Robert Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs)scored an upset victory over previously unbeaten Adam Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) by stopping him in the fourth round of a WBA Heavyweight Title Eliminator headlining FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday night from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.
“I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity,” said Helenius. “Kownacki is a tough fighter. I worked hard in training camp and it paid off.”
Brooklyn’s Kownacki was fighting for the 10th time at Barclays Center in front of his hometown crowd, but was unable to keep the taller Helenius off of him after being hurt early in the fourth. A clean Helenius right hook hurt Kownacki, before a left hook put Kownacki down.
“I knew that I hit him hard and I knew I just had to continue,” said Helenius. “I knew he was still hurt after that punch.
“Kownacki just kept coming and coming. He’s a good fighter I have to give it to him. My strength is to punch back when people come at me. It was a good fight and a tremendous opportunity for me to be here.”
While Kownacki outpaced Helenius landing 84 punches to 49 according to CompuBox, it was Helenius’ 12 power punches landed in round four that made the difference. Helenius kept up the relentless attack, consistently hurting Kownacki and pushing him around the ring until referee David Fields waived off the fight 1:08 into the round.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Kownacki. “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.
“He hit me with a good shot. I knew what was going on, but I’m just upset with myself. It is what it is.”
In the co-main event, heavyweight sensation Efe Ajagba (13-0, 11 KOs) delivered a ninth-round stoppage of Razvan Cojanu (17-7, 9 KOs), knocking him down twice en route to the victory.
Ajagba showed the prolific power that has made him a highly-regarded heavyweight nearing a jump from prospect to contender. Cojanu came to fight and had success at various points in the action, landing hooks on Ajagba and slowing down his attack in the early rounds.
In round eight Ajagba’s offensive arsenal began to break through, as Cojanu’s left eye started to swell before eventually closing. Late in round eight, Ajagba connected on a powerful straight right hand that forced Cojanu to take a knee.
“Ronnie told me to attack the body behind the jab,” said Ajagba. “It was very effective and it started to slow him down. When he got close to me, I knew to throw more and punish him.
“Cojanu has a lot of experience. When I threw my jab, he used his right hand to block my vision, so I couldn’t throw as many combinations as I wanted. It was a good challenge.”
While Cojanu was able to make it through the round, Ajagba continued to press forward in round nine, punishing Cojanu with power shots. On the night, Ajagba out landed Cojanu in power shots by a 176 to 81 margin. A flurry by Ajagba late in the round forced Cojanu down again, and prompted referee Ron Lipton to halt the bout 2:46 into the round. Watch the stoppage here. Additional highlights can be viewed here.
“It’s up to my team who we fight next, but I want hard fights,” said Ajagba. “My team has a plan and we’ll keep following it.”
In the televised opener, rising heavyweight Frank Sanchez (15-0, 11 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko (20-8-4, 11 KOs) to remain unbeaten.
“I was well prepared and I thought I fought very well tonight,” said Sanchez. “I dominated the fight. I showed good footwork and movement and did exactly what we worked on. I expected a lot of pressure, but with my boxing ability, there was no way he was going to catch me.”
The Cuban fighter dominated with his movement, rarely being flustered by Dawejko’s attack as he bounded around the ring and avoided the incoming Philadelphia native. Sanchez was also superior in punch output and accuracy, out throwing Dawejko 352 to 242 and out landing him by a 116 to 46 margin.
“I knew he was going to fight on the outside and he stayed on the outside,” said Dawejko. “Not much to say, he just did what he had to do. He was scared that’s why he was running around. He kept jumping back and staying away, so I guess he made it easy on the judges.”
Sanchez was able to punch open a cut on Dawejko’s right eye in round five, which he continued to batter throughout the remainder of the fight with jabs and right hands. After 10 rounds, all three judges saw the bout in favor of Sanchez, with scores of 100-90 twice and 98-92.
“I didn’t want to fight Dawejko’s fight, and he realized that and it frustrated him,” said Sanchez. “He might have thought he’s faced guys like me, but there’s no other heavyweight like me.”