By David Greisman
The Next Andy Ruiz? Adam Kownacki Remains Unbeaten After Beating Arreola
Adam Kownacki and Chris Arreola looked across the ring and very well may have seen mirror images of themselves.
Arreola saw someone he once was — an undefeated but unsculpted brawler. Kownacki, like Arreola, isn’t the prototypical chiseled heavyweight. At 266 pounds, he is more fleshy than flashy, but he’s worth watching anyway. He’s offense first and offense last. He throws punches, eats punches, and then throws more.
Kownacki saw someone he’s hoping not to become. Arreola had three title shots and lost each time. He found fame and fortune but never reached the top, perhaps done in by his size, perhaps done in by his style, or perhaps done in by some combination of both.
Muscle ain’t everything. We can’t judge a fighter by looks alone. It also depends on, well, how they look in the ring. That much is obvious in the wake of the rotund Andy Ruiz knocking out the statuesque Anthony Joshua for three heavyweight world titles a couple months ago.
Kownacki wants a shot at the heavyweight title as well. His team is hoping that comes in 2020. That would determine whether Kownacki is the next Andy Ruiz or the next Chris Arreola. But for now, he’s at least better than the old Arreola, who is at the tail end of his career but was able to dig down for one last gutsy, enjoyable performance.
Kownacki sought to overwhelm and break down Arreola the way he’d been able to do to other lower-tier heavyweights. Arreola didn’t break. He battled back. The two men combined to throw nearly 2,200 punches, according to CompuBox, setting a record for the most shots thrown and the most shots landed (667) in fights counted by the company.
It wasn’t the most amazing heavyweight fight ever — if you’ve never seen Ike Ibeabuchi vs. David Tua, then drop whatever you’re doing, Google it and enjoy — but that’s fine. Kownacki vs. Arreola was still an entertaining action fight. If it serves as part of Kownacki’s eventual rise, then great. If Kownacki fizzles out, then that’s also fine. We watch sports because we enjoy them. The fighters don’t need to be great for the fights to be good.
Kownacki left with the unanimous decision. Arreola left with an injured hand but with his head held up high. He’d said before the fight that he was considering retiring if he lost this bout. A lot of times, a fighter who says something like that is already done. That wasn’t the case this time. Arreola summoned up whatever he had left. Even though it wasn’t enough, he went out firing.
There were only 60 jabs landed for Kownacki and Arreola combined over the course of 12 rounds. These guys are pressure fighters and volume punchers. Kownacki got Arreola to the ropes early in Round 1 and again in Round 2. Arreola fought his way off. Kownacki seemed to hurt Arreola toward the beginning of Round 3. Arreola recovered and then rallied in the fourth.
That might have tired him out temporarily, and Kownacki took advantage at the start of the fifth with a big flurry. Arreola finished the round strong. But he held his left hand as he walked back to the corner. It was hurt, though he fought through the pain and still occasionally threw lefts for the duration of the bout.
Kownacki landed shots in the Round 6 that had Arreola nodding at one point, shaking his head at another. Arreola looked to take the seventh, however. The eighth again seemed to belong for Kownacki for much of the round, only for Arreola to remind him toward the end that he wasn’t done yet. Then, early in the ninth, Kownacki scored with a one-two and a left hook that had Arreola backing up. Arreola soon returned to the fray, though he seemed to be losing some energy.
Arreola had a few more moments of his own in Round 10. Kownacki was still the one picking up points on the scorecards, though. And given the accumulation of punishment, it was no surprise that a doctor checked on Arreola before Round 11 began. Arreola was fine. He was allowed to continue, and he continued to exchange with Kownacki. The fight ended as it began. Arreola threw more than 100 punches in the 11th and sent out a fight-high 121 in the 12th.
He never really hurt Kownacki. Arreola’s chin held up fine as well. Kownacki still landed more often and landed better, so it was no surprise that the judges favored the younger man.
