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Kownacki Hopes to Land His Biggest Shots Inside the Fair Pole

As far as pugilistic heroes and role models go, the notorious heavyweight Andrew Golota, whose frequent in-ring indiscretions led to his being nicknamed

Bernard Fernandez

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As far as pugilistic heroes and role models go, the notorious heavyweight Andrew Golota, whose frequent in-ring indiscretions led to his being nicknamed the “Foul Pole,” might seem to be a curious choice. But Golota – a bronze medalist for Poland at the 1988 Seoul Olympics whose actual first name is Andrzej, Americanized for professional purposes after he moved from Warsaw to Chicago in 1990 – was successful and popular with his countrymen when he wasn’t mentally imploding.  For a frightened, seven-year-old child recently arrived in Brooklyn, N.Y., from the old country, idolization of Golota seemed perfectly reasonable to Adam Kownacki. If Golota could appear on television in America before large, enthusiastic crowds of Polish emigres waving their birth nation’s flag, little Adam determined, why shouldn’t he be able to do the same when he grew up?

Adam Kownacki (the proper pronunciation of his family name is KOZ-NOSKI) is 29 now and not so little anymore at 6-foot-3 and, depending on how many kielbasas he had for lunch, usually somewhere between 250 and 260 pounds on fight night.  Ranked No. 10 by the WBC and 12th by the IBF, Kownacki (17-0, 14 KOs) hopes to take another step toward the heavyweight championship of the world, or at least an alphabetized version of it — something never achieved by Golota, or by anyone else with similarly deep Polish roots – when he takes on former IBF titlist Charles Martin (25-1-1, 23 KOs) Saturday night in the co-featured 10-rounder on Showtime at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, in support of the main event which pits former 147-pound champions Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) for the vacant WBC welterweight title.

“I’m ready to make a statement on Sept. 8,” Kownacki said of a hazy, long-held dream that is beginning to come into somewhat clearer focus, and likely more so should he take care of business against Martin. “I hope after this fight, when I get the `W,’ I’ll be in line for a title shot.”

Those jostling for position behind the current best of the big men, WBA/IBF/WBO champ Anthony Joshua of England and WBC ruler Deontay Wilder from the college football capital of Tuscaloosa, Ala., are many, diverse of nationality and mostly impatient. In addition to Kownacki, the list of heavyweights-in-waiting include  New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (24-2, 18 KOs), England’s (by way of his native Jamaica) Dillian Whyte (24-1, 17 KOs), Cuba’s Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (29-1, 25 KOs), Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) and Americans Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), Bryant Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) and Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs). But it is largely a recycled group; Parker is a former WBO champ who lost on points in a unification matchup with Joshua, while Ortiz, Breazeale, Jennings and Kubrat all had previous shots at the title and came up short. Whyte still hasn’t fought for the big prize yet, but he was stopped in seven rounds by a pre-championship Joshua in a competitive and entertaining scrap on Dec. 12, 2015.

That leaves only Kownacki and Miller as truly fresh meat, which might make either or both more attractive to the survivors of the Sept. 22 pairing of Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) and Russia’s Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) in London and that of Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) and comebacking, still-lineal champ Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), which is expected to take place in November or December in Las Vegas, although no date has been announced.

So, exactly how good is Kownacki, or, perhaps more to the point, how good can he be if his progression proceeds as rapidly as his supporters believe?

Although Lou DiBella is not technically Kownacki’s promoter (the fighter is part of Al Haymon’s deep Premier Boxing Champions stable), he has staged many of Kownacki’s bouts, as will be the case on Saturday night, and he is firm in his belief that the kid who was first drawn to boxing through his fascination with Golota has a reasonable chance to go where no Polish or Polish-American heavyweight has gone before. And so what if Kownacki doesn’t have six-pack abs or a withering scowl that suggests he is always ready to rip an opponent’s lungs out?

