It’s been nearly 18 months since Artur Szpilka came up short against Deontay Wilder in his first attempt to become the first Polish heavyweight champion—and now the powerful southpaw is ready to resume that pursuit.
Artur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) will return to the ring July 15 in a 10-round bout against fellow Pole Adam Kownacki (15-0, 12 KOs) on the Omar Figueroa Jr.-Robert Guerrero undercard at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
The last time “Szpila The Pin” was in action in January 2016, the native of Wieliczka, Poland, was knocked out cold by a Wilder right hand in Round 9 that resulted in PBC’s Knockout of the Year.
Besides suffering his second career loss, Szpilka also came away with an injured left hand that required surgery afterward.
Now fully healed, the 6-foot-3½ southpaw is back in action. But before he can try to become the first Pole to win a heavyweight title, he first must show that he is the best Polish heavyweight by beating Kownacki.
The 28-year-old Szpilka discussed his loss to Wilder, why he’s a better fighter now and what he thinks of Kownacki's trash talk leading up to their fight.
How is your training going?
Well, of course, I’m training with Ronnie Shields. I’ve changed conditioning coaches. After a year and a half, I am hungry and I can’t wait to get back into the ring. I’m very excited.
What did you learn in your loss to Deontay Wilder?
I was competitive in that fight, and I feel that the Wilder fight was a close fight. I think everybody knows that, but before the fight—about two weeks before—I hurt my left hand very badly in training. I was having problems with it for the rest of camp.
Ronnie Shields thought it best that we didn’t spar for about the last two weeks. I just couldn’t spar that much. Then in the fifth round of the fight with Wilder, I went to punch his body and I hit his elbow. That’s when I broke that hand, so I was nervous punching with my left hand for the rest of the fight.
I had surgery later here in Poland to repair the hand. After that, I was [inactive] for about six more months. That was very difficult. So now everything is fine and I have been having a very good training camp. Now I am ready to show the world that the Wilder loss was an accident.
What is your opinion of Adam Kownacki?
Listen, I don’t care about Kownacki, you know? You can spar with Deontay Wilder, you can spar with Wladimir Klitschko or whoever you want. Once I body punch him, he will be hurt. I don’t care who he’s sparring with. Fights are different from sparring.
I’m a fighter with a difficult southpaw style, and everyone who fights with me complains afterward about how difficult my style is. I know what his style is. He’s very open and easy to hit when he fights, and that will be my intention. I know what I must do.
“ He wants to show people that he’s the future, but I don’t think so. I’m ready for a tough fight. He’s undefeated, he’s Polish and he’s talked shit about me, and now I must kick his ass. ” Polish heavyweight contender Artur Szpilka, on fighting Adam Kownacki on July 15
How big will this fight be for Polish boxing fans, especially given that Kownacki has called you a “gatekeeper” who “lacks heart” and whose “ability to take a punch is not that good?”
I am sure that this will be an attraction for many of our Polish fans, but not like with [me fighting a contender like] Dominic Breazeale or someone else. Polish people like boxing, but if you look on my Facebook page, a lot of their comments are “Why are you fighting Kownacki?”
People expected me to be fighting someone who is better. Many people think this is an easy fight for me, but I don’t trust what people think and I don’t talk shit about this guy. I have to respect this guy.
He wants to show people that he’s the future, but I don’t think so. I’m ready for a tough fight. He’s undefeated, he’s Polish and he’s talked shit about me, and now I must kick his ass. That’s it.
What can we expect to see from you this fight given that you are at full strength?
I will be skinnier than I was in the fight with Wilder. My style is to move and box, but against Wilder, I knew I had to go forward more even with the hand injury and try to knock him out or I wouldn’t win.
With Kownacki, my wind will be better and I’ll be skinnier. I’ve had more time to train with no injuries. I’ve been running a lot and my weight will be at around 228 when I was at 234 for Wilder. Trust me, I can’t wait to get back into the ring and punish this guy.
No prediction on the fight?
I don’t think this fight will be a 10-round decision, but I’m not going to say that I will knock him out in this or that round. I just know that I’m going to win and that I don’t think that the fight will go to a decision.
How do you rank the top fighters in the heavyweight division?
I don’t think about this, honestly, but trust me—give me this fight and then one fight more, and then I’ll tell you. I’m a very good fighter. I showed that against Deontay Wilder. I don’t have to talk shit.
What fighter in history would you most like to have fought, and what would be the result?
I don’t often think about this, but ever since I would watch Mike Tyson when I was younger, I would think what a great fight that would be if I would be able to fight him. But we have different styles.
Mike Tyson was just a fighter I really liked watching. Of course, I think I would win, but I don’t want to talk shit. He was a fighter with a great style and power, and I would be happy to fight with him.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, what actor would do the best job portraying you?
If I must be honest, Artur Szpilka would be the best actor. This is already me. No one can show your emotions better than you. No one could play me better than I could.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
Those four would be Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and my favorite boxer, Roy Jones Jr.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… a prisoner. Boxing helped my life. I was a street fighter and a hoodlum, so without boxing I might be in prison. Boxing is like a drug for me.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: unbeaten 175-pound contender and 2012 U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne.