By Jake Donovan
The warning was issued to Robert Helenius that Saturday's stay-busy fight with Michael Sprott in Magdeburg, Germany was viewed by EPIX - which picked up the U.S. rights to the show - as an evaluation fight.
The unbeaten heavyweight managed a unanimous decision win over the British journeyman by scores of 97-93 (twice) and 98-93 in the co-feature to the super middleweight title fight rematch between Arthur Abraham and Robert Stieglitz. The network will eventually weigh in on the fight, but even the victor himself wasn't impressed with his own performance.
"I could have been busier," Helenius admitted after a lethargic - if effective - effort in moving to 19-0 (11KO).
The towering heavyweight cited a recurring hand injury as the reason for his dismal output in the ten-round affair. He did enough to win the fight with room to spare, but that he failed to knock out the chinny Sprott (37-20, 17KO) spoke louder than his remaining unbeaten.
"The right hand (hurt). I was throwing it good in the first and second round, but then stopped throwing it," Helenius revealed, suggesting that he injured it early when Sprott adjusted his guard and awkwardly blocked a punch. "It hurts like hell."
Sprott picked up on the injury - or at least the decrease in punch output - and stepped it up in the middle rounds. Helenius adjusted in the second half of the fight and cruised to a decision, although abandoning the fundamentals in the process.
"I could have been busier with (the jab). I was lazy with it," Helenius admits. "It's not about conditioning. I'm conditioned well. It's just when I hurt my hand - It's my conscience. It hurts. I have to keep training through it."
Helenius was once targeted as a rising star in a heavyweight division long in search of new blood at the top level. His past three performances (including Saturday's win over Sprott) suggest one of two things: either he remains a work in progress, or his breakout knockout win of Siarhai Liakhovich nearly two years ago was the apex of his career.
A disputed split decision win over Dereck Chisora in Dec. '11 was the first time the Finnish heavyweight received major media backlash. Injuries kept him out of the ring for most of 2012, but back-to-back uninspiring showings against made-to-order opposition has caught the ire of the viewing public.
For now, the criticism continues to pour in. Ever the realist, Helenius knows he needs to make an adjustment if he is to rally the masses back in his corner.
"Maybe some are right," Helenius says of the skeptics that continue to grow with each fight. I have to be more convincing in my next fight. I know it's in me."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: