Popular heavyweight Adam Kownacki had a WBA title shot all but wrapped up for him tonight, or so basically everyone thought coming in. But the Polish-American wound up stunned by 36-year-old Robert Helenius tonight in Brooklyn, dropped and stopped in the fourth round of their eliminator main event on FOX.
Kownacki (20-1, 15 KO) looked like his usual self, aggressively charging at Helenius and throwing a ton of punches. But Helenius (30-3, 19 KO) was able to tag the shorter man with some good shots in the second, then hurt and dropped him early in the fourth. Kownacki had been down already, though it was ruled a slip.
But the real effects couldn’t be masked, and once the action restarted, Helenius put the pressure on. He found Kownacki again, dropped him for sure a second time, and after Kownacki got up, Helenius just kept coming, throwing with both hands, landing shots, and referee David Fields was left with no choice but to stop the fight at 1:08 of the fourth round.
It’s an absolute shocker of a result, as Helenius was thought to be a pretty badly faded veteran at this point, though he oddly kept a No. 7 ranking with the WBA. This was a sanctioned eliminator, meaning Helenius, against all odds, is now in line for a shot at one of the belts currently held by Anthony Joshua.
This can’t be overstated as a huge win for Helenius. He once was believed to be a rising star in the division, but poor performances, injuries, and defeats had made him an also-ran coming into this fight. He was knocked out in the eighth round by Gerald Washington in his last notable fight in July of last year, and it had been years since he’d been seen as a legitimate contender in the division, or on the cusp of being one.
This victory changes everything for his career, and is also a massive setback for Kownacki, the beloved Brooklyn drawing card whose all-action style makes him fun to watch pretty much every time out, but has always meant he was vulnerable. Nobody expected him to lose this fight, but he did, and it makes clear the ceiling is closer to what the doubters thought than the believers.