Unbeaten contender Adam Kownacki predicted Saturday's bout against Chris Arreola would play out like a heavyweight version of the all-action Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward trilogy.
He wasn't far off.
Kownacki (20-0, 16 KOs) took one giant step closer to a world title fight by out-slugging Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KOs) via unanimous decision (118-110, 117-111, 117-111) in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
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Just how wild was this 12-round bout? The two fighters combined to break CompuBox records for most combined punches thrown (2,172) and punches landed (667) in a heavyweight fight. With the perfect combination of violence, volume and sloppiness, this phone-booth brawl saw both overcome fatigue and Arreola fight through an injured left hand after Round 5.
"I thought it was a good fight and close but I knew I pulled it out," Kownacki said. "I thought I boxed a little bit better and landed bigger shots. I won and that is all that matters.
"Chris is an Aztec warrior. Mexico is a great nation and they are great fighters. I knew it was going to be a tough 12 rounds, that's what we prepared for and we proved it with the CompuBox numbers."
Arreola, a 38-year-old native of California, wouldn't quite commit to his pre-fight guarantee he would retire with a loss and end a 16-year career that saw him challenge unsuccessfully for a world title on three occasions.
"This is really something that I have to talk to my family, [adviser] Al [Haymon] and [trainer] Joe [Goossen] about because I honestly feel like it's about time," Arreola said. "I gave it my all this fight and really let it all hang out even after breaking my hand and I kept fighting because I believed I could win. After this, I need some time off to figure this out because I don't know if I can go through this again."
Kownacki, 30, outright said after the fight that he doesn't believe Arreola should walk away. In his first fight with the veteran Goossen by his side, Arreola was in shape, motivated and came on strong in the final rounds despite the fact that his jab was rendered useless by his injured left hand.
"I knew he was a little bit shaking [the hand injury] off and I tried to follow it up but I was throwing two punches instead of three or four," Kownacki said. "If I did that, I would have had maybe a knockout but Chris is a great fighter so congrats to him for staying up 12 rounds. Like I said before, age is just a number. He is 38 and proved he can still hang. I hope he won't retire because with a fight like that, I'm sure the fans would like to see him again."
Neither fighter appeared too badly hurt at any point in the fight although it was clearly throughout the first half that Kownacki was building a big lead due to activity. The fight's most ferocious examples of two-way fighting took place in the early rounds before both began to fatigue. Each would get their second and third winds, however, and continue to trade heavy shots at close range for the remainder of the fight.
Kownacki, a native of Poland who fights out of Brooklyn and had a partisan crowd cheering him on, showcased his unique in-fighting game well while Arreola largely relied on counter shots. Both fighters took tremendous punishment without going down.
"[Kownacki] was relentless, someone that just keeps coming," Arreola said. "I know I cracked him with some good punches and he cracked me with some but he's just relentless and just keeps fighting. I was more than ready to go all 12. This was a setback but congratulations to Kownacki because he won the fight."
After turning down a last-minute title opportunity against Anthony Joshua in April because he wasn't in shape, Kownacki is hoping the victory lifts him to an opportunity for his first world championship next year. Standing in his way, at least for now, is the fact that his preferred opponent, WBC champion Deontay Wilder, has rematches scheduled against Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury.
"I've just got to keep training hard and keep refining my skills and hopefully next year I get a tittle shot," Kownacki said. "Let's see what happens."
Kownacki outlanded Arreola 369 to 298 overall and connected on 35 percent of his punches (to 26 percent for Arreola).