Tuesday, October 03, 2023  |


Robert Helenius steps up to face Anthony Joshua after Dillian Whyte fails drug test

Helenius' last significant victory was a rematch stoppage of Adam Kownacki but the veteran fought on Aug. 5 and says he's ready for Joshua. Photo by Stephanie Trapp-Trappfotos-TGB Promotions
Fighters Network

Anthony Joshua has an opponent for Saturday night.

Joshua, the former unified world heavyweight titleholder, will now face fringe contender Robert Helenius, Matchroom Boxing announced Tuesday. The 12-round bout will take place at the O2 Arena in London, England and will be streamed worldwide on DAZN

Helenius replaces contender Dillian Whyte, who is rated No. 6 by The Ring, who was forced to withdraw from the fight due to failing a drug test. According to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), Whyte “had returned positive analytical findings as part of a random anti-doping protocol.”

A full investigation is underway.

After Whyte fell off the card, the search was on for a suitable opponent. Names like Filip Hrgovic, who is scheduled to fight unbeaten Demsey McKean on the same card, and Otto Wallin were mentioned. Gerald Washington, who is also on the card against Derek Chisora, was also considered as opponents.

“To get the news on Saturday was really disappointing, not only for us, but for Anthony Joshua and for the fans,” said Eddie Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Boxing. “But we got to work and we have done what we’re good at – and we have managed to keep the show on. AJ has been unbelievable throughout this whole process. He is someone who is ready to fight having trained for 12 weeks in Dallas with Derrick James. He has always been a great pro, but this just shows me again the hunger he has for the sport. He wants to go out there this Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at the O2 and perform.

“There were a lot of options. But we had to make sure it was the right fight for the right deal. I think Robert Helenius is a good fight. Yes, he lost to Deontay Wilder, but that was by a shot that would have probably knocked out a horse. But he came to fight. He can really punch. He’s 6’8” and he won (this past) weekend. Ultimately, there is criticism in whatever you do, but I actually think this is a tricky and dangerous fight.”

Joshua (25-3, 22 knockouts), who is coming off a win over Jermaine Franklin on April 1, is relieved an opponent was eventually found.

“This wasn’t in the script,” said Joshua. “I respect Helenius and may I say, I respect any male or female who steps into the ring. I am laser focused on the win. I can make steps forward to bigger and better things but the road map has a checkpoint. Saturday night, may the best man win.”

The 33-year-old, who resides in Watford, England, is rated No. 3 by The Ring. Prior to the victory over Franklin, Joshua lost back-to-back decisions to Oleksandr Usyk.

Helenius (32-4, 21 KOs), who is originally from Stockholm, Sweden and now resides in Mariehman, Finland, fought this past Saturday night in Savonlinna, Finland, stopping unbeaten, but untested Mika Mielonen in the third round.

The 39-year-old has won four of his last five fights, all by knockout, since the knockout loss to Gerald Washington in July 2019. Helenius does have notable victories over Samuel Peter, twice against Adam Kownacki, and Attila Levin.

Despite accepting the Joshua fight less than 48 hours after his win over Mielonen, Helenius believes he is more than ready to pull off the upset victory.

“I am excited about fighting Anthony Joshua on August 12,” said Helenius, who is managed by Markus Sundman and fought a handful of times under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. “I am a true Viking that is willing to face any challenge at a moment’s notice. This is not an opportunity I was going to let slip away. I plan to make the most of it.”


Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]