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Robert Helenius, the Finnish heavyweight boxer, delivers a left punch to the jaw of his Canadian-German opponent, Franz Rill at the European heavyweight boxing title fight at Helsinki Arena on Saturday night, (Sunday) 20 December. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Robert Helenius, 31, won the European heavyweight championship title at Helsinki Arena on Saturday night in a cat-and-mouse game with a unanimous decision by points.

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In the first round, Helenius sent his German opponent, Franz Rill, 28, to the floor in only 20 seconds. Rill got up, though, pretty fast and kept going.

The knockdown made Helenius to want more. He wanted a final knockout, so he started chasing Rill. Helenius dominated the centre of the ring and the pugilists moved in a big circle, Helenius belting, pushing and pressuring his opponent.


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Another left to the face by Helenius. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

In the fourth round Helenius sent Rill rolling on the floor with a beautiful combo: a left jab in the face and right hook on the chin. Another eight-count.

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Rill hooks Helenius in the ear. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Rill didn’t give up easily. He was strongest during the in-fighting; he blasted Helenius with fast hooks from the ribs to the face. This was clearly the tactic he had trained for. The tactic he thought he could beat Helenius with.

Helenius kept chasing. He landed a few of his trademark body punches with his right, hoping for another and final knockout. This punch, after all, knocked down his Georgian opponent Beka Lobjanidze in Vaasa in June.

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Rill fought the whole 12 rounds. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Helenius kept pushing, he was continuously on Rill’s face, connecting with a fast lead hand jab. The improved jab had become Helenius’ weapon of choice while looking for the big right hand that would send Rill sleeping.

READ:  Finnish Heavyweight Boxer Robert Helenius Wants the EU Champion Belt: 'I Am the King of the Nordics'

Rill remained standing, though.

Both fighters were in good condition and there was no apparent loss of stamina.

In November, Helenius gassed out in round six in a public sparring match in Tallinn but for the last three weeks he had been focusing on this weakness and thanks to his innovative boxing trainer and conditioning-expert, Johan Lindström, he looked better than ever.

Helenius hugs his father, Karl. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Helenius hugs his father, Karl. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The fighters went all 12 rounds. The audience of over 11,000 cheered and clapped, and Helenius hugged his team in the ring.

Seppo Finnilä, the cutman, Johan Lindström, the trainer, and the European champion, Robert Helenius posing for Finland Today. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Seppo Finnilä, the cutman, Johan Lindström, the trainer, and the European champion, Robert Helenius posing for Finland Today. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“It was really important for Robert to get his title back, which he had in 2010 before he got injured. He wanted to prove that he can do this on his own,” said Lindström.

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Helenius grabbed two belts: the vacant EBU (European) heavyweight and IBF International heavyweight title by points: 117-109, 118-109, 117-109. The fight is Helenius’ 22 consecutive win. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Helenius indeed proved that he didn’t need any help from his previous team, the big German boxing promotional group, Sauerland.

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Tony Öhberg and Ari Björklund at your service. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

After the thrilling fight me and my assistant stepped outside from the bright lights of the arena and into the darkness and rain. In the taxi queue people were cheering Helenius and talking about “a good fight”. The taxi driver was complaining about the bad weather but we couldn’t stop smiling. It was a good fight.

READ:  Robert Helenius Knocks Down Gonzalo 'Victory' Basile in 48 Seconds at Helsinki Arena

I suddenly remembered the phrase one fan shouted at the weigh-in, “Rill is to become grill food, which sounds funnier in Finnish dialect: ‘Rillistä tehdään rilliruokaa.’”

So, we stopped by the grill kiosk at five in the morning.

“What would you recommend to us?” my assistant asked from the wise old lady behind the counter of the cubicle.

“I recommend that you go home and sleep.”

She was right.

It was a good fight.