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Adam Kownacki looking to get into the heavyweight title mix

Kownacki returns on Saturday in the Thurman-Lopez co-feature.

Keith Thurman v Josesito Lopez - Media Workout Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If you are me, you aren’t so much supposed to have favorites. But I have a confession: I can only speak for myself, but I’m like a lot of other people, only human, not a robot, so guess what? You sometimes start to like one fighter more than another.

You kinda sorta develop favorites. OK, not YOU. Me. I do.

Again, I’m not speaking for all the guys. Maybe they’d tell you naw, I play it straight down the line, I have no biases, positive or negative. Bless them, then.

I do. Not a robot.

Another confession, and I say this because honestly, I think it is better if we in the media admit that we aren’t immune to having feelings and emotions affect our coverage. On that note, let me admit to you that on Wednesday, I talked to Adam Kownacki at the famed and fabled Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. And as per usual, the guy was chill, went with the flow, was patient and affable. And I straight up told him, in so many words, that I kinda like him, that I find him easy to root for. And he accepted those sentiments gracefully and then we parted ways. I’d already pestered him on camera, asking queries about his Saturday night fight against Gerald Washington.

But that is my preamble as I look a bit harder at this matchup, which will screen on FOX before the main event, which features Keith Thurman in a comeback tussle against Josesito Lopez. And I structured this piece this way because I think it is important that we in the media acknowledge that sometimes we focus too much on the “bad” guys, the edgy ones, the shit talkers, the Gs — and guess what? That sometimes means the good guys, who like Kownacki have had the ups and downs and all arounds for long spells, and they keep trudging forward, and soldiering on in this, the sweet but more often savage science — they deserve a bit more love and attention from a media and a public that too often rewards the bad actors because they are “interesting” instead of the the good citizens because they are good.

Kownacki — you should pronounce it “COVE-NOSKY” — is 29 years old, but has a face that suggests he could be younger and also not a boxer. Maybe soon it will be time to retire the nickname “Babyface,” but it still suits him.

He’s 18-0 (14 KO), and he’s been edging up that ladder, in half-step increments. A pro since 2009, Kownacki was off in 2011 and 2012 because of injuries. He didn’t let that stop him from trudging onward — nor the fact that he didn’t latch on with a promoter and the fact that NYC was getting stupid expensive, and pricing his family out of their Greenpoint, Brooklyn neighborhood. Kownacki had come to Brooklyn with his mom and dad and siblings when he was seven. He took up karate, but was more the striker than blocker type, so he switched to boxing.

And if you on the outside had checked him out, you might have been put off because he looks a bit more like an average Joe, body-wise, than maybe you’ve come to expect from your heavyweight hopefuls. Yes, he’s still mastering the nutritional side of being a high-level athlete. The boxer wants to have a BMI which doesn’t make people judge his book by the cover — inside he knows that, hey, it’s been working OK so far. More than OK, actually; last time out, he and Charles Martin engaged in a fun rumble and AK Babyface got the decision W.

That scrum took place at Barclays Center and so will the Saturday meeting with the 19-2-1 Washington.

“I’ve sold 1,500 tickets for the fight,” Kownacki told me at Gleasons. Expect a sea of red and white, proud Poles shouting their encouragement to the Brooklyner.

After his last fight, Kownacki went to Poland and the people there mobbed him, he said. He wants to become the first Polish-American heavyweight champion and make his people proud, and he’s been making steady progress toward that goal. Artur Szpilka was favored to beat him, didn’t happen. He then downed Iago Kiladze, and then Martin. Washington could be his stiffest foe on paper. He’d lost to Deontay Wilder (TKO-5) and then Jarrell Miller (RTD-8), before getting a bounce-back win against John Wesley Nofire. Washington is 36 and is thisclose to sliding down a notch to being straight up trial horse if he loses to the Polish-American.

I wanted to get a sense of Kownacki’s mindset days out from his scrap. He said at Gleason’s that he’s had a long camp, in a good way. He knows that with this fight being on free FOX, he can make that much more of an impact. He’d like a KO, yes indeed, because that is the best way to build buzz. He said on paper Washington is the best he’d faced, and then we talked about one of the nitpicking points I’ve seen on social. Some say Kownacki should be trimmer: “Boxing is a skill, not a body-building contest.” But he wants to be under 260.

And he is friends with Big Baby Miller; AK says that BBM told him he’s in shape and Gerald should be easy work.


“I want the KO faster than Big Baby and Wilder did it (versus Washington),” he said. He’s been boxing since he was 15 and he said this fight, this win, this will put him on that many more radar screens.

“What’s next, it’s gotta be a title shot, right,” he said, when asked what he’d do after beating Gerald.

”We all know how boxing is political. I think Wilder vs Fury is coming up, maybe April. I want to stay busy, probably one more fight, then end of the year, fight one of the champions.”

My three cents: He is every man. He opens the fridge like I do, and instead of grabbing an apple, might grab something with more carbs. Plus, you see here how easygoing he is with the press? This would be a champ the masses could get behind. Oh yeah, Polish boxing fans are passionate and like to attend shows, spend their dough. Boxing could do way worse than having Adam Kownacki holding a heavyweight title. Oh, you think it unlikely? That’s OK, he’s heard that, he knows there is no shortage of doubters out there, who judge the book by the cover. He will respectfully disagree with you, and to answer you, come forward, and punch his foe in the face. Again and again. And he will eat a shot or three along the way, and he won’t look bodily majestic or impress you with balletic grace. Judge for yourself, watch Kownacki vs Washington on FOX. The three-fight show kicks off at 8 PM and the time slot goes to 10 PM.

--Woods, a Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at NY Newsday, before joining ESPN The Magazne (2003-2011). He edited (2007-20015), publishes, calls fights for Facebook Fightnight Live and does the “Talkbox” podcast for Everlast.

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