Just a week ago ‘The Nordic Nightmare’ Robert Helenius was getting himself prepared to take on the little known 41 year old Mika Mielonen in the little known town of Savonlinna, Finland.
The 8 round bout at the Operastage, Olavinlinna, a 15th Century castle in the Finnish wilderness, was a far cry from where he was ten months previously. Helenius suffered a disappointing 1st round knockout loss to Deontay Wilder at the near 20,000 capacity Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Helenius came through unscathed last weekend in Finland, picking up a 3rd round knockout victory over his fellow countryman. However, unbeknown to The Nordic Nightmare his manager, Markus Sundman had received an SOS from Matchroom to see if the big Finn would step in for Dillian Whyte to face Anthony Joshua on just one week’s notice the night before his comeback.
“It’s a big opportunity to get back to the top of the game, I feel really good.” Helenius said in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “I’m really happy. I got lucky because I was training for the fight I had last weekend. And I had a fight, so everything went perfectly. I don’t know…It just feels like this was meant to be.
“To be honest, I was a little bit gun-shy at the start of my last fight. I didn’t really trust myself after what happened against Wilder. That’s why I took a fight like this, I needed to see if I still had it. I needed to see if I could go through a full training camp. I found out about the Joshua fight five minutes after this fight. In the locker room I had to think about five minutes, and I was like ‘right, let’s do this.’ This is what we do, this is my job, I’m a Viking!”
Helenius paused to laugh to himself for a brief second as he reminisced the moment he knew of the offer to face Joshua.
“You know, I wasn’t expecting a fight like this to come.” Helenius continued to explain. “It all happened so quick. But you know, nobody will remember a coward. I’m ready, I’ve been training my whole life. This is the perfect opportunity to shine.
“I knew nothing about Joshua when I was going out for the fight. I think it was a good judgment call from my manager not to tell me. It was smart for him not to tell me as I had to focus on my fight. I was wondering with my trainer though, because he knew as well, he was acting really weird and nervous and stuff, telling me to be careful.”
As Helenius walked out to the hundreds gathered in a building steeped in history unbeknown to the ramifications the result would have on his career, he still had his mind on his previous loss.
“I was really disappointed with the last fight because everything went well leading up to it, everything was perfect.” Helenius continued. “He had a better game plan, he had been sharpening his tactic to step back and hit from his back foot. All the rounds I sparred with him in the past he never did that. For me it was completely out of the blue. I think after about one and a half minutes I could feel something was not right, I should have done something different. But shit happens, that’s boxing.
“Of course it has been a rough time mentally. I didn’t even think about boxing for at least four or five months after Wilder. I just did my strength training. I think it was really awesome for me to get a nice long break, I’ve been going full speed for 16 years. It was good to step back and just focus on myself a little bit, keep an eye on my mental wellbeing. I feel refreshed and have new energy.”
Helenius (32-4, 21 KOs) has been in a similar position before, taking away the short notice of such a task. The Nordic Nightmare has bounced back from knockout losses to rally as the underdog but Joshua poses a much taller mountain to climb than before.
“I wasn’t even thinking about world championship level fights to be honest until this week.” Helenius added. “Sometimes life takes and sometimes life gives. I think Joshua is a much more conscious boxer now than before. He used to overrun people with his power but now he is trying to box more. He’s a really good technical boxer, it is going to be a tough fight. But I just feel like I have a real chance, I’m really happy they gave me this chance to prove myself.
“I have good power shots, if I get the chance I will take him out. But it is not the first thing I think about when I am in the ring. I just try to outbox and outsmart in every way. I have only respect for Anthony Joshua and nothing bad to say about him, but I think he is going to get a surprise on Saturday.”