Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

It has been over 1,000 days since Deontay Wilder stepped into a boxing ring to face an opponent other than Tyson Fury. On Saturday, the former WBC heavyweight champion looks to move past the Fury saga when he faces Robert Helenius at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (9 p.m. ET, FOX PPV).

Wilder’s career has been tangled with Fury’s dating back to their first meeting in December 2018, a clash that ended in a controversial split draw. After Fury stopped Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KO) twice to settle their rivalry, it left Wilder out of the world title picture for the first time since he won the WBC belt in 2015.

One of the hardest punchers in boxing history, Wilder will be looking to get back to his old ways when he faces off with Helenius (31-3, 20 KO). Only one Wilder opponent other than Fury has been able to last to the judges’ scorecards and four of Wilder’s 41 career knockout victories have come inside Barclays Center.

“I’ve had some of my most dramatic and exciting knockouts and most enjoyable moments in this arena,” Wilder said at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. “When I got off the plane, the energy here just felt amazing. … It almost feels like a second home to me. I’m always here and put on my best performances here. I’m not looking for nothing less than a great performance. The fans are in for a treat. There’s a lot on the line, and I think I’ve got the right opponent for us to give the fans what we want to see.”

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Helenius is a former Wilder sparring partner and the two men share a healthy respect that at times seems to border on something as close to friendship as two opponents come.

“I’ve got tremendous love and respect for Robert,” Wilder said. “We’ve known each other for years, and he’s come to my camps (in the past). They say iron sharpens iron, and we’ve definitely done that. The reason I agreed to this fight is he’s been on a winning streak. He’s been looking great. And this is for a WBC eliminator. If I’m gonna come back, why not fight the best, and fight for something that’s worth fighting for?”

Many had written Helenius off as a top-end heavyweight following a 2019 knockout loss to Gerald Washington in a fight that Helenius entered as a clear favorite. Helenius then found himself in position to play the B-side against a rising star in Adam Kownacki.

Entering his March 2020 bout with Kownacki, Helenius was a +2000 underdog in a fight that was supposed to land Kownacki a shot at a world title. Helenius defied the odds that night, battering Kownacki before scoring a fourth-round stoppage that breathed new life into a once-promising career that had been derailed by injuries and some disappointing performances.

Helenius proved the massive upset was no fluke when he rematched Kownacki in October 2021, again entering the ring as an underdog and again scoring a TKO victory, this time in the sixth round.

A win over Wilder would be the biggest of Helenius’ career, without a doubt. As the fight is a WBC eliminator, it would also potentially set him up for his first world title shot in a career that began with so much promise all the way back in 2008.

“I feel tremendously lucky,” Helenius said during a virtual press conference. “I’ve been in this game a long time, like 2010 and 2011 I was knocking out Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter, Siarhei Liakhovich and other guys like that. After that, I got a severe injury and I was gone for a long time. And now it’s the first time I feel l’m back in the business.”

The undercard features a long-awaited showdown at 168 pounds when former champions Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell battle it out. The two have called for a fight against one another for years as they climbed the ranks at super middleweight. Now, Plant enters off a loss to Canelo Alvarez in a bid to unify all four titles while Dirrell is 1-1-1 in his last three. Plus, rising Cuban heavyweight prospect Frank Sanchez is back when he takes on Carlos Negron. And Gary Antonio Russell returns in a bantamweight contest against Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before making a prediction on the main event.

Fight card, odds

Deontay Wilder -800 Robert Helenius +550 Heavyweight
Caleb Plant -1000 Anthony Dirrell +650 Super middleweight
Frank Sanchez -2500 Carlos Negron +1200 Heavyweight
Gary Antonio Russell -210 Emmanuel Rodriguez +175 Bantamweight

Viewing information

  • Date: Oct. 15 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
  • Location: Barclays Center — Brooklyn, New York
  • TV channel/PPV price: FOX PPV ($74.99)

Prediction

Helenius picking up the two wins over Kownacki has made for a great story. He truly was viewed as someone who would be a player in the heavyweight division before setback after setback left the boxing world to write him off. But Kownacki was someone whose fan-friendly style was always going to get exploited by the right fighter. Helenius was that guy, someone with the reach and patience to find enough clean shots to put Kownacki away before the constant wave of punches and pressure could overwhelm as it always had for Kownacki.

Wilder may be a massive puncher, but he isn’t a particularly reckless fighter. At times, Wilder is actually too hesitant to let go, looking for the perfect shot. That works well because a perfect Wilder shot knocks out nearly any man walking the planet. But in a fight like his rematch with Luis Ortiz, Wilder can punt away rounds through inactivity looking for that one punch. Against Ortiz, that punch came, as it almost always has.

Helenius will put in work if Wilder isn’t active. He’s an aggressive, tall and strong fighter. But he’s also been knocked out by Gerald Washington and Johann Duhaupas, two men who don’t have as many knockouts combined as Wilder has in his career. It doesn’t matter how many early rounds Helenius can tuck away because Wilder’s right hand is going to land eventually and Helenius can’t stand up to it when it does. Pick: Deontay Wilder via KO4





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