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NEW YORK – Adam Kownacki has a painful—though logical—decision to make after he was dealt his latest defeat.
Joe Cusumano entered their DAZN co-feature as a massive +700 underdog but scored an early knockdown and outslugged the Polish heavyweight to force a stoppage. Kownacki was down in the opening round and later out on his feet as his corner called for referee David Fields to stop the onslaught at 2:00 of round eight Saturday evening from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
Kownacki’s rabid fan base was loud and proud from the moment the Brooklyn-based Polish heavyweight visibly made his way to the ring. It mattered little to the Red and White contingent that Kownacki was riding a three-fight losing streak and hadn’t won a fight since his August 2019 punch-a-thon with Chris Arreola which still owns Compubox records for punches thrown and landed in a heavyweight fight.
That didn’t at all change on Saturday, which marked Kownacki’s first fight with noted head trainer SugarHill Steward. Cusumano was determined to establish his right hand, which missed the mark early but found a home and rocked Kownacki with one minute to go in the opening round.
Cusumano saw his opening and landed a mammoth overhand right to floor Kownacki as the ten-second clapper sounded. Referee David Fields was a bit deliberate both with his count and the amount of time granted to Kownacki before the bell sounded to end the near disastrous round.
More recovery time was afforded prior to the start of the second when the ringside physician thoroughly observed the local favorite before he approved the bout to continue. Cusumano once again rocked Kownacki early in the round but was unable to close the show. Kownacki wisely tied up long enough to clear his head and drastically turned the tide with body shots late in the round.
The same approach spilled over into round three. Cusumano was clearly bothered by the right hands and left hooks to the body. Kownacki enjoyed his best sequence when an overhand right caught Cusumano on the temple. Both heavyweights landed with thudding right hands to the chin in the closing seconds.
Cusumano pumped his jab early in round four, snapping back the head of Kownacki who was also forced to contend with a cut over his right eye. A right hand by Kownacki ejected Cusumano’s mouthpiece but a fun two-way exchange followed before a brief break in the action allowed Fields to call time. Both fighters connected with power shots upstairs but Cusumano was landing the far more telling blows.
Kownacki returned to the body at the start of the fifth. He followed with a right but Cusumano’s counter shot had the greater impact.
The start of round six was delayed when the two ringside physicians were summoned to examine both fighters. A clean bill of health was granted to each as action resumed.
Both fighters landed right hands at close quarters, while Cusumano found a home for a right uppercut to the body. Another uppercut—this one upstairs—caused Kownacki to paw at his right eye as he went to the ropes but was able to avoid any follow-up damage. Kownacki went back to the body and limited his head shots to traditional one-two combinations.
Cusumano had Kownacki out on his feet with a series of shots upstairs in round seven. Manager Keith Connolly—after previously gauging concern from the heavyweight’s family—raced over to the corner, with strong consideration to have the fight stopped. Kownacki miraculously rallied back, landing right hands and lefts along the ropes. Cusumano roared back but couldn’t land that final shot to put away Kownacki, who landed one last flurry just before the bell.
Still, Kownacki’s horrible body language was cause for concern. Steward threatened to stop the fight, even as the doctor once again examined him prior to the start of round eight. Cusumano helped force that decision. Two right hands badly rocked Kownacki who wobbled into the ropes. His corner literally threw in the towel to stop the fight, as Cusumano (22-4, 20KOs) jumped for joy in celebration of by far the biggest win of his career.
The win was the third straight for Cusumano since a stunning first-round knockout loss to Daniel Dubois. By his own admission, he never gave himself a fair chance to even be competitive in that disastrous August 2021 night but claimed to be in the best shape of his career for this fight.
Kownacki put in the work in the gym but the body is no longer willing to keep up at this stage of his career. He suffered his fourth loss in a row as his record fell to 20-4 (15KOs) in what has to be the final fight of his career. Back-to-back defeats to Robert Helenius, followed by a loss to Ali Eren Demirezen and now Cusumano have left Kownacki far removed from the point when he was a win or two from becoming a valid heavyweight contender.
Headlining the show, Brooklyn’s own Edgar Berlanga (20-0, 16KOs) faces Ireland’s Jason Quigley in a scheduled twelve-round super middleweight contest. Their bout tops a four-fight DAZN telecast which begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox