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Thud. Thud. Puff. “Goddamn my hands hurt.”
Holding mitts for Robert Helenius, 31, the Finnish heavyweight giant, on Wednesday evening at a public press conference at Casino Helsinki is difficult for even those of us who are professionals.
There are three days remaining for the European title heavyweight fight, and one could say that Helenius is more than ready and his mitts-holding trainer, Johan Lindström, is unwarmed.
“He punches so hard! I should warm-up for 30 minutes before starting with this . . ,” he muttered.
About 10 minutes ago I saw his placid opponent, Franz Rill, 29, a Canadian-German pugilist, skipping rope and punching lightly on the open palms of his trainer.
His posture looked strong, though, and he obviously is skilful. He has, after all, sparred with boxers in the likes of Tyson Fury and Erkan Teper. But today he was clearly saving his energy for the fight on Saturday.
Rill compares himself to Rocky while taking a fight against the more experienced Helenius.
In this wild fantasy, Rill is Rocky, the underdog, and Helenius is his black opponent Apollo Creed, the World Champion.
Helenius however is two metres tall, white and his face is covered in a thick bushy beard, whereas Rill wearing a carbon copy beard of his Finnish counterpart is according to statistics only six centimetres shorter. But next to Helenius he looks just like he described: an underdog.
On Friday, at the official weigh-in at the casino, Helenius stepped on the scale and made a new personal record weighing 114.6 kilos. Rill weighed 111.4 kilos.
“Rill is going to become grill food ((g)rilliruokaa),” a man shouted from the crowd, who had squeezed together shoulder to shoulder.
When the adversaries started the stare down and locked their eyes in an attempt to look into each other’s souls, Rill started to smile.
Then he extended himself on his toes, trying to look as tall as Helenius but his efforts went in vain.
Rill started to laugh, almost hysterically. And Helenius started smiling, too.
“Tomorrow I am going to wipe that smile off his face,” Helenius said after the stare down.
“And if he believes that he is Rocky and is going to take the same amount of punches as in the film, that’s fine by me too.”
Robert Helenius will fight Franz Rill for the European Heavyweight Championship and IBF Intercontinental Title at a 12-round boxing match at Helsinki Arena on December 19 2015. Rill has a professional record of 11 wins, seven knockouts and zero losses; Helenius has 21 wins, 13 knockouts, zero losses. The event features 11 fights and is the largest boxing event in the Nordic countries this year. About 11,000 tickets have been sold. There are still upper seats available.
Helenius’ and Rill’s fight is scheduled to start at 23:30. The organiser has promised “pyrotechnics like never seen before in Finland.” The Finnish pop artist, Diandra, will sing the national anthem before the face-off of Helenius and Rill.