"We’re going to take Wilder to school" – Robert Helenius’ confidence at its peak before the match that could lead to a WC clash

With a victory over Deontay Wilder, Robert Helenius can seriously become World Cup relevant. But beating the former world champion is easier said than done. I have to take him seriously, says “Robbe” to Yle Sporten.

– The biggest match of his career so far. The absolute best rated boxer we met.

Robert Helenius’ trainer Johan Lindström confirms this barely a month before “The Nordic Nightmare” is to face Deontay Wilder in New York. It is easy to subscribe to that analysis.

Wilder is by all accounts the toughest boxer Helenius has faced. The Alabama-born 36-year-old was the WBC world champion from 2015 to 2020 when he lost to Tyson Fury for the first time. He has won 42 of his 45 fights – 41 of them by knockout.

– Of course he is a tough opponent, but he is only a step on my way to the world championship, says Robert Helenius himself confidently in his gym in Mariehamn.

– He has lost a few matches against Fury, yes, but he is a tough opponent that I have to take seriously. But at the same time, he is not invincible. I have done and will do everything I can to become world champion. That means beating him, he continues.

Victory could lead to a WC fight against Usyk

It may actually be the final, decisive step. At the end of last week, the Ukrainian IBF, WBA and WBO world champion Oleksandr Usyk announced that he wants to face the winner of the match in his next World Championship fight.

Such statements should still be taken with a large pinch of salt. The interview that Usyk and his team gave to the reputable site Ring TV is permeated with criticism of WBC champion Fury, who chose to prioritize a “Battle of Britain” against Anthony Joshua over facing Usyk.

Oleksandr Usyk celebrates in the boxing ring with the Ukrainian flag.
Oleksandr Usyk has defeated Anthony Joshua twice.

Image: EPA-EFE/All Over Press

– Usyk is not like Fury. He wants to face winners, not losers, said his manager Egis Klimas in the interview, which received a lot of attention in the Finnish media.

But at the same time, it’s no secret that a victory over Wilder would significantly boost Helenius’ shares in the rankings, regardless of how truthful Usyk’s team’s plans are.

– Every match is unique, but facing Wilder in particular is still special, says coach Lindström.

“Not classically schooled – but the right is exceptionally good”

How is Deontay Wilder as an opponent then? According to coach Lindström, it is not easy to pin down his style.

– It is very unorthodox, he says.

– He doesn’t really use any of the classic boxing styles. He is not trained to any particular style, but is instead an instinctive, athletic, resilient and fast fighter. So yeah, it’s hard to lay out exact tactical plans.

Deontay Wilder in the ring against Tyson Fury.
Deontay Wilder lost in the final fight of the “trilogy” against Tyson Fury on October 9, 2021. Since then, he has stayed away from the ring.

Image: EPA-EFE/All Over Press

What all boxing fans know anyway is that it pays to avoid his devastating right.

– It is exceptionally good. He sets it up well and hits accurately. It is by far his greatest weapon, but perhaps also his only one. Robbe, meanwhile, has a real toolbox with his footwork, different tactics…

Lindström takes a short break.

– He is not a dazzling boxer, but an incredibly good fighter. You have to give him credit for that. But this time we’ll probably take him to school, when it comes to boxing.

Familiar pugilists

Although the exact match tactics are shrouded in obscurity, it’s no secret that Helenius and Wilder know each other well. Wilder invited Helenius to spar before he faced Tyson Fury for the third time last year and the sessions added flavor.

– I have great respect for Robert and his team, Wilder said at a press conference when the match was announced according to Ilta-Sanomat.

– This will be a match between two boxers with enormous heart. None of us will give up until you have given everything you have in your body. But don’t get me wrong. The fact that we trained together does not mean that this match will be boring.

Robert Helenius, Johan Lindström and Deontay Wilder pose together.
Robert Helenius, Johan Lindström and Deontay Wilder pose during a training session last year.

Image: Robert Helenius

Both Wilder and Helenius have had a competitive break for almost a year. Wilder took a breather after the loss to Fury, Helenius in turn has been waiting for the right opposition ever since he knocked out Adam Kownacki a second time.

After everything became clear regarding the upcoming fight, Helenius began a three-month training camp. Barely two weeks remain of the intensive period in Mariehamn before the team leaves for New York.

– These are hard times, says Helenius and smiles.

– We spar three or four times a week, do interval training … there are two weeks left of this – then we go to the USA to get used to the time difference in good time. And then we continue with the sparring there to get the feeling of the match in the body.

The match between Helenius and Wilder takes place on October 15 in Brooklyn, New York. Regardless of how the match ends, Helenius will receive a “seven-figure” fee.

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