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Robert Helenius stuns Adam Kownacki to earn shot at Joshua's WBA title | Sport

It’s back to the drawing board for heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki after he was handed his first career defeat in shocking fashion on Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Kownacki came up short in a WBA title eliminator for an eventual shot one of Anthony Joshua’s three championship belts, suffering a fourth-round technical knockout loss to Finland’s Robert Helenius, who went off as a 10-1 underdog.

Many of the 8,811 in attendance presumed Helenius wouldn’t survive more than three rounds with Kownacki, a rising star in boxing’s showcase division who emigrated to Brooklyn from Poland when he was a child.

And for three rounds they were right as the busier Kownacki outhrew and outlanded the 6ft 6in, 239lb underdog, who made it clear he would box from the outside and avoid toe-to-toe exchanges. A one-sided third saw the 36-year-old Helenius left to hold on for dear life under a barrage of Kownacki’s best shots.

Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs), 36, appeared gassed entering the fourth as the 6ft 3in, 265lb Kownacki fired away with stiff jabs to the solar plexus, appearing to tenderize his prey for a knockout. But after the taller man appeared to floor Kownacki with a right hand, which referee David Fields ruled a slip, he began to let his hands go, landing a crunching right-left combination that dropped Kownacki and silenced the partisan crowd.

“I knew that I hit him hard and I knew I just had to continue,” Helenius said. “I knew he was still hurt after that punch.”

Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) beat the count, but Helenius backed his wounded opponent up with a hail of punches until Fields intervened at the 1:08 mark.

“He hit me with a good shot,” said Kownacki, who landed 84 of 224 punches (38%) compared to just 49 of 228 shots (22%) for his opponent. “I knew what was going on, but I’m just upset with myself. It is what it is.”

The 30-year-old Kownacki, who was leading 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 on the scorecards of the time of the stoppage, was downcast but gracious in the wake of the shocking outcome. “It wasn’t my night,” he said. “It’s boxing. It’s a tough sport and things just didn’t go my way tonight. It was a learning experience and I’m going to go back to the drawing board and get back to work.”

Now Helenius, a Stockholm native based in Finland who was once regarded as one of the division’s brightest prospects before dropping to gatekeeper status after one-sided losses to Johann Duhaupas, Dillian Whyte and Gerald Washington, finds himself back in the title mix after winning the eliminator, though it remains to be seen when the shot for Joshua’s WBA title will happen: the Briton is scheduled to fight Kubrat Pulev at Tottenham Hotspur’s 62,000-seat stadium on 20 June and expected to handle another mandatory defense against Oleksandr Usyk before the end of the year.

“I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity,” Helenius said. “Kownacki is a tough fighter. I worked hard in training camp and it paid off”.

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