Something had to change.
Adam Kownacki, after surging out to a 20-0 record as a pro, had seen a career on the cusp of title shots skid dramatically wayward. Back-to-back losses to Robert Helenius moved his record to 20-2. More importantly, it removed Kownacki from the conversation of the elites in the heavyweight division and contention to earn championship fights.
Those two bouts weren’t the same for the 33-year-old Polish native, even beyond handing him his first setbacks. He entered the ring with the wrong mindset, and he knows it. But it was a mindset he had never experienced before.
“You’ve got to be very focused,” Kownacki told The Post. “I got to become a father during that time, so it was a new experience for me, but I didn’t manage it correctly, and that was a big learning experience. Also, Robert Helenius was a good fighter, he caught me with a couple good shots, sometimes you need some luck on your side, and I didn’t have it those nights. But it’s a learning experience. I definitely learned how to manage the time more, and hopefully keep my hands up.”
Kownacki admits new fatherhood duties kept him from dedicating the focus needed to his training and preparation. Late nights losing sleep, mental and physical energy expended, and the overall distraction from a new life experience hindered him in the ring.
After a nine-month layoff, Kownacki looks to revive his stature against Ali Eren Demirezen (16-1) as the co-main event on the Danny Darcia-Jose Benavidez card (9 p.m., Showtime) at Barclays Center Saturday night.
As he approached a make-or-break point in his career, he knew he couldn’t repeat the same mistake. He sent his wife and family, including the newest young member, back to Poland for the duration of his camp, allowing himself to solely fixate on his training, and making needed changes to his game.
No distractions, no excuses.
“I haven’t seen them in over two months,” Kownacki said. “It’s been tough, but I know you’ve got to make sacrifices to be a world champion. Yeah, dealing them away to Poland, I haven’t seen them in over two months, so I can’t wait to be on one of the first flights out of New York after the fight (laughs). This whole camp was focused just on boxing. I was able to focus more on just training.”
At seven years old, Kownacki, along with his parents and brothers, emigrated from Poland to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, joining the vibrant Polish community in the area.
He’s made a home at Barclays Center, set to return for his 11th bout in the arena. He’s become a favorite in front of the Brooklyn crowd, representing both the borough and the “huge” local Polish community.
Kownacki’s 10th fight at Barclays Center brought him his first loss. Now, he returns for the 11th time with a clearer focus.
And a career that needs to get back on track.
“I’m living proof of the American Dream,” Kownacki said. “My parents came here with absolutely nothing, they just moved here from Poland to give my family a better life, me and my brothers. I’m living proof. I’m fighting on national TV, Barclays Center, it doesn’t get better than that. You can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. I think I’m living proof that the American dream is still alive and well. All you’ve got to do is work hard, and the opportunities will come and you’ve got to take care of it.”