Unbeaten Polish-born, Brooklyn-raised heavyweight talks about Saturday's fight against former champ Charles Martin, what it's like to fight in his hometown at Barclays Center and what it would mean to become Poland’s first heavyweight titleholder.
Adam Kownacki’s nickname, “Babyface,” belies his brutish tenacity in the ring. The 6-foot-3 Polish-born, Brooklyn-raised resident will pursue his fifth-straight stoppage against once-beaten former titleholder Charles Martin (25-1-1, 23 KOs) this Saturday night during a PBC on Showtime card (6 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT) at Barclays Center.
The 29-year-old Kownacki (17-0, 14 KOs) is 6-0 with four knockouts at Barclays, where he’s coming off a sixth-round stoppage of Iago Kiladze in January that followed his KO victory over Artur Szpilka at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island last summer.
Hoping to secure a first-round stoppage of the 32-year-old 6-foot-6 Martin, Kownacki’s sparred with 6-foot-6, 265-pound southpaw Zhilei Zhang (19-0, 15 KOs), a 2008 Chinese Olympic silver medalist with eight straight stoppage victories.
A Brooklyn resident since childhood, Kownacki earned New York Golden Gloves championships in 2006 and 2009 in addition to finishing second in 2007 and 2008 as an amateur.
Kownacki has sparred with Wladimir Klitschko and has made a steady climb up the heavyweight contender ladder as a pro.
What will it be like returning to Brooklyn and Barclays for the seventh time?
I love fighting at Barclays. It's like my second home. 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. I’m excited and I can’t wait.
Were you happy with your performance in your last fight at Barclays – the sixth-round KO of Iago Kiladze?
I thought I would have done better, being a little too anxious to get a quick knockout within the first two rounds. I felt like I was throwing a lot of unnecessary punches.
But by the third round, I was moving my head more, blocking and rolling with his punches more. I took over the fight from there.
Looking back, every experience is a good experience. That’s what life is about. I’m improving every day, and that fight was a big part of my progression.
Can you re-cap your Szpika KO and the magnitude of your victory?
It was a life-changing moment. My goal was to make a statement by stopping him faster than anybody. I did that. Szpilka was coming forward against Wilder, but I had seen from his fights he had trouble when you back him up with pressure.
He was open for me to land the punches I wanted to. My left eye was swollen after two rounds from Szpilka’s right cross, but in spite of that, I continued to pressure him. In the fourth round, my right hand drew blood from Szpilka’s nose.
I noticed he was getting tired. I whispered into his ear, “Are you remembering the Wilder fight?” He was shocked. His eyes went wide, like, “What the [expletive] he talking about?” I hit him with a right. He dropped his hands and backed up.
I landed cleanly from there. He was defenseless. The referee stopped the fight at the right time. I knocked him out like I knew I would. Style-wise, he was perfect for me. I had to prove that I’m the best of the Polish heavyweight fighters, which is definitely a step up.
“ I'm a man on a mission to become the first Polish, Polish-American heavyweight champion of the world. When my [handlers] say the time is right, I’ll be ready. ” Unbeaten heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki
Have you had any notable sparring for Martin?
I’ve been sparring with Zhilei Zhang, a former Olympic silver medalist as a superheavyweight who has been helping me out. He’s a big, 6-foot-6 southpaw who has got a 19-0 record and he’s a former Olympic silver medalist.
We thought it was going to be very difficult to find someone to match the stature of Charles Martin, but there’s been a lot of sparring and he’s given me a lot of good work, so he’s been perfect.
What do you know about Charles Martin and what he does well?
Well, Charles is a big counter-puncher and he has a high knockout ratio, so I know his punching power is there. But he fights scared, pulling back his head every time he throws punches.
If you look at my fights, I’m coming forward and in position to land another punch. Martin’s a southpaw, but Szpilka was more of a mover than Martin, who likes to fight more stationary but from distance.
Of course, if you’ve been watching my fights, Marin has a reason to be scared. I fight with intensity, because my goal is to become a heavyweight champion, so that’s what I’m focused on.
Do you feel that you can out-do Anthony Joshua with a first-round knockout of Martin?
I took out Szpilka in less than half the time that Deontay Wilder took him out, so that means to top Joshua I’d have to get Martin out of there in the first round.
I don’t think Martin will be able to deal with my pressure, so I’m going to try to do that, but it will be hard. I’m extremely focused. I don’t see him lasting more than six rounds. We’ll see.
How do you rank the top heavyweights, 1-through-5?
In my eyes, I would say I’m No. 1, with No. 2 being Deontay Wilder. Anthony Joshua’s No. 3, Luis Ortiz is fourth, and I’ll close it out with my boy, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.
Would you ever fight your friend Jarrell Miller?
Jarrell and I have sparred so many times, and we’re close friends. Jarrell’s been at my fights, and he was one of the first people to congratulate me after I beat Szpilka.
I would fight him, but it would have to make sense and be for something very prestigious, like if we had both belts around our waists.
What would it mean to become Poland’s first heavyweight titleholder, simultaneously joining Brooklyn’s line of champions Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer and Shannon Briggs?
I embrace the chance to become the first Polish heavyweight champion and to continue Brooklyn’s legacy. I’m improving every time out, but every fight is tough. I think, realistically, I’ll have to wait to see what’s going on with Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, and Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
In the meantime, all I can do is focus on my training, winning my fights and staying ready, and when the call comes, I’ll be there. But we’ll see. I'm a man on a mission to become the first Polish, Polish-American heavyweight champion of the world. When my [handlers] say the time is right, I’ll be ready.
For a closer look at Adam Kownacki, check out his fighter page.
- Adam Kownacki