Lap of the Gods: Robert Helenius recalls the moment Dillian Whyte inadvertently cancelled his holiday to Lapland

IT WAS late in the evening in a makeshift changing room somewhere in the bowels of the awe-inspiring 15th-century Olavinlinna Castle.

Robert Helenius, still covered in the sweat gleaned during a three-round knockout of Mika Mielonen and with his hands still wrapped, had turned his thoughts to the camping holiday in Lapland on which he was about to embark with his wife and three children.

He had no idea that nearly 2,000km away, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association had blown a hole in the proposed clash between Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte by confirming that the latter had returned an adverse analytical finding in one of their tests.

Nor did he know that his own manager Markus Sundman had already been in touch with Matchroom CEO Frank Smith about Helenius flying in to save the show at the o2.

“I hadn’t even had a shower when my manager came to me and said ‘I have something to ask you’,” Helenius recalls. “He came five or 10 minutes after the fight and I was like, ‘yeah I won, now let’s go on vacation.’

“And he was like, ‘not so fast’. He said, ‘do you want to fight next weekend?’ And I was like, ‘I need to see my kids.’ But then he said it was the Joshua fight and I was like, ‘oh man. Let me think.’ And 10 minutes I thought about it and after that I was like, yeah, let’s do this. This is what we do.

“I would probably be in Lapland in the forest. Tenting, fishing, hunting, relaxing. I haven’t had a lot of time but I have been hunting now and then. That was the plan.

“Of course the kids were feeling sad but they understand my job. They have been all their life with me when I have been doing this job. The oldest is 15, middle is 13 and youngest is 10. They don’t box, they play soccer.”

A situation like this, of course, would never happen in football. Helenius is 39 years old, was knocked out by Deontay Wilder inside a round 10 months ago and later told the American puncher that he was going to retire. He didn’t.

Now, just days after his comeback fight at the castle, Helenius is one punch away from the biggest victory of his entire career. He will also, for the 37th time in the last 15 years, put himself in the way of some serious harm.

“I can’t ask permission from home to do what I do,” he says of his family, who have postponed the trip to Lapland. “They either accept or they don’t.

“Sometimes, of course, I think about the dangers of boxing. I would be stupid if I didn’t. Of course I have been thinking about wanting to have a normal life after boxing and not have any brain damages, of course, but boxing is always boxing and I love it. I love the adrenaline so it doesn’t outweigh the feeling of getting a really good win.”

This would be, by far, the biggest win of his career and would be one of the all-time biggest shocks in a British ring. Cinderella Man part two. Helenius, however, insists he is here to win, after working Joshua out during their sparring sessions back in 2017.

“He is a tough guy,” Helenius adds. “I think we went eight-round sessions. It was pretty close. Hard hitter, good technicals, a little bit robotic but his last fight, he made a good fight against Jermaine [Franklin]. I felt pretty confident back then. I have to be awake, nimble, explosive, fast.

“Of course I think he is vunerable. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I think I would find easier jobs to do.

“I thought about retirement after the Wilder fight. I didn’t think about boxing for six months. I just did some bag work now and then but mostly strength training.

“But I have had a dream to be world champion for probably 15 years so if I get a chance, I will take it. Nobody will remember a coward.”

Beating Joshua these days will not secure any belts but victory will push him much closer towards either Tyson fury or Oleksandr Usyk. More likely before that, a huge payday in a rematch with Joshua. He would definitely not be fighting in front of 1,500 people in a castle in the middle of a lake in Finland – but he could probably buy one.

“Once the match got announced it was in every newspaper and on the TV all the time for maybe 24 hours,” he says with a smile. “If I win I think I would probably be elected president.

“Actually no, I wouldn’t want that for anybody but probably sportsperson of the year. I hope so anyway.”

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