Robert Helenius has sparred against Anthony Joshua several times in recent years.
If Helenius gets the opportunity to face Joshua in a fight that counts, the veteran heavyweight is confident he’d achieve what was expected of him 10 year ago.
“If I fight with Joshua,” Helenius told BoxingScene.com, “that would mean that Finland will have a new world champion.”
The 36-year-old Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs) won the WBA’s gold championship when he upset previously unbeaten Adam Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) by fourth-round technical knockout last month in New York. That impressive victory at least moved Helenius into position to eventually challenge England’s Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), who owns the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO championships.
“I think it would be a really interesting fight,” Helenius said. “It would go well for me. I’ve also been there, sparring with him, so I know him a little bit. He’s a good guy. I like him a lot. But he’s standing in my way for the title, so I have to take him down.”
It is unclear, according to the WBA’s rules, who is its mandatory challenger for Joshua’s “super” heavyweight title.
Germany’s Manuel Charr (31-4, 17 KOs) is the WBA’s world heavyweight champion, but for various reasons he hasn’t boxed since November 2017. American Trevor Bryan (20-0, 14 KOs) owns the WBA’s interim title, yet he hasn’t competed since August 2018.
“I think when the time comes, the WBA will do the right thing and declare Robert the mandatory challenger to Anthony Joshua,” said Markus Sundman, Helenius’ manager. “He shocked fans in America by knocking out Kownacki, and he will shock fans around the world when he beats Joshua.”
Bryan is ranked number one among the heavyweights in the WBA’s ratings. Neither Charr nor Helenius is listed in the WBA’s heavyweight rankings.
“Charr and Bryan certainly aren’t more deserving of a title shot than Robert,” said Mike Borao, Helenius’ adviser. “Neither of them has beaten anyone near the caliber of Kownacki.”
Joshua won’t need to make his WBA mandatory defense until he fulfills similar obligations for the IBF and WBO.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist will battle Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), the mandatory challenger for his IBF belt, in his first fight allowed after the coronavirus crisis. Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) is the mandatory contender for his WBO crown.
Joshua impressed Helenius by the way he out-boxed Andy Ruiz (33-2, 22 KOs) in their 12-round rematch four months ago. The 30-year-old Joshua avenged his seventh-round, technical-knockout defeat to Ruiz six months earlier by comfortably winning a unanimous decision December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
“He did stick and move, like he said he would do,” Helenius said. “It was a good decision not to go in-fighting with a guy with much faster hands. So, he did well.”
Helenius still is confident he would upset Joshua, whom he gladly would fight anywhere in the United Kingdom.
“I think it would be like Barclays Center all over again,” Helenius said regarding his fourth-round stoppage of Brooklyn’s Kownacki on March 7. “There would be booing and stuff like that in the beginning. And then, as the fight goes on, it will be very quiet.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.