Anthony Joshua secures new opponent for non-ppv main event

ROBERT HELENIUS will step in for Dillian Whyte and fight Anthony Joshua on Saturday night at the O2 Arena. Helenius, 39, was one of several heavyweights under consideration from promoters Matchroom after news broke that Whyte had tested positive for a banned substance following at least one VADA test.

Finland’s Helenius, 32-4 (21), fought as recently as Saturday night (August 5) when he knocked out the overmatched Mike Mielonen in three rounds. That was the veteran’s first action since being flattened inside a round by Deontay Wilder last October.

Once a highly regarded contender, Helenius has spent much of the last 10 years in the role of a gatekeeper. He was exceptionally fortunate to outpoint Derek Chisora in 2011 but, more recently, he twice defeated Adam Kownacki (2020-21) to reinvigorate his career before losing to Wilder. Helenius carries a decent dig, he can be awkward, but is surely a long way past his best.

“I am excited about fighting Anthony Joshua on August 12,” said Helenius. “I am a true Viking that is willing to face any challenge at a moment’s notice. This is not an opportunity I was going to let slip away. I plan to make the most of it!”

Rumours were rife that either Derek Chisora or Gerald Washington, who fight each other on Saturday’s undercard, would step up and face Joshua. Neither boxer was considered by Matchroom as a viable replacement, however. Helenius lost to Washington in 2019, but it’s fair to say the latter has slipped considerably since then.

“This wasn’t in the script,” said Joshua. “I respect Helenius and may I say, I respect any male or female who steps into the ring. I am laser focused on the win. I can make steps forward to bigger and better things, but the road map has a check point, Saturday night. May the best man win.”

Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn said: “To get the news on Saturday was really disappointing, not only for us but for Anthony Joshua and for the fans. But we got to work and we have done what we’re good at – and we have managed to keep the show on.

“AJ has been unbelievable throughout this whole process. He is someone who is ready to fight having trained for 12 weeks in Dallas with Derrick James. He has always been a great pro but this just shows me again the hunger he has for the sport. He wants to go out there this Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at The O2 and perform. There were a lot of options. But we had to make sure it was the right fight for the right deal.

“I think Robert Helenius is a good fight. Yes, he lost to Deontay Wilder, but that was by a shot that would have probably knocked out a horse! But he came to fight. He can really punch, he’s 6ft 8ins and he won at the weekend. Ultimately there is criticism in whatever you do, but I actually think this is a tricky and dangerous fight.”

For the 25-3 (22) Joshua, this will be his second bout under the tutelage of Derrick James as he looks to regain momentum after back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk (2021-22). In March, the former belt-holder laboured to a 12-round points win over Jermaine Franklin in a performance he describes in this week’s Boxing News as ‘shit’.

The event also features Filip Hrgovic-Demsey McKean and will be available to all DAZN subscribers and not on pay-per-view as was originally planned.

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