Adam Kownacki: ‘I learned the hard way. You have to be careful’

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The adjustment Adam Kownacki plans to make for his rematch with Robert Helenius makes sense: Use a little caution.

The heavyweight contender fought as if he didn’t know the meaning of that last word when they met in March of last year and he paid a steep price, as he was stopped in the fourth round by the veteran Finn.

They meet again on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder pay-per-view card on Oct. 9 in Las Vegas.

“I thought I had him,” Kownacki told Boxing Junkie, referring to the earlier fight with Helenius. “The first two rounds went very well. I just got reckless and got caught coming in. It’s the heavyweight division.

“I learned the hard way. You have to be careful.”

Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) said the lead up to the loss wasn’t ideal for his preparation. His first child was born shortly before the event, which presented new challenges. That included some sleepless nights.

And it was his second main event at his hometown arena, Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Promotional obligations wore him down to some degree.

Still, he acknowledges that it was a counter right from Helenius that put him down about 20 seconds into Round 4 – which referee David Fields ruled a slip – that initiated his down fall. He went down once more and then endured a barrage of shots, which prompted Fields to stop the fight.

“I remember sitting in the corner on the stool thinking, ‘F—. I can’t believe that just happened.’ It’s tough, with all the fans there at Barclays. I was so close to the title [shot] and I lost,” Kownacki said.

The following days and weeks weren’t easy, as he tried to cope with being an undefeated contender one day to a knockout victim with an uncertain future the next.

And the coronavirus pandemic took hold shortly after the fight, which sent everyone into isolation. Kownacki felt as if he was on an island, left to cope with his fate largely on his own. He was the forgotten man.

Thank goodness he had those closest to him.

“Everyone went into lockdown,” he said. “Everyone was worried about their lives and their futures. No one cared how Adam was doing. It was my wife and son who kept me focused. I learned just how far love can go. It heals a lot of things.”

And, of course, his team didn’t desert him. They got to work putting together a rematch. And while there have been a few stops and starts – including a long delay after Fury contracted COVID-19 – he’ll get a second shot at Helenius on Oct. 9.

He and trainer Keith Trimble haven’t made significant changes in training camp other than to cut back from three days of sparring to two and add a mantra: No recklessness.

Fans shouldn’t expect a heavyweight version of Vasiliy Lomachenko when the opening bell rings but they should see a more responsible version of a fighter whose instinct has been to brawl.

“I’ll take it slow,” he said. “I was head first all the time, trying to get a knockout. In the past, that worked for me well. But as the competition gets better, I need to pick my shots more carefully.”

And if he can turn the tables on Helenius?

“I want to show what happened that night was an accident,” he said. “I want to get the win but also look fantastic doing it. Then my stock will go right back up. If I look so-so, it could be tough.

“I gotta look good, especially on such a big card. I want to make a statement.”

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