Finnish heavyweight boxer Robert Helenius and his team descending the stairs of Olavinlinna castle before his fight against Belarusian boxer Yury Bykhatsou in Savonlinna on August 11, 2018. Behind Helenius: trainer Johan Lindström, cutman Ervin Kade and manager Markus Sundman. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
F innish heavyweight boxer Robert Helenius makes his US debut in Minnesota on Saturday night.
Helenius, 35, better known to his opponents as “The Nordic Nightmare,” will face Mexican-American boxer Gerald Washington, 37, who is a couple of years older and has a couple of centimeters of reach advantage. (Helenius’ reach is 201cm, Washington’s reach is 208cm.)
Both men are about equal in height. (Helenius is 200cm, Washington 198cm.)
Helenius has more experience in the ring. He has won 28 of his thirty fights. 17 of his wins are knockouts. Washington has won 19 fights, lost three and has one draw. He has 12 KOs in his resume.
At the weigh-in on Friday evening at the fight’s venue, Minneapolis Armory, Helenius weighed 110.4 kilos. Washington’s weight was 107 kilos.
For this fight, Helenius is several kilos lighter than typically.
For example, in September 2016—when he fought German boxer Konstantin Airich, known as the “Sandman,” and knocked him out in 49 seconds—Helenius weighed 118.8 kilos.
But Helenius’ weight for this fight, according to his trainer, Johan Lindström, is exactly where it should be.
“We don’t need the extra kilos for this fight. Washington is a quite light heavyweight. We are going to outbox him with footwork and speed,” he said on a video late on Friday evening.
Should an uppercut like this connect to Washington’s chin, the fight could be quickly over. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
For the past four years, American boxer Deontay Wilder has been holding the prestigious WBC World Champion heavyweight title.
In the past years, there have been many challengers trying to punch him off his throne.
In 2017, one of them was Gerald Washington. He lost. After a great beginning, he was knocked out by Washington in the fifth.
When Wilder defended his title this year in mid-May against Dominic Breazeale, Helenius had just left Wilder’s training camp in the deep south, Alabama.
The eyes of the boxing world had once again been laid upon Helenius after he knocked out German boxer Erkan Teper in the eight in September last year and thus taking home the IBF title.
Helenius had been invited to Wilder’s camp because the word in the ring was that he could offer something special. Agility and attitude, sure. Sweat and tears. Absolutely.
It’s only natural that, now, the US boxing community want to see Helenius fight in front of their eyes.
Helenius and Washington at the press conference in Minnesota, USA on July 11, 2019. Picture: Johan Lindström
The previous Helenius fight yours truly witnessed from ringside was in last August in Finland, in the city of Savonlinna, in its majestic medieval castle.
There Helenius faced Yury Bykhautsou, a Belarusian heavyweight, whom Helenius sent home with bruised ribs and liver and a loss with a unanimous decision.
Helenius appeared to be in the shape of his life. He was lean and his biceps were slightly bigger than his fists. He said that he had been focusing on his conditioning and that he had cleaned his diet, eating local-produced food. “I am still not a vegetarian though,” he said after the fight and laughed.
At the press conference in Minnesota on Thursday evening by judging from a video, he seemed relaxed and in a good mood.
“My condition is great. We’ve been here for 10 days to adjust to the time zone. During the first days I wanted to go and sleep at 20:00 in the evening,” he said in a video interview.
The weather there is warm and sunny. He’s surrounded by over 10,000 lakes and many tall green-leaved trees—a nature resembling Finland. In fact, about one-quarter of Minnesota’s residents have a Nordic background.
“A win will open more doors for me in the USA. This is a great chance for me to really penetrate the US market,” Helenius said.
Yours truly is going to watch a live broadcast of the fight at Viaplay and report the results.
Here’s where you can watch it, too: https://viaplay.fi/urheilu/nyrkkeily/premier-boxing-champions/james-vs-demarco/20558866