untung99.biz: I should be in Lapland Helenius gave up family holiday to fight Joshua

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“I had just finished my fight last Saturday night and my manager came and said I have something to ask you,” says Robert Helenius as he details the strange twist that led to him agreeing to step into the ring against Anthony Joshua on Saturday night in London.

Helenius calls himself the Nordic Nightmare and he had just fought the 36th bout of his career when he beat his Finnish compatriot Mika Mielonen on a third-round stoppage. The fight was held in a 15th-century castle in Savonlinna, Finland, where they normally stage opera productions. Helenius was in a good mood as, having recorded his 32nd victory, he looked forward to taking his wife and children on holiday in Lapland this week.

He did not know that his manager, Markus Sundman, had been in discussions since early that morning with Eddie Hearn about the possibility of Helenius fighting Joshua exactly seven nights later. The hasty negotiations followed the news that Dillian Whyte, Joshua’s original opponent, had returned a positive drug test result for a still unnamed illegal substance. Hearn needed a replacement desperately and Helenius was the most credible name on his list.

“It was 10 minutes after the fight when Markus came to see me,” says Helenius, “and I was like: ‘Yeah I won, now let’s go on vacation.’ He said: ‘Not so fast. Do you want to fight next weekend?’ I told him I need to see my kids but then he said it was the Joshua fight and I was like: ‘Oh man. Let me think.’ Ten minutes later I said: ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’

Helenius, a friendly giant of a man who is 6ft 7in tall, smiles at the craziness of boxing. “This is what we do,” he says. “I was in the locker room but I had not even been in the shower. My gloves were off but I had the wraps on when I sent Eddie a video telling him I was ready for Joshua.”

Sundman, who sits alongside his fighter in a London hotel room, confirms that. “I did the deal the next morning while at the zoo with my kids.”

The two men are amused when I ask if the typically slippery boxing negotiations were concluded alongside the snake pit. “It was near the monkeys,” Sundman jokes.

They are both in a chipper mood, which Helenius stresses is not just down to the sizeable purse he will take home for saving the Joshua Show at the O2 Arena. He was Joshua’s sparring partner before the former world champion’s epic fight against Wladmir Klitschko in 2017 and believes he has a serious chance of causing a seismic shock.

Robert Helenius scored an upset win against previously unbeaten Adam Kownacki in 2020. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

“Joshua is a tough guy. I think we had eight-round sessions and it was pretty close. He’s a hard hitter with good technical ability – but a little robotic.”

Since winning that hellfire of a battle against Klitschko, Joshua does not appear to have had the same desire to enter boxing’s darkest terrain. He has lost three times since June 2019 and, after a second successive defeat to Oleksandr Usyk last summer, Joshua seemed close to unravelling during an emotional post-fight rant. His last fight, a laboured victory over Jermaine Franklin in April, did little to dispel the doubts.

“Of course I think he’s vulnerable,” Helenius says of Joshua. “I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I would have been in Lapland in the forest with my family. Camping, fishing, hunting. That was the plan.”

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He confirms he will use a different plan against Joshua than the ultra-aggressive strategy he followed when fighting Deontay Wilder last October. Having sparred hundreds of rounds against the dangerous Wilder, Helenius remembered that the American “didn’t take a step back.

“I knew also from his earlier fights that he couldn’t punch from his back foot. When he steps back, he can’t punch. So I just wanted to stick to my gameplan and be the aggressor.”

Helenius was knocked out in the first round and so he will be far more cautious against Joshua and try to catch him on the counter. “I hope he’s coming for me,” he says, pointing out that he has also sparred with Tyson Fury, both Klitschko brothers and David Haye. “I have been a long time in this game. I have also had a dream to be world champion for 15 years so if I get a chance I will take it.”

To earn such an opportunity, Helenius needs to beat Joshua against all the odds. “I haven’t been in the ring with him for a while but I’m going to take my chances. Now is the best time to beat him.”

If he somehow produces an unlikely victory will he choose a different family holiday in Disneyland or stick to camping in Lapland? Helenius leans forward and smiles. “When I win,” he says, putting all the emphasis on that first word, “I will reschedule the vacation. I’m here to win.”