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British heavyweight boxer Dillian Whyte, 29, has been struggling to find an opponent.
People don’t want to fight Dillian Whyte,” said English boxing promoter Eddie Hearn in the beginning of October. “He’s a real handful. He’s got a great chin, he don’t stop throwing punching, he’s strong. It’s frustrating.”
That was until the Finnish heavyweight giant, Robert Helenius, 33, decided to take on the challenge. Helenius will face Whyte on Saturday at the national stadium of Wales in the capital Cardiff in the United Kingdom, under the eyes of 70,000 spectators.
It’s a decisive fight of Helenius’ career. If he wins, he will have an actual shot at the World Title. The winner will grab the WBC Silver title and rise to the fifth position on the heavyweight boxing ranking list, entitled to challenge the world champion. If Helenius loses . . . well, the readers of Finland Today already know this: “It’s not an option,” to summon Helenius’ thoughts from countless of interviews over his 17-year-long career.
I caught Helenius on the phone after he had arrived in Wales on Thursday. “I feel good,” he said. “The intensity is slowly growing before the fight.” Helenius took the fight with only a few weeks’ notice. He did this because of not only training hard the whole year and sending a 140-kilo Russian home with bruised ribs in a WBC title fight in Tallinn in June, but also because of sparring with the British World Champion Anthony Joshua in September.
Helenius joined Joshua’s training camp in Sheffield, England, to prepare him for his world title fight and to learn from the best. To be the best, you have to train with the best, to quote Helenius. “The sparring went really well. That’s why I accepted the fight with such short notice,” Helenius said on the phone, sounding calm and confident.
On paper Whyte looks dangerous. He’s burly and only about ten centimeters shorter than his two meters tall Finnish counterpart, and his arms are as long as the road from Helsinki to Utsjoki. In fact, his reach is almost identical to Helenius’: 198 centimeters (Helenius’ reach is 201 centimeters). Whyte has won 21 of his fights and lost one by a knockout; Helenius has won 25 and lost one as well.
A closer look at what we know about Whyte reveals that, unlike Helenius, he’s known for trash-talking and bad temper. This is his weakness and could be a decisive factor in the result of the fight.
In 2015, in Whyte’s bout against Joshua, who currently holds the WBA and IBF championship belts, Whyte started swinging at Joshua after the bell in the first round. Whyte lost the fight after a knockout in the seventh. Before the fight, Whyte had called Joshua “fake.”
In heavyweight circles, the list of good potential opponents is not that big, so it’s not a surprise that Whyte and Helenius share a history of some of the same pugilists. How both handled them definitely adds to the interest of the upcoming battle.
Whyte knocked down Georgian Beka Lobjanidze in February 2015; Helenius did the same in Vaasa during the same year in June. However, the most notable of their common opponents is the British Dereck Chisora, whom Whyte won in an even bout with a split decision in October 2016. In 2011, it was a split decision, too, that got Helenius to lift his left hand in victory. The difference was that Helenius won the fight using mostly just that very same hand due to an injury to his right.
On Saturday, Helenius has promised to use both fists to beat Whyte.
Robert Helenius vs Dillian Whyte can be watched live at viaplay.fi/ppv for a price of 29.95 euros. The broadcast is scheduled to begin on October 28 at 20:00 Finnish time.
Cover picture: Robert Helenius with his fiancé Sandra Helsing after Helenius knocked down his Argentinian opponent in 48 seconds in December 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
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