Di Canio's first game in charge is away to Chelsea, but Keown thinks that the former Swindon Town man will keep his new team in the division.
"There's been a lot of negativity surrounding Paolo Di Canio's appointment as Sunderland manager. But with regards to football, it could be an inspired appointment," he wrote in his column in the Daily Mail.
"I think he will keep the club up. Watching his press conference yesterday, I couldn't help but be impressed by his passion. It is infectious and the Italian seems to have a plan to save the club from the drop.
"I wrote on Saturday that it seemed Martin O'Neill had lost a bit of his spark and Di Canio will bring a freshness to the training ground."
The former Swindon Town boss took over from O'Neill, who was sacked on Saturday evening.