Hearn on selecting Helenius to face Joshua: 'I think it's quite a dangerous fight'

Eddie Hearn has come out and defended the selection of Robert Helenius as Anthony Joshua’s replacement opponent following the confirmation that Dillian Whyte had been removed as the opponent for the former two-time unified heavyweight world champion.

Whyte tested positive for an unknown substance at the time of publication from Whyte’s anti-doping test conducted by VADA, with the confirmation of Whyte’s testing failure being made public on August 5th.

Hearn and Matchroom had scrambled to secure an opponent to save the event and allow Joshua to produce what he had been training on under new trainer Derrick James.

Hearn, speaking on Matchroom’s official social media pages, the promoter feels that Helenius was the ideal option considering that other leading candidates, Filip Hrgovic and Demsey McKean, would not be suitable stylistically for Joshua.

“I have seen Helenius a few times on Fox and batter Adam Kwonacki, and he lost to Deontay Wilder by a shot which would have knocked out a horse. He came to fight (against Wilder), and that’s why he got knocked out in that fight. He can punch, he is six foot eight, and he won at the weekend.

“He gave me a message straight after his fight in the changing room. I actually think it is a tricky fight (for Joshua), quite a dangerous fight.

“You are going to get criticised whatever you do. You got people like Filip Hrgovic, who has had a twelve-week camp for a southpaw. His team are not going to necessarily jump in with Anthony Joshua. You then got Demsey McKean, who is a southpaw. AJ is not going to fight someone who is a southpaw.

“Then you have got other people saying they will take the fight, but the money just did not work. It is very difficult in this situation to make everybody happy. What we know is that we needed a fight that is competitive. A fight that carries danger.”

Hearn then continues to add that he and Joshua have found themselves in this situation when an opponent has failed a doping test before a fight with AJ. In June of 2019, Jarrell Miller famously failed multiple doping tests for multiple substances, ultimately leading to Andy Ruiz securing the opportunity to fight Joshua at Madison Square Garden. Ruiz would seize the opportunity by claiming a stoppage victory over Joshua to become the unified world heavyweight champion.

“We have been here before”, continues Hearn. “There was a fight called Jarrell Miller, and this is the second time that a fighter has failed drug tests against Anthony Joshua.

“We had a replacement opponent that time, and he went by the name of Andy Ruiz.”

Hearn defends the decision to keep this upcoming Saturday’s promotion to run as scheduled by saying that the show does not go ahead without Joshua. Hearn praises Joshua’s conduct throughout the turbulent period following the news that Whyte had been found to have been doping and that he is now just ready to fight.

“The show does not go ahead without Anthony Joshua. AJ has been unbelievable through this whole process. Not an ounce of anger, not an ounce of resentment and even not an ounce of major surprise (referring to Whyte failing his drug testing). He is just someone who is ready to fight.

“He has trained for twelve weeks in Dallas (Texas) with Derrick James in 110-120 degree heat every day, and he has knocked his bollocks out in this camp, and now he wants to smash someone up, and that’s his mindset right now.

“He (Joshua) has always been a great pro, but this shows me repeatedly the hunger he has for the sport.”

Hearn concludes and admits that the change of opponent has impacted everyone involved in the promotion. However, AJ just wants to perform and show his improvements to the world and himself what he has made under Derrick James.

“Financially, it impacts everybody, but it’s more than that to him (Joshua); he wants to perform. He wants to show the world and show himself, most importantly, the improvements that he has made under Derrick James.

“It has been difficult not to say too much, but he has been on fire in this training camp, and we expect a fantastic performance from him and wants to show you that.

“His instruction was that he wanted to fight, and we do not let him down when given that instruction.”