Helenius shocks favorite Kownacki in fourth round


NEW YORK — Heavyweight Robert Helenius, a big underdog, who had taken a beating for most of the first three rounds, rallied for a shocking fourth-round technical knockout of contender Adam Kownacki in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions on Fox card on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Most of the crowd of 8,811 was decked out in the red and white of the Polish flag and cheering wildly for Kownacki, whose goal to become the first Polish heavyweight champion took a huge hit as he was stopped on his feet while taking punishment and leaving his fans in shock.

The fight was a title elimination bout and Helenius moved a step closer to an eventual shot at one of three-belt world titlist Anthony Joshua’s belts, although Joshua has two mandatory defenses looming for the remainder of his 2020 schedule.

But Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs), 36, a Sweden native fighting out Finland, will have plenty to celebrate after the improbable win.

The fight began with a fast pace as they wasted no time feeling each other out. Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs), 30, who has lived in Brooklyn since moving from Poland as a child, pressed forward throwing shots to the head and body and Helenius threw right back even if he did not connect as solidly.

There were heavy exchanges in the second round as both landed powerful punches and forced the other back. But it was Kownacki who got the better of it, including with a left hook that rocked Helenius before landing several more shots that had him in trouble at the end of the round.

Kownacki continued to plow forward in the third round as he knocked Helenius around the ring. He landed right hands, body shots and left hooks, forcing Helenius to cover up and grab. Helenius had awful body language and looked exhausted by the time the one-sided round ended.

But whatever trouble Helenius had found himself in, he shook it off and came out strong in the fourth round. He appeared to drop Kownacki to one knee in a corner with a right hand but referee David Fields ruled it a slip. But Helenius, probably sensing that he had hurt Kownacki, ramped up his aggression.

Moments later, he landed a strong straight right hand to the head and a left hook that dropped Kownacki. He beat the count but appeared unsteady as Helenius attacked him. He was rocking Kownacki with combinations and forcing him back. Kownacki flailed with a couple of punches that missed and when Helenius landed more shots, Fields stepped in and waved off the fight at 1 minute, 8 seconds.

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