“Adam’s not ripped, he doesn’t have the physique of an Adonis,” DiBella said. “He’s always had a little bit of baby fat on him. He has a baby face. He’s also not 6’7”. He looks less athletic than he really is, so people tend to sleep on him. But if I was another heavyweight contender, I wouldn’t want to fight Adam Kownacki. In my mind, he’s a legit heavyweight championship contender.”

Already a drawing card at the Barclays Center – the Martin fight will mark his seventh appearance there, where he is beginning to be greeted as enthusiastically as was Golota whenever and wherever he carried Poland’s boxing banner into action — the main knock on Kownacki to date is that his resume is a bit thin. The most recognizable opponent he has defeated is another Pole, Artur Szpilka, whom he stopped in four rounds on July 14, 2017, also at Barclays. Kownacki is quick to point out that he disposed of Szpilka quicker than did Wilder, who needed nine rounds to get Szpilka out there in their title bout on Jan. 16, 2016 at Barclays.

Now another litmus test of sorts presented by the 32-year-old Martin, a 6’5” southpaw who has the six-pack abs Kownacki doesn’t and, lest we forget, had brief possession of the IBF title, a vacant championship he won in somewhat dubious fashion on the undercard of Wilder-Szpilka when Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Glazkov badly injured his right ankle in the third round and was unable to continue. Martin’s reign lasted only 84 days, the second shortest in heavyweight championship history to Tony Tucker’s 64 days as IBF titlist in 1987. Nor was the way Martin relinquished his title pretty; he was blasted out in two rounds by Joshua in London, and he landed only three of 58 attempted punches before the finish. More than a few observers have called Martin’s feeble effort that night arguably the worst performance ever in a heavyweight title bout.

Martin has since won two fights in emphatic fashion against journeymen Byron Polley and Michael Marrone, and he insists he is not showing up to serve as anyone’s steppingstone on the way to bigger and better things. “My goal is to become a two-time world champion, man,” Martin, clearly miffed as being portrayed as a has-been or, worse, a never-really-was, said when asked how he viewed his role in this crossroads contest. “I’m here to show people I’m legit. I’m real. I got to prove all the haters wrong.”

And therein is the crux of a fight that might not really settle much, no matter what the outcome. Although Martin wants to prove all the haters wrong, Kownacki might not do much to prove all his supporters right even if he tunes up Martin, whose stock couldn’t have fallen any lower than it did after he served as a heavy bag to the vastly superior Joshua. It will probably take one, and possibly two or three, victories over a higher level of competition for Kownacki to snag the shot at the world title belt he dares to believe is his destiny.

If he someday makes it all the way to the top, it likely will establish him as the most iconic of Polish boxing icons. Although Krzysztof Wlodarczyk is a two-time former cruiserweight champion, Darius Michalczewski was a long-reigning super middleweight champ and Tomasz Adamek won titles as both a light heavyweight and cruiser, Polish fighters are 0-7 in bids to become king of the heavyweight hill. Golota lost all four of his title shots, coming up short against Lamon Brewster, John Ruiz, Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis, but he is probably better known for his meltdowns in two non-title disqualification losses in fights he was winning against Riddick Bowe, as well as for quitting against Mike Tyson and Michael Grant, biting Samson Po’uha’s neck and flagrantly head-butting Danell Nicholson. That crazy-quilt career of highs and lows sets Golota apart from other Polish fighters who have lost heavyweight title bouts, a list that includes Szpilka, Adamek and Albert Sosnowski.

“Andrew is remembered, but for the wrong reasons,” Sam Colonna, one of the trainers who futilely tried to fit together the jumble of puzzle pieces in Golota’s mind, once said. “Nobody remembers the good, only the bad, and with Andrew there was a lot of bad. The rap on Andrew never has been that he couldn’t fight or didn’t have talent. It’s always been that he couldn’t handle pressure.”

