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Robert Helenius preparing for his European title fight at the Ruskeasuo Sports Hall in November 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Here’s the good news: Robert Helenius, 31, the Finnish heavyweight giant, will still fight for the European championship belt and Intercontinental title of the IBF organisation at the Helsinki Arena on December 19.

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However, his opponent will change from the German knockout-artist, Erkan Teper, to a rather unknown Canadian-German boxer, Franz Rill, 28, – which is good or bad news, depending on the perspective.

In my opinion, which other boxing enthusiasts seem to support, Teper would have been a more challenging opponent for Helenius. The bout could have ended either way, even though I am ensured of Helenius’ killer instinct and the will to terminate any opponent standing in the way of his dream to become the World Champion. But in boxing, anything can happen . . . a lucky strike can change the outcome of the battle and an injury can prevent one from fighting.


And that’s exactly what’s happening with Teper; he will withdraw from the fight due to an injury in the forearm, which requires surgery.

“I have been preparing for weeks, especially mentally, to face Teper. Now I have to put my mental training in new shape,” Helenius said in a bulletin. “In that sense, the situation is hard but one has to see the positive sides. This will develop me as a boxer.”

[alert type=red ]”I have been preparing for weeks, especially mentally, to face Teper. Now I have to put my mental training in new shape.”[/alert]

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The change of opponent poses different challenges for Helenius’ trainer, Johan Lindström, as well.

Fort the past two and half weeks, Helenius has sparred specifically chosen sparring partners in the Pajulahti Sports Centre in the municipality of Nastola at the outskirts of Lahti. One of the boxers was Timur Musafarov, whom he faced in Tallinn in a public sparring match in November. It was a perfect tryout: previously Musafarov lost in a close fight with Teper, and the exhibition bout between Helenius and Musafarov ended 4-4.

Based on Teper’s chivalry, Lindström was rightfully assured that Musafarov would be “an excellent sparring opponent for Helenius.”

Lindström tackled the Rill-challenge by giving the sparring partners different tasks, which Helenius was not aware of.

“That’s how I can focus to any occurring problems and react to them.”

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Johan Lindström training his protégé. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Planning tactics for different opponents is naturally a big part of preparing for the fight, but what Helenius was really lacking in Tallinn, was proper conditioning to last a total of 12 rounds. While fighting Musafarov, he gassed out in round six.

To improve his conditioning in addition to extensive rounds of sparring during the past weeks, Helenius has been immersed in diverse circuit training, swimming (a tip from the former world champion Klitschko, whom Helenius sparred in November, I believe), and he’s been fighting the heavy bag and punching mitts with his face covered in an elevation mask, which stimulates high altitude training. Helenius trains two, three times a day, with one free day in a week.

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But what do we know about the 28-year-old Franz Rill? The statistics say that he has won all of his eleven fights with seven knockouts, which makes Helenius almost half as experienced with 21 wins, 13 knockouts and zero losses.

He also has an impressive highlight in his resume: Rill sparred with Tyson Fury while preparing him for the world champion bout against Wladimir Klitschko in November. Klitschko lost the title. Rill has also sparred with the former European champion Kubrat Pulev and Erkan Teper, “I’ve always had good grounds with them,” he said in a video.

[alert type=green ]Rill sparred with Tyson Fury while preparing him for the world champion bout against Wladimir Klitschko in November. Klitschko lost the title.[/alert]

Rill will enter the fight without pressure. He has nothing to lose and all to win – a dangerous underdog and a dangerous example from the history books of boxing, where the out-of-towner has after the fight lifted his hands in the air as a sign of win.

“I have seen a few of Helenius’ fights and I know that I can beat him,” Rill said.

“I am going to surprise Helenius and destroy his teeth.”

Big talk. But the words have to backed by action.

After watching a few of Rill’s fights from video, he seems to have a somewhat similar body shape; he is only six centimetres shorter than the two-metres tall Helenius.

Rill seems to indulge into sudden lunges of lefts and rights and favours in-fighting more than Helenius. In clinch, he tends to pound the kidneys with hooks.

Helenius on the other hand has faster footwork and more variation in punches, a legendary strong right hand, and tends to avoid clinch.

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

Helenius’ father, manager and second trainer, Karl, analysed that his son will have to initiate in the fight more than he would against Teper. “Rill likes to observe openings for hits.”

What we know so far is also the fact that Helenius insists on fighting in front of his fans at Helsinki Arena. He was offered a WBC organisation world champion fight against the current champion, US boxer, Deontay Wilder, if he would have refused to fight for the European title.

[alert type=red ]Helenius was offered a WBC organisation world champion fight against the current champion, US boxer, Deontay Wilder, if he would have refused to fight for the European title.[/alert]

“Cancelling the fight on next Saturday wasn’t an option at all. Robert absolutely wants to fight in Finland in front of his fans at Hartwall Arena. It’s the number one priority,” Karl Helenius said.

According to the promoter of the fight, the winner of the bout will have to defend his title against Teper in the spring.

However, if Helenius wins, there may be a world title match in sight in the near future. Team Helenius will now focus on beating Rill and then they are going to start the negotiations for the world title fight with the IBF organisation. The title is now open because Tyson Fury refused to fight another opponent and instead wants a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko.

“Rill is a pretty brave boy if he dares to come and fight me. I hope he has gotten someone to escort him home because after my handling it could be hard to find the outer door from the Helsinki Arena,” Helenius said.