Adam Kownacki couldn’t believe it.
The heavyweight contender had barely one week left to complete training camp for his long-awaited shot at redemption. Kownacki’s rematch with Robert Helenius had already been pushed back by several months, but their July 24 fight on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard was just two weeks away.
When he learned a COVID-19 outbreak in Fury’s camp would probably delay his return to the ring for 2½ more months, Kownacki was disgusted.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God! Not again!’ I was really disappointed,” Kownacki told BoxingScene.com. “It sucks. But it gives me some extra time to train, so I’m gonna use it to the best of my ability.”
The 32-year-old Kownacki took a week off from training. Instead of spending this week in Las Vegas for his showdown Saturday night with Helenius, Kownacki flew from New York to Florida, where his head trainer, Keith Trimble, is preparing former WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri for his 10-round fight against Mikkel LesPierre on August 3 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
The popular Polish fighter’s rematch with the 37-year-old Helenius has been rescheduled for October 9. It’ll remain part of the ESPN/FOX Sports Pay-Per-View undercard for the third WBC heavyweight championship bout between England’s Fury and Alabama’s Wilder at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Kownacki wants to lose as much weight as possible while training in the notorious heat and humidity in Florida. He expects to weigh about 255 pounds for his second fight against Finland’s Helenius, who dropped the heavily favored Kownacki twice in the fourth round of a March 2020 bout Helenius won by technical knockout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Kownacki’s hometown.
The 6-feet-3 Kownacki officially weighed 265¼ pounds for his loss to Helenius. He weighed 266 pounds for his previous bout, an all-action, 12-round, unanimous-decision victory over Chris Arreola in August 2019 at Barclays Center.
Losing to Helenius made Kownacki recognize that he must come in lighter for his next fight.
“I’ve definitely focused more on the weight,” Kownacki said. “When fight week comes, that’s a big thing in my head, how much I weigh. I get that a lot. So, it f---s with my head a little bit. So, I’ll make sure with this camp, with extra time to lose the weight and stuff, I’ll be where I have to be, where I can focus [during fight week] on putting the right food in my body, not worrying about what the scale says.”
Kownacki feels like he was at his best when he weighed in at 242 pounds for his fourth-round stoppage of Artur Szpilka in July 2017 and when he came in at 258½ pounds for his second-round TKO of Gerald Washington in January 2019.
“I think my biggest stress during fight week is not the fight,” Kownacki said. “It’s what the scale would say. I care for my fans. I wanna be less for them and I know a lot of them have an issue with my weight. So, it’s definitely something I’ve gotta make sure I control from now on. I can’t start ballooning back up because it’s starting to piss a lot of people off, including my fans, including my trainers. I fell behind the eight ball because of the weight issue. So, I definitely have to clean it up. I’ve gotta act professional and make sure I don’t blow up again.”
From a technical standpoint, Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) is focused on his defense and using his jab more effectively versus Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs). His first professional defeat has provided more motivation than ever for Kownacki, who had a tough time dealing with Helenius knocking him off a promising path he believed would lead to a heavyweight title shot.
It didn’t help, of course, that the COVID-19 pandemic shut down essentially everything in the United States less than a week after Kownacki’s devastating defeat.
“It sucked,” Kownacki said. “Then COVID hit and nobody had any idea what was going on. Thank God I had my wife and my son to actually keep my mind off the fight. My son meant so much to me at that time because I was able to focus on him and not the fight. Everybody else was closed off, worried about their life and what would happen next. So, I didn’t have that support. ‘Hey Adam. How are you doing? What’s going on?’ Everybody was worried about themselves.
“At first, I didn’t really understand. It was like, ‘Oh, you lose and nobody gives a f--- about you no more?’ But then with COVID, everything was closed down and everybody was actually fighting for their own survival. But that loss f----d up a lot of sh!t. His nickname is ‘The Nordic Nightmare.’ So, I can’t wait to get that rematch, beat him and have this nightmare be over. Hopefully, no more surprises, no one will catch COVID, we can go on with our lives and I can make a wrong a right.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.