Now along comes the nice-guy, even-keeled Kownacki, a veritable “Fair Pole” who would appear to be everything that the now-49-year-old Golota was not. Maybe, just maybe, the biggest difference of all could be Kownacki’s possible ascendance to ultimate heavyweight glory.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Boxing Promoter Michelle “Raging Babe” Rosado Pulls No Punches

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Michelle Rosado, the founder and CEO of Raging Babe Promotions, made her promotional debut on Feb. 8, 2019 with a show at South Philly’s intimate 2300 Arena. The show drew an SRO crowd, a testament to Rosado’s tireless work ethic, but ended on a sour note when local fan favorite Christian Carto – potentially the next big thing on the Philadelphia boxing scene – stepped up in class and was brutally knocked out by Mexican veteran Victor Ruiz. A protégé of Hall of Fame boxing promoter J Russell Peltz (pictured on the left), Rosado recently appeared on the “Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer” to share her thoughts on some of the major issues in boxing. Here are excerpts from that interview compliments of publicist Keisha Williams.

ROSADO ON WHY CLUB SHOWS ARE IMPORTANT TO THE SPORT

“Club shows are where you are building those prospects, that’s where you’re developing those fighters you see the top promoters are pulling these opponents from. We’re developing these guys from the ground up, we’re almost like a farm system. Most of these guys you see on TV fighting for millions of dollars, and becoming world champions, a lot of them started at the club level.”

ROSADO ON STATE OF WOMEN’S BOXING

“Women’s boxing needs a platform, there’s nowhere for these girls to fight, they deserve some fairness in our sport. I’m not trying to say they deserve to be paid the same as Canelo, but they shouldn’t be paid 5 thousand dollars to defend their titles either, so in 2021

I’m going to get more involved in women’s boxing and try and be a voice for them because they deserve better and a platform.”

ROSADO ON HOW DIFFICULT IT IS BEING IT IS BEING A FEMALE PROMOTER IN BOXING

“I’ve been called every racial slur you can think of, I’ve had tickets thrown in my face, I’ve had my house vandalized, I’ve had a brick thrown threw my back window of my car. I’ve been called every kind of groupie you can imagine. She’s slept with everybody in the business and every fighter. I’ve earned my stripes, I’ve worked hard, no handouts, it’s just been all hard work and I’ve had to learn to turn the cheek. Most people know nine years in that I’m a hustler. You’ll never find a fighter that says she stole from me, she didn’t pay me, she lied to me, you’ll never find a fighter that says that!”

RAGING BABE ON FEMALE BOXING PROMOTERS

“Yes we have a lot more women in boxing, yes it still a little more difficult for us, but we’re there you hear us roaring. Behind every big promoter, he’s got a woman either as his right hand man or running the operation. And I mean all of them!”

ROSADO ON HER ULTIMATE GOAL

“I want to continue to promote good fights, I want to make Philadelphia the legendary fight town that it once was, I want to develop those guys from the ground up, I want old school and new school boxing fans to come to my shows and fall in love with boxing again, and them become interested in the bigger boxing world again because we’re losing that old school boxing fan. I want to uphold the reputation of real fights, real fighters, real fans that’s my passion.”

ROSADO’S TOP 5 POUND FOR POUND LIST

  1. Terence Crawford
  2. Canelo Alvarez
  3. Errol Spence Jr.
  4. Naoya Inoue
  5. Teofimo Lopez

Rosado on who’s boxing next big star and the best fighter out of Philly right now

“Boxing’s next big star is Tank….We got a lot of really good fighters in Philly, but Jaron “Boots” Ennis is that dude!”

The full in-depth interview is now available on YouTube (Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer) and all major podcast platforms (Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, etc.)

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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HITS and MISSES: Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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It was another massive weekend in boxing. There were big fights on pay-per-view that maybe shouldn’t have been so big, and fights surrounded by lesser fanfare that will probably be looked back at as the more meaningful action by future historians.

Here are the biggest HITS and MISSES from another week on the boxing beat.

HIT: Mike Tyson, Roy Jones and the Unifying Power of Boxing

Whatever you think about the boxing exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. on Saturday night, the most important aspect of the whole night (to this writer at least) was seeing how easily a big fight in boxing could still unify our culture.

