused and I don’t cry.”
Just like baseball, there’s no crying in boxing, and that toughness is celebrated by Kownacki and his trainer, Keith Trimble. As no nonsense as they come, Trimble pushes his fighter hard, but Kownacki doesn’t back down. That’s the kind of grit that makes champions, and Trimble believes his fighter will wear gold one day.
I read Kownacki a Trimble quote from a recent interview conducted by FightNews.com’s Przemek Garczarczyk regarding the Martin fight.
“The winner will be the one who has bigger balls, who is tougher, never surrenders,” said Trimble. “Kownacki doesn’t know this word.”
That’s a badge of honor for Kownacki, knowing he’s earned the respect of his coach.
“I’ve been with Keith for five years,” he said. “There were sparring sessions where I was hurt, beat up and in a lot of pain. But you have to put in the work to get ready for the fight. Even my last fight, I had a messed up nose and my ribs were hurting, but you can’t quit. From him being around me so much and me going through the stuff I’ve been through, I’m just focused on achieving my goal, and he sees it firsthand. That’s where those words came from.”
Let’s not mince words. Adam Kownacki isn’t an international star like Anthony Joshua, a feared knockout artist like Deontay Wilder, or a headline maker like Tyson Fury. He just shows up, fights, and 17 times thus far, he wins. If he makes it 18, he may start being mentioned with those names. But for Kownacki, that’s talk for another day.
“This (the Martin fight) is a tough exam that I have to pass if I want to get to where I want to be,” he said. “I’m not looking past him because when fighters look past an opponent, that opponent becomes very serious. Right now, I’m focused a hundred percent on Charles Martin. From sparring to every workout, that’s the only guy on my mind. All that noise about getting past him, nobody takes him serious, but I am. I can’t let that fool me because one little mistake can cost you the fight. So I’m really focused, I’m making sure I’m getting over the little mistakes and making sure those mistakes don’t happen September 8th.”
Fair enough, but Joshua or Wilder?
“I want to be the best, so give me one, then give me the other one.”