The final scores were 117-111 from two judges, or nine rounds to three, while the other judge had it 118-110, or 10 rounds to two.
Kownacki is now 20-0 with 15 knockouts. His manager said afterward that they would like to face Deontay Wilder within the next year, according to an article by Ryan Songalia of RingTV.com.
That leaves them more time to keep improving. Wilder will still be quite the step up. Kownacki’s beaten some familiar names, but none of them can be considered world-class — not Artur Szpilka, Iago Kiladze or Gerald Washington, and not even former heavyweight titleholder Charles Martin, who had some success against Kownacki.
Kownacki is hittable. And Wilder only needs to hit someone once to end a fight. Kownacki also doesn’t seem to have the hand speed or food speed that Andy Ruiz used to trouble Anthony Joshua.
You still can’t fault an undefeated fighter for setting his sights on the best. He’ll either win or he’ll lose. That’s what happens in sports.
That’s what happened to Arreola, who is now 38-6-1 with 33 KOs. He wasn’t one of the best heavyweights, but he was managed well and made more with his career than many others. It may be tempting for him to continue on given his performance against Kownacki, and especially given that he may be wondering how much better he would’ve performed if he hadn’t hurt his hand.
That’s a dangerous line of thinking in a dangerous sport. Arreola isn’t what he once was, and what he once was just wasn’t enough. He can continue on and be a B-side for up-and-coming prospects and contenders. Perhaps he’ll score an occasional upset. Maybe he’ll test the rest. Or maybe the losses will begin to become more one-sided, more damaging.
This isn’t just about Arreola. This is a situation that nearly every fighter eventually confronts. Sadly, most fighters don’t retire until long past when they should’ve.
There’s a lot for Arreola to think about. He didn’t make any immediate decisions after losing to Kownacki. Hopefully he makes the correct one.
Michael Conlan Outboxes Ruiz, Scores Ninth-Round TKO
This was supposed to be a big weekend for Michael Conlan.
The featherweight prospect was originally supposed to face Vladimir Nikitin. They’d fought once before — not in the pros, but in the Olympics. Conlan infamously lost in a bout many believe was a robbery. Conlan surely felt that way. He showed his displeasure by flipping off the judges after the decision was announced.
Nikitin pulled out of the fight several weeks ago because of an injury. Conlan continued with what was still a big night, even if it was a diminished one. He was performing as a pro for just the second time in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and for the first time as a headliner.
Conlan outboxed Diego Alberto Ruiz for nine rounds before putting him away with body shots, scoring one knockdown and then getting the technical knockout.
Conlan focused largely on making Ruiz miss, moving in with very occasional single shots and then backing away from Ruiz’s attacks. He targeted the body and also veered even lower for some punches below the belt. Some one-sided fights can be entertaining. This wasn’t, unless you were a Conlan fan. Conlan only connected on 105 of 478 punches over the course of eight and a half rounds. He kept Ruiz to a paltry 32 of 250.
There was thankfully a brief but decent exchange toward the end of Round 4 and another midway through Round 5. Conlan won both of those moments. He won every moment.
About halfway through Round 6, Conlan landed a good right hand to the head, then followed with two illegal blows: a kidney punch and a rabbit punch. Ruiz’s trainer was clearly angry, getting on the ring apron and yelling at the ref.
Conlan also landed a good right hand toward the end of Round 8. He soon dished out a flurry of blows. Ruiz took it fine. He was less able to take a right hand to the body about 75 seconds into Round 9, taking a knee and then rising at the count of seven. Conlan returned to the beltline. Ruiz’s trainer jumped on the apron once again, this time to stop the fight.
Conlan is now 12-0 with 7 KOs. It’s still very early in his pro career. He turned pro two and a half years ago. But he’s nearly 28 years old. There’s less time for him to develop, though his team will still have some leeway to move him gradually.
Ruiz is now 21-3 with 10 KOs. This defeat ended a 10-fight winning streak.