No, it wasn’t a legitimate prizefight, but people still wanted to see the 54-year-old Tyson go a few rounds with the 51-year-old Jones, and that’s exactly what they got. It was a ride built mostly around the power of nostalgia, and it featured all sorts of present-day celebrities, too.

By the end of things, it seemed the general reaction to the event on social media was positive.

Tyson vs. Jones showed how big a reach boxing still has. Tyson retired over 15 years ago, but people from all over the planet were still willing to pay $50 to watch him climb inside the ropes for a sparring session.

Seeing that left me with two exciting questions.

What awesome power will boxing’s next superstar have?

More importantly, where is he (or she) anyway?

MISS: Ring Announcer’s Steve Harvey Moment 

In 2015, comedian Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant. As humiliating as that event was for Harvey, just imagine how the two women felt after having their hearts filled and slashed by his error.

That same thing sort of happened on Friday night when Danny Jacobs beat Gabriel Rosado via split decision in a 168-pound stay-busy fight streamed by DAZN.

Ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos accidentally said the winner hailed from Philadelphia (where Rosado is from) before quickly changing it back to Brooklyn (where Jacobs is from).

So momentarily, the hard-luck Rosado, who never has been the beneficiary of a close decision in any important fight, thought he had just pulled off the upset of the year.

Instead, Jacobs was corrected as the winner and that had to be an awful experience for both fighters, one that was completely avoidable.

HIT: Joe Joyce: An Actual Juggernaut?

Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce is a popular fighter on the other side of the ocean because of his long and successful campaign as an amateur boxing star which culminated with Joyce winning the silver medal for Great Britain in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Still, as a professional prospect, there are lots of things not to like about Joyce. First, Joyce didn’t start boxing until he was 22. Late bloomers come around now and then, but they’re still a rarity in the sport. Second, Joyce is already 35, which means he’s already just outside the confines of his theoretical physical prime, something that ends around 33 years old and only gets worse. Finally, Joyce is just plain slow as molasses.

Regardless, Joyce stopped fellow Brit Daniel Dubois on Saturday in London.

Unlike Joyce, Dubois, 23, possesses plenty of attributes one looks for in a future world champion. But none of those things helped Dubois win the fight.

All this to say Joyce just keeps winning fights. Sure, he might appear to be a boulder tumbling slowly down a hill when he fights, but that rock is starting to gain some real momentum.

HIT: 54-1

Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin finally lost a fight over the weekend, but it should be noted that at least the fighter finally knows his limits.

Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) entered his fight against Petchmanee CP Freshmart (aka Panya Pradabsri) with a sterling record of 54-0. He left the contest 54-1 after judges rendered their verdict for the challenger.

Much was made of Menayothin’s glossy win streak last year when he surpassed retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 mark. But a combat sports culture obsessed with suffering no blemishes on a record is only a relatively new phenomenon. Moreover, the very nature of that path through the sport never reveals the true limits of a fighter.

All this to say that Menayothin now gets a better sense of his limits, and the boxing world as a whole gets to know that same thing about him, too. That’s wildly better than the alternative.

MISS: Nate Robinson Challenge

If you missed the Tyson vs. Jones pay-per-view event on Triller over the weekend, you didn’t see social media star Jake Paul’s viral knockout of ex-NBA star Nate Robinson.

It was clear from the start of the fight that Paul and Robinson weren’t evenly matched. That kind of thing happens all the time in boxing, of course, but here was a case of a person (Robinson) who maybe had been so mismatched against Paul that it was too dangerous to have happened at all.

Regardless, Robinson did have the courage to train for the fight and step inside the ropes on fight night.

After he was knocked out, something called the “Nate Robinson Challenge” started trending on Twitter, and it was basically people from all over the world trolling the 3-time NBA dunking champ for getting knocked out in the fight.

Look, Robinson made his own bed by calling for the fight in the first place. But the Internet trolls that rag people for stepping outside their comfort zones probably would never dare to attempt that accomplishment themselves.

Robinson tried and failed. That’s the real challenge.

