Robert Helenius' time as a moderately hyped heavyweight had long come and gone when he stepped into the ring to face Adam Kownacki, a man enjoying his own time as an undefeated slugger biding his time waiting for a shot at a world championship. With the story of both men's careers seemingly so clear and so normal in boxing, Helenius was as high as a +2300 underdog, viewed as a mere speed bump for Kownacki's ascent in the ranks of boxing's big boys.
But heavyweight is an inherently volatile division and engaging in a firefight brings the ever-present "puncher's chance" into play. That's exactly what happened at Barclays Center in Brooklyn when Helenius scored a massive upset with a fourth-round TKO in front of a passionate Polish fanbase.
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The two men found themselves standing toe-to-toe for much of the fight, trading power shots with Kownacki mostly getting the better of the exchanges, but taking plenty of damage from "The Nordic Nightmare" in the process. That was especially the case in Round 2, where Helenius was able to take the fire of Kownacki and fire back with harder, cleaner punches.
In Round 4, the fighters were trading along the ropes when a punch from Helenius dropped Kownacki, but was ruled a slip by the referee. Kownacki's legs were unsteady, however, and moments later he crumbled to the canvas after a Helenius onslaught. Kownacki beat the count, but the shots kept coming for Helenius, leaving the referee no choice but to halt the contest and award Helenius the TKO victory, leaving Kownacki exposed as more pretender than contender in a dangerous heavyweight division topped by world champs Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Helenius is now on a two-fight winning streak since suffering a knockout loss to Gerald Washington last July. Interestingly, Kownacki had knocked out Washington in just two rounds a few months before Washington knocked out Helenius. Kownacki, 30, will have a lot of work to do to place his name back in the conversation of someone who can be matched with the top end of the division.