Anthony Joshua on Helenius: 'I’ve gotta take him deadly serious'

Anthony Joshua is familiar with fighting late-replacement opponents during his career, and August 12th will be the same as he rebuilds his career following back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.

2022 saw the former two-time unified world heavyweight champion fail to recapture his heavyweight world titles in Saudi Arabia following his 2021 defeat to Usyk at New White Heart Lane Stadium, London. Joshua would lose both contests to Usyk via points.

August 5th saw original opponent Dillian Whyte removed from the contest with Joshua due to a failed VADA-administered drug test, testing positive for a substance yet to be formally disclosed.

Standing in the opposite corner this upcoming Saturday will be Robert Helenius, confirmed as Joshua’s replacement opponent on Tuesday and last in action this past weekend in his native Finland. Helenius, a former EBU heavyweight champion, holds a record of 32 wins against four defeats and has previously been a regular fixture in Joshua’s training camps in previous years.

However, despite the familiarity between the pair, Joshua is giving Helenius his full attention and refuses to underestimate the Finn.

“It’d be silly to underestimate Helenius, silly to underestimate anyone,” Joshua said during a press conference Wednesday in London. “So, I’ve gotta take him deadly seriously. And credit to him as well. He’s coming to roll the dice. He wants to win. As you mentioned, other heavyweights, [with] certain people obviously finance is the big issue, risk versus reward. But in reality, that’s not all there is to this for him. He wants to win, so he’s here. So, good luck to him.

“And shout out to everyone in Finland as well. I’ve been there before. And we’re looking to combine UK, Finland and the rest of the world to bring some good entertainment from the top right to the bottom. The undercard is phenomenal. So, yeah, don’t miss a fight. Do not miss a fight because this card is unbelievable.”

Joshua admitted that the late replacement of an opponent was not ideal; however, as previously mentioned, it is something he has handled before. As a world champion, Joshua saw previously slated opponents Kubrat Pulev and Jarrell Miller replaced on late notice. Pulev was replaced by Carlos Takam in October 2017 due to injury, while Miller was replaced due to a failed drug test and replaced with Andy Ruiz Jr in the summer of 2019.

Ruiz would upset the oddsmakers by securing a stunning stoppage victory at Madison Square Garden to rip the unified world titles away from Joshua courtesy of a seventh-round stoppage. Joshua would recapture the unified world titles in Saudi Arabia in December of the same year.

Late replacements aren’t ideal,” Joshua said. “But I’d say this is the third time it’s happened. We had it with Kubrat Pulev and Takam, Jarrell Miller and Ruiz. Now this situation, so this is what happens. A long career, we’re all presented [with] these types of obstacles, and I’ve just gotta get used to ‘em. So, yeah, this is just another rock in my shoe towards the top of the mountain.”