It’s taken unbeaten heavyweight prospect Adam Kownacki several years to work his way up the rankings—and now he’s in position to make a major statement.
The 28-year-old Poland-born slugger has lived in Brooklyn, New York, since childhood and earned New York Golden Gloves championships in 2006 and 2009 in addition to finishing second in 2007 and 2008.
He made his pro debut in New York in October 2009 with a first-round TKO of Carossee Auponte, but injuries derailed his early progress.
In his fourth fight in July 2010, Kownacki overcame an early knockdown before gaining a second-round KO of Damon Clement. Unfortunately, Kownacki also fractured his left hand in the victory and needed two surgeries afterward in which an artificial bone was placed in his hand.
Kownacki healed enough to accept an invitation to spar with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2012, but he experienced another setback when he tore his left bicep.
Since returning to the ring in April 2013, Adam Kownacki (15-0, 12 KOs) has steadily climbed the rankings by stopping most of his opponents, including a second-round TKO of Joshua Tufte on the Badou Jack-James DeGale undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in January.
The 6-foot-3 Kownacki is now preparing for the biggest fight of his career on July 15, when he will take on former title challenger Artur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York, in a 10-round undercard bout (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
We caught up with Kownacki while he was in Poland working out with former two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek, who is preparing for his June 24 fight in Gdansk, to learn a little bit more about the fighter known as “Babyface.”
How did you come by your nickname?
I had a baby face growing up, so it stuck.
Where are you training?
I train out of Bellmore Kickboxing Academy in Long Island with Keith Trimble. But right now we are [training] in an amazing resort of Osada Sniezka in the city of Lomnica in southwest Poland.
Who have been your most notable sparring partners?
Wladimir Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek and Jarrell Miller (18-0-1, 16 KOs). I’m sparring right now with Tomasz Adamek. I’ve sparred with Klitschko in the past.
Being in camp with Klitschko, witnessing what it’s like to be champ, was a priceless experience. Tomasz Adamek has had over 50 fights. I learn from everything he says.
Jarrell Miller and I have been sparing since we were 16 years old, and we came up together through the amateurs. We’ve done hundreds of rounds together. Whenever we need sparring or advice, we are there for each other.
“ Szpilka’s ability to take a punch is not that good; he lacks heart. Beating him will put me in line for a title fight. ” Unbeaten heavyweight Adam Kownacki, on fighting fellow Poland native Artur Szpilka on July 15
When and how did you come to live in Brooklyn?
I came to Brooklyn in 1996 at the age of 7 from Lomza, Poland. My parents received green cards and left Poland for America to provide a better life for my brother and me.
What is your opinion of upcoming opponent Artur Szpilka, who is a southpaw and has lost to Bryant Jennings and Deontay Wilder?
Those two losses worked to show that he is not an A-level fighter but a gatekeeper. Szpilka’s ability to take a punch is not that good; he lacks heart. Beating him will put me in line for a title fight. My camp is taking care of that.
The first four weeks I spent in Poland sparring with Tomasz Adamek and working on my strength and conditioning. When I get back home, all will be focused on Artur Szpilka.
I’m training hard to get a win. If a knockout comes, then that’s great. If not, then it will be 10 rounds of me beating him up.
How big is this fight for you given that both you and Szpilka are of Polish descent?
This is a huge fight for the Polish community. We will see who is the best heavyweight born in Poland. Fans have to tune in on July 15 to see for themselves, but I promise to bring fireworks.
How do you rank the top fighters in the heavyweight division?
I rank myself at the top. I just have to prove that I belong there, one fight at a time, and collect the hardware. I’m not worried about the rest.
What fighter in history would you most like to have fought, and what would be the result?
Rocky Marciano. With him retiring undefeated, it would be something trying to be the first man to beat him.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
My right hand is a game-changer.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, what actor would do the best job portraying you?
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… I can’t imagine doing something else.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
Pope John Paul II, Muhammad Ali, Leonardo da Vinci and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would end corruption.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: Polish heavyweight contender Artur Szpilka.