“There are few virtues that the Poles do not possess.”
Winston Churchill 1874-1965
Frequently, fights or the entertainment derived from them, is generated by the flaws and weaknesses of its participants. The perfection, or apparent perfection, of Roy Jones, or Floyd Mayweather, could, sometimes leave a vacuum where the entertainment was meant to be. There was always much to admire, to marvel at, to appreciate because, as a boxing fan, you had to. Hit and not get hit, is the founding principle of boxing after all, and few exemplified it better than Jones and Mayweather.
But if offered the prospect of watching a Floyd Mayweather return bout and the opportunity to watch Adam ‘Baby Face’ Kownacki’s, 18-0 (14), next fight, regardless of his opponent, and I would opt for the latter. His victory on Saturday night versus Charles Martin, the former holder of an IBF Championship belt, if only briefly, introduced me to the unbeaten Pole and it was a meeting I, like many fight fans, enjoyed greatly.
There is much to like, there is much to criticise. The 29-year-old, who fights out of Brooklyn and clearly appeals to those who share his Polish roots from the area, doesn’t look like a professional fighter should. He’s fleshy and undefined but his marauding, attacking style is supported by a strong work ethic and though Martin enjoyed success toward the end of their 10 round bout, he appears to have a good engine too.
It is unclear what proportion of the crowd were there primarily to see Kownacki, but they were vocal throughout. I remember being told by a promoter once, that Albert Sosnowski, a Polish heavyweight who could fight a bit, if not a lot, was a dream for a small hall card. “You can put him on versus a Lithuanian farm hand and he’ll sell a 100 tickets, they’ll drink the place dry and make loads of noise.”
I was there the night he fought said farm hand. Sosnowski won over points over six at the York Hall.
Kownacki, who was ranked number 10 by the WBC before this victory, conceded he still needs more seasoning before any assault on higher castles in the division. He’s right, he does, but at 29, one could imagine his current ‘freshness’ will be valuable given the way he fights. It seems unlikely his progress will inspire any shift in his approach to his conditioning, it isn’t a beauty contest, but one could surmise there is still scope for improvement in his stamina. Certainly, if he is to maintain this all-action, aggressive style at a higher level, and over 12 rounds as those contests would almost certainly be, then there is room for improvement.
He isn’t a knockout puncher, but throws heavy, clubbing blows that do deter and damage. Martin was disorganised more than once by sweeping right hands but beyond him, Kownacki will find opponents with better footwork and stronger jabs. There were repeated incidents when Martin’s feet crossed, he has an awful habit when circling left from his southpaw stance of crossing his right foot over first. Alongside his fluctuating dedication and listless jab, it is one of the key reasons Martin will never climb back in to title contention.
Despite, or perhaps because of these technical flaws, their styles came together well. At times messy, but always competitive it is true that Martin’s inside work, particularly the left uppercut were under appreciated, but Kownacki, until the last at least, looked the only fighter likely to force a stoppage.
Much like Nathan Gorman here in the UK, Kownacki is a better fighter than he looks and thunderously more entertaining than many scores of fighters with greater technical skills than the Polish heavyweight. I’ll be looking out for him in the future.
For Martin, he needs to stay in the gym – this was his first fight in 2018 – and be as busy as possible because there was evidence of improving timing as the fight progressed. The 32-year-old is unlikely to pay much attention, he is an enigmatic soul.