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Tyson and Jones Box to an Unofficial Draw in a Predictable Stinker

Arne K. Lang

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American institution, went belly-up in 2017, but a different kind of circus played to an empty house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight. The main attraction wasn’t Jumbo the elephant but Iron Mike Tyson in his first ring appearance in 15 years. In the opposite corner was Roy Jones Jr, who at age 51 was the younger man by three years.

Tyson vs. Jones was the main piece of a 4-hour boxing and music festival live-streamed in the U.S. on the TysononTriller.com app at a list price of $49.95. This was the first live event on “Triller” which allows people to create their own music videos and was designed as a rival to China-owned TikTok, one of the biggest recent success stories in the internet world.

The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the match, insisted that Tyson vs. Jones would be an exhibition. They would fight 8 two-minute rounds with 12-ounce gloves and if there were a knockdown, the referee would not give a count and the bout would or would not continue at his discretion. The rounds would not be scored and no winner would be named.

Of course, the promoter chafed at these restraints and did his best to create the impression that this was a legitimate prizefight. Retired boxers Vinny Pazienza, Chad Dawson, and Christy Martin were lassoed to serve as judges, scoring the fight from a remote location, and the WBC commissioned an honorary belt to present to the winner.

The advance hype was enormous. A clickbait-obsessed media lapped it up including photoshop-enhanced images of Mike Tyson’s physique.

In the second round, Tyson landed a double left hook and that was the only indelible moment in the match. By the third round, both looked and sounded tired and by the sixth round Jones was thoroughly gassed out and took to clinching to make it to the final bell.

For the record, the scores were 79-73 for Tyson (Martin), 80-76 for Jones (Pazienza), and 76-76 (Dawson). On the internet, the clear consensus was that Tyson had the best of it.

Mike Tyson, 50-6, 2 NC (44 KOs) last fought in June of 2005 when he was stopped by third-rater Kevin McBride. Roy Jones (66-9, 47 KOs) was active as recently as 2018 and won his last four, but against hand-picked opponents including a boxer making his pro debut. His last fight of significance came in 2011 when he was brutally KOed by Dennis Lebedev in Moscow.

Jones, who weighed 210 ½ tonight, weighed 157 when he made his pro debut in 1989. In his prime, he was pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, but that was back in the previous century.

Both fighters were reportedly guaranteed $1 million with Tyson’s take potentially reaching $10 million if certain financial targets were met.

Other Bouts

YouTube sensation Jake Paul, who we reluctantly concede has more than a modicum of talent in the fisticuffing department, knocked out Nate Robinson in the second round and it was a clean knockout with Robinson knocked out cold. The 36-year-old Robinson, the former NBA point guard who was a three-time slam dunk champion during his 11-year NBA career, is a well-rounded athlete, good enough to start as a cornerback in football during his freshman year at the University of Washington, but his athleticism didn’t translate to the squared circle as he looked like a common bar brawler.

Former two-division belt-holder Badou Jack (22-3-4), who said he appeared on the card as a favor to his friend Mike Tyson, was a clear-cut winner over hard-trying but out-classed Blake McKernan in an 8-round cruiserweight match.

At age 37, Jack’s career is winding down. He tipped the scales at 188 ¾, 14 pounds more than in his previous engagement vs. Jean Pascal. McKernan, a natural cruiserweight from Sacramento, was undefeated coming in (13-0), but was in over his head against Jack, a former Olympian and veteran of seven world title fights.

In a good action fight, Worcester, Massachusetts lightweight Jamaine Ortiz, a carpenter by trade, improved to 14-0 (8) with a seventh-round stoppage of Sulaiman Segawa (13-3-1), a Maryland-based Ugandan.

In the first bout on the program, Fort Worth featherweight Edward Vazquez improved to 9-0 (1) with an 8-round split decision over Jamaine Ortiz stablemate Irvin Gonzalez (14-3).

Heavyweight Juiseppe “Joe” Cusumano improved to 19-3 (17) with a sixth-round stoppage of late sub Gregory Corbin (15-4). It was the fourth straight loss for the 40-year-old Corbin who came in at a beefy 291 ¾ pounds.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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