Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have their third fight this Saturday from Las Vegas, and without question, that’s the headline bout of the weekend, and really of the entire month of October in all of boxing.
But if you’re a fan of heavyweight boxing tuning in for Saturday’s pay-per-view, this isn’t one where you’ll want to wait until the main event is ready to go, as it’s a broadcast featuring only the big boys in action during the PPV portion.
None of the other three fights will have the star power or story of Fury-Wilder 3, but we will see a rematch, plus two unbeaten rising hopefuls taking a risk, and what may be the next great American heavyweight in action.
Adam Kownacki and Robert Helenius go at it again
Kownacki and Helenius first met back in March 2020, the week before the COVID pandemic made its first real headlines in the United States, headlining a PBC on FOX card from Brooklyn.
Kownacki had reportedly been in the mix for a title shot. While not without some obvious disadvantages — like being “just” 6’3” in today’s heavyweight world, and sort of a portly gentleman — he’d built a real fan base in Brooklyn, a Polish-born New Yorker with a likable personality and an exciting, fan-friendly style in the ring.
Helenius came in a big underdog, a Finnish veteran whose best days were seemingly well behind him. But the taller man had his way, stopping Kownacki inside of four rounds in a good old-fashioned heavyweight slugfest, one that left the favored, younger fighter looking a bit shell-shocked when all was said and done.
Kownacki (20-1, 15 KO), now 32, has his chance at redemption finally. The two were slated — at least tentatively — to meet again on various dates, but now we’re finally going to get it. Kownacki will obviously have to do something different, because Helenius (30-3, 19 KO) just kind of took him apart last time, and while being 37 won’t necessarily help “The Nordic Nightmare,” it’s doubtful he’s declined to the point he wouldn’t take advantage of the same things if Kownacki hasn’t switched it up a fair bit.
It should be a good fight again. Helenius could, in theory, use his height and length to jab his way to victory, but he’s no master technician, and at any rate, if Kownacki feels like he has to, he will always brawl. He has that spirit, it’s just how he fights.
Meeting of the undefeated prospects
Frank Sanchez (18-0, 13 KO) and Efe Ajagba (15-0, 12 KO) will both look to take a step toward more serious contention in their meeting with one another, the fighters coming in from different angles and with a good bit still to prove in the ring.
Sanchez is a 29-year-old Cuban with connections to the Canelo Alvarez team, which has allowed him to land spots on notable cards, including Canelo-Smith and Canelo-Saunders, and he’s fought on PBC cards before, too. He’s got power, but more of a technical fighter on paper than the 27-year-old Ajagba, a Nigerian now based in Texas, who took up boxing at age 17, making the move from football (soccer).
He quickly showed promise, and won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2015 African Games. Working with trainer Ronnie Shields, Ajagba was making some waves on PBC cards, but signed with Top Rank in 2020, and with that move, also switched trainers to go with Kay Koroma.
Shields had spoken highly of Ajagba’s dedication to learning, but the fighter had also started having some iffier performances, hardly blue chip material, including getting dropped — though he roared back for a stoppage win — against Iago Kiladze in 2019.
Sanchez doesn’t always “wow” a watcher, either, but he’s got good fundamental skills and good power, though of the two it seems clear Ajagba has the greater pure, raw pop on his punches.
This is a fight meant to tell us a lot more about both of these guys. Maybe the winner becomes a serious contender, maybe the loser gets a lesson, gets better, and becomes a serious contender. Maybe both do. Maybe neither will. But winning here is a big step.
The next great American heavyweight?
Heavyweight boxing in the United States has had a tough run for, oh, I don’t know, 25 years or so, and realistically, longer than that; the last truly great American heavyweights were arguably Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Riddick Bowe, who all really came up in the 80s and early 90s. Most recently, we’ve had Deontay Wilder, but with respect to what Wilder has achieved, he has been seen by critics as a one-trick pony, and frankly it’s a fair criticism. Mind you, it’s a hell of a trick, to be about as hard a one-shot puncher as there’s ever been. So the wait for a great American heavyweight still lingers for many.
Jared Anderson could be it. Maybe. The 21-year-old Toledo native, who has already taken the “Big Baby” nickname by force because nobody cares what Jarrell Miller wants to be called anymore, has good if not exceptional size, plus he has the look and in-ring feel, just as a viewer, of a “real athlete,” a big guy who can move, doesn’t plod around, isn’t slow.
And he’s flashed big power. Starting 9-0 with nine stoppage wins, the 6’4”, 250-ish lb Anderson has done the jobs he’s supposed to do thus far. He started with three straight first round wins, but didn’t crumble going three against a tougher Johnnie Langston. ANd he didn’t crumble having to go into the sixth against Kingsley Ibeh earlier this year.
But there are miles to go, and that’s important to remember. On paper, his eight-round fight on Saturday with Vladimir Tereshkin (22-0-1, 12 KO) is a huge step up. A 33-year-old Russian southpaw, Tereshkin is 6’6”, comes in around 240-250, and in theory has a big time experience edge.
But Tereshkin has also been fighting pro for 14 years without ever truly stepping up the competition himself, and the bottom line is, if Top Rank weren’t certain a young, potential cash cow were going to win this fight, they probably would not have booked this fight. Tereshkin has an attractive record you can market a bit, but it’s empty, and he also hasn’t fought in about two years. Expect a showcase for “Big Baby,” but he is a real deal prospect, not simply another pretender or washed-out football player trying to box or anything of that sort.