Stories are circulating throughout the boxing media about Deontay Wilder’s comeback opponent and it is believed to be Finnish heavyweight Robert Helenius. The target date is October 15th at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York on PBC PPV. For the thirty-six year old Wilder this will be his first fight since losing the trilogy bout against Tyson Fury for the WBC and Ring Magazine heavyweight title. It will also be his first fight in over a year and just his second with trainer Malik Scott. Wilder has had forty five professional fights and suffered back to back stoppage losses to Fury in fights where he was on the receiving end of serious punishment. There are several schools of thought on Wilder; he gave Fury hell and is still an elite fighter, he took two nasty beatings from Fury and is over the hill, and other variations regarding his level of competition and ability compared with the rising crop of heavyweights. Wilder is the WBC’s number one rated heavyweight while Andy Ruiz and Luis Ortiz are about to meet in a fight to help determine who gets the next shot at the belt. Will Tyson Fury relinquish the belt in retirement or will he sit and wait to see what happens?
What is being lost is the story about Robert Helenius and I wanted to write something about him since he has been so thoroughly written off. The article on ESPN hardly gave much of a description of the Nordic Nightmare. I know the ESPN boxing articles can be a little short and I guess that might have something to do with the popularity of our beloved sport but I was hoping the Boxing Guy on ESPN would show off his chops and give us something to chew on ahead of this fight. I hope to help make readers more familiar with Helenius ahead of what looks to be the biggest fight of his career and a great opportunity at redemption. If you are an American fan and only started following the sport recently or only watch US telecasts Helenius is someone you would only know from his PBC fights where he has had mixed results. However, there was a time when Helenius was a top ten heavyweight and viewed as a serious contender for the titles held by Wladimir Klitschko. At six foot six inches tall and weighing in consistently in the 230’s Helenius is a big heavyweight and he amassed a 15-0 record heading into a major bout with Derek Chisora in his backyard of Finland. He shared the bill with fellow leading heavyweight Alexander Povetkin in the quest for a major title fight. Then just twenty-seven, Helenius had knocked out three former heavyweight champions in Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter and Sergey Liahovich. He was a tall and imposing fighter who used his jab and upright stance to exploit his reach advantage and rain hard right hands on his foes. The Chisora fight was a disaster for the rising Fin and his career never quite reached the heights many observers believed it could reach.
Chisora mauled out worked the taller Helenius on the road and despite giving up height and reach he took the fight to the favored hometown favorite. Helenius was significantly out thrown and out landed statistically but received very favorable judging seeming to net all the close rounds and the split decision victory. Helenius would never get the title shot he looked destined to participate in and continued to suffer hand and shoulder injuries that hampered his redemption tour. While Chisora was rewarded in defeat with a title fight with Vitali Klitschko and a massive UK fight with David Haye it was Helenius who looked gun shy and mediocre against journeyman Sherman Williams. He looked lackluster against Michael Sprott and sat out two full years before making a return in his thirties. During this comeback he saw his first official defeat when he was knocked out by Johan Duhappas and then dropped a decision to Dillian Whyte. He bounced back with a win over Erkhan Teper and then signed with PBC and came to the US. He fought Gerald Washington and though he was ahead and seemed to have momentum he was leveled by a perfect punch and stopped. He was brought in as an opponent for Brooklyn and Polish favorite Adam Kownacki but shocked him with an upset TKO performance. This was followed up with another TKO victory in their rematch on the undercard of Fury vs Wilder III.
For the aging 31-3 Helenius this is his title fight. This is his chance to prove what he could have been. Obviously it is not the same as winning a belt but Wilder is largely considered America’s best heavyweight and still very relevant in the rankings. This would be his biggest win on a big stage and likely for a good check. I believe Wilder is a heavy favorite but Helenius will be one of the better guys on his resume as he brings a wealth of experience, toughness and a hard punch. I think he may be too upright and open to big punches to pose a serious threat along the lines of Dominic Breazeale. But, if his chin holds up he could possibly have a Duhappas like performance and prove tough and make it a fun fight. I will very likely be going to this one in person given it is in Brooklyn.
Gerald Washington: KO’d Helenius and TKO’d by Wilder
Johan Duhappas: KO’d Helenius and TKO’d by Wilder
Sergey Liahovich: KO’d by both