Anthony Joshua took his time, but he ultimately came through triumphantly.
In the initial stages of the match, the former heavyweight champion grappled with the challenge of deciphering a strategy to connect with a significant blow on Robert Helenius. Finally, in the seventh round, a solitary right-hand punch sealed the deal in an instant. The electrifying moment unfolded on Saturday at London's O2 Arena.
This victory marks Joshua's consecutive second win, effectively rebounding from his consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk. With this impressive triumph, Joshua is now positioned for an eagerly anticipated showdown with fellow former titleholder, Deontay Wilder.
“That’s the fight we want,” said promoter Eddie Hearn, referring to Wilder. “We have a three-fight plan, whether you like it or not. It was Robert Helenius, supposed to be Dillian Whyte; Deontay Wilder, and then Tyson Fury.
“That’s the ambition of the team.”
On short notice, Robert Helenius stepped into the ring against Anthony Joshua, filling in for Dillian Whyte who had been removed from the card due to a failed drug test. Despite his brief preparation, Helenius showcased a commendable performance... at least for a portion of the match.
Throughout the bout, Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) employed his jab effectively and intermittently launched power shots, although he exercised caution in taking significant risks. He focused on understanding his opponent's style, biding his time for the perfect opening to land a decisive blow.
However, this approach led to disappointment from the home crowd who expressed their desire for Joshua to unleash a more aggressive onslaught. The atmosphere shifted dramatically in a spellbinding instant. In a dazzling turn of events, Joshua seized an opportunity as Helenius found himself cornered. With a straight right hand, Joshua struck Helenius on the chin, causing him to collapse onto the canvas in an unconscious state. The audience, previously restless, leapt to their feet, suddenly satisfied.
Referee Victor Loughlin determined there was no need for a count, as Helenius was visibly unable to continue. The official time of the stoppage was recorded as 1:27.
In a remarkable transformation, Joshua, now under the guidance of new trainer Derrick James, swiftly turned an initially uninspiring performance into a contender for Knockout of the Year. This outcome precisely aligns with Joshua's aspirations as he eyes a forthcoming encounter with Deontay Wilder, potentially taking place late this year or in early 2024.
“He’s got talent,” Joshua said about Helenius. “So I had to figure him out. He was a late replacement. And I think he can cause a lot of people some problems, in my opinion. Credit to him for coming out tonight and saving the show. …
“I need to stay busy. I need to keep on building, keep on building. I’ve been off for too long.”
Joshua had no inclination before Saturday to discuss a prospective meeting with Wilder.
He was asked again about what would be one of the biggest possible heavyweight matchups. He didn’t answer the question directly but made it clear by playacting that he’s on board with a heavyweight takeover.
“My back, my back. Is there a doctor in here? My back is going,” he said, his voice rising, “… [is going] to carry this heavyweight division to the top.”
Hearn clearly believes in his longtime client, a 33-year-old former two-time heavyweight champion bent on a third reign.
“Whether you back Joshua, whether you think he can do it, whether you think not, he’s changed,” Hearn said. “He’s now a mature heavyweight. I know everyone wants to see a first, second, third round KO, but against Helenius he took his time and delivered one of the knockouts of the year.
“And we believe he can go on to beat Deontay Wilder. … We look to try to close that deal over the next couple of days. Joshua is ready for that fight.”