Gary Antuanne Russell gets controversial stoppage; Kownacki may have to think about the end

The end might be near for heavyweight Adam Kownacki(20-3, 15 KOs) after he lost to Ali Eren Demirezen (17-1, 12 KOs) by unanimous decision (97-93 twice, 96-94) Saturday night at Barclays Center.

After back-to-back losses to Robert Helenius, Kownacki hoped to turn things around against Demirezen. However, Kownacki took a lot of punishment and was battling a bloodied eye late in the fight. Demirezen outlanded Kownacki 239 to 186. The two combined for a heavyweight record of 1766 punches.

The 33-year-old Kownacki last fight was in October 2021; according to him, he had some ring rust.

Photo: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME

“I’m a bit rusty; I think he was getting off first in the exchanges; I didn’t’ sit down as much; I think the rust played a part, being out so long,” said Kownacki. “I was out of the ring since last October; camp was good, but I don’t know, I was letting him get off… I went back to the old me instead of the first few rounds when I was doing good.”

Kownacki says he will talk to his wife about his future but would prefer to go out as a winner.

“I have two kids; I’ll have a long talk with my wife to see what I want to do,” he said. “I’ve had so many fights here, so many great memories, I don’t want to go out like a loser. I would like another fight to leave my fans with a win.”

After defeating Chris Arreola in 2019, many were saying Kownacki could fight Deontay Wilder for his WBC strap at Barclays Center. There was even some talk of Kownacki fighting Wilder in 2022 if he had beaten Demirezen. 

However, it appears that Kownacki will never be the same after the fights with Helenius. He could stick around and be a gatekeeper, but that would mean he would continue to take punishment, which is not a good thing. Sadly, it might be in Kownacki’s best interest to call it quits. 

Gary Antuanne Russell shines after a questionable stoppage.

Gary Antuanne Russell (16-0, 16 KOs) delivered a sixth-round TKO (:50) over former two-division champion Rances Barthelemy (29-2-1, 15 KOs) in their super lightweight clash to keep his perfect knockout streak intact.

Russell, 26,  landed a clean leaping right hook that dropped Barthelemy early in the round. While Barthelemy could get to his feet, referee Shada Murdaugh waived off the action, drawing boisterous complaints from Barthelemy, his corner, and the crowd in attendance.

To be blunt, it was a lousy stoppage. Barthelemy looked like he was in decent shape and could continue. Maybe Russell would have eventually stopped Barthelemy, so you could argue that Russell was robbed of a convincing ending.

“I know Rances is a high-grade, class athlete, and he wanted to continue,” said Russell, who revealed post-fight that he hurt his left hand in the fifth round. “Emotions were high. Whether we are bruised or beaten, as a warrior, you always want to continue, but the referee was doing his job, and if he was allowed to continue, it would have been the same outcome. I would have gotten him.

“In the sixth round, I had him backing up. I knew he was looking for his right cross, and I caught him backing up, and I shot my hook and put him down, he was buzzed, but he wanted to keep going. He’s a warrior.”

The 36-year-old Barthelemy says this loss is tough for him to handle.

“This is the most bitter loss of my career,” said Barthelemy. “I’m destroyed. Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t Russell’s fault at all. I’m a veteran, and I had been through something like that plenty of times in my career. The referee treated me like a rookie instead of the two-time world champion I am…

“No, they shouldn’t have stopped it,” said Barthelemy. “I felt good. It was a good shot; I’m not denying that, but they shouldn’t have stopped it. I got up and told him I was fine and good to go. Of course, I want the rematch with a different referee.”

It was a competitive bout as the fighters threw within five total punches of each other per round across the bout, including combining to throw 361 power punches out of 515 total thrown.  At the time of the stoppage, the score totals were 49-46 twice and 48-47 in favor of Russell.

Fighting for the first time since the passing of his father and lifelong trainer Gary Sr., Russell was led in his corner by his brother and former WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr., as he looks to continue his ascent in the 140-pound division.

“I want to tell my father up above I did it for him; we’re going to keep it going for pops,” said Russell. “This is something my dad instilled in us, no matter what you go through in life and death, two things are inevitable; he raised us to be men and well-rounded men. Being thorough means to be prepared, and he prepared us for boxing and for life outside of boxing. I thank my father, and I did what I had to do.”

Russell’s future does look bright, and he is definitely on his way to a title shot. As far as Barthelemy, who fought well on Saturday night, maybe he can get a rematch, but at 36, who knows how many fights at this level he has left. 

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