The rejuvenated heavyweight contender says he's better than ever as he looks to repeat his KO win over Adam Kownacki Saturday night on pay-per-view.
Robert Helenius is back in that place again. Back where the shadows lurk through cunning, squinting eyes. Back to where doubt wants to reign, wrestling constantly with confidence over psyche. Back to where Helenius once had to look over his shoulder to see the shadow of what he did, as opposed to what he was able to do.
Helenius, the 6-foot-6½, 37-year-old bullish Swede, has had a career full of glimpses, showing promise here, thunder there, though was unable to make it coalesce. Until March 2020, when Helenius was put in front of then-undefeated Adam Kownacki at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Helenius knew what he was put in front of Kownacki to do—lose.
It frustrated Helenius that he was rarely able to show what he could do. A hand injury, or a shoulder setback, something would invariably break down. This time, it didn’t. Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs) went on deliver one of the bigger upsets in 2020 by stopping the popular Pole at 1:08 of the fourth round, setting up a rematch with Kownacki this Saturday October 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, live on pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
This time, the two heavyweights will meet again on a much larger stage, appearing on the undercard of undefeated WBC world champion Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury’s first title defense and third time around against former longtime heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder.
“I knew people wouldn’t expect me to beat (Kownacki) the first time, and I’m sure they doubt me again,” Helenius said. “My whole career has been full of injuries. But I kept on fighting through them. There were hand injuries, or shoulder injuries, but before the last Kownacki fight, everything went fine.
“My conditioning was great. My strength was perfect. It’s the healthiest I was in three years. I started a new diet five years back, and I’ve been eating much more meat and leaving the carbohydrates alone. It took a while, but I felt the strength and my ligaments and muscles, and bones were stronger because of that. I knew I was in the best shape of my life. I didn’t have any hesitation against (Kownacki).”
By the way Helenius performed that night against Kownacki, he could have competed with any heavyweight contender in the world. His right hand in the fourth sent heavy-favorite Kownacki down, though it was ruled a slip by referee David Fields. Instead of being awarded a knockdown, Helenius was rewarded with a dazed Kownacki, who had little time to recover from the Helenius’ right.
Seeing the damage done, Helenius jumped on Kownacki within seconds and knocked him down officially. By then, Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) was out on his feet and Helenius ended it at 1:08 of the fourth.
Two fights prior to that, Helenius was stopped at 2:32 of the eighth round against Gerald Washington. What gets lost is that “The Nordic Nightmare” was up on two of the three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
“ I’m grinding towards being a world champion and I’m not giving up on that. ” Heavyweight Contender - Robert Helenius
“That bothered me,” said Helenius, the father of three, two boys and a girl ranging in age from 9 to 13. “I spent time with my family, but after that fight, I had to get away from boxing. I had to get away from everything. I don’t usually watch social media and I haven’t watched TV in many years. I don’t like it. I live out in the forest, away from everything, so it worked out for me.
“I was better than (Washington). After that fight, I took a week off. I was sick for two weeks prior to that fight, and I wasn’t all there. I was really, really sad for a long time. I didn’t want to see anybody, outside of my family. But even though I was depressed and sad, I went back to training and that made me feel better.
“I got by myself and collected my thoughts. I had to get my spirits up. Going into the Kownacki fight, I was either going to win or find another job. That was my mental state. It was my career at stake. I was prepared to die for that fight.”
Helenius is getting ready for the Kownacki rematch by sparring Wilder.
“I’m grinding towards being a world champion and I’m not giving up on that,” Helenius said. “I have to be in fight mode when I’m in the ring with Deontay, though. I can’t go into any details about that. The camp keeps things quiet. But he gets me ready. I get him ready. He hits hard. I’ve sparred before, preparing (title contenders) for big fights and they prepare me.
“We certainly benefit from one another. Everything is working out perfectly with Deontay.”
Helenius is weighing around 250 about two weeks prior to the Kownacki rematch, which is up from the 238¾ he weighed the first time they fought.
Again, he hears the doubts being whispered in the wind. He knows the talk that the first win may be defined “as a fluke.” He stomps on the shadows of doubt. He’s not looking over his shoulder. He doesn’t want to be haunted by the specter of “what if?”
“I have a few more years fighting and I know what I can do when I’m healthy,” Helenius said. “I’m not thinking any differently than the first time I faced (Kownacki). I’m prepared to die in the ring to win the fight. This is my last couple of years fighting and I’m going to give it everything I have left in my tank.
“I know he’s going to come at me, like he always does, but I feel lighter on my feet. It’s tough getting away from (Wilder’s) punches. But I know that I can do this until I’m 39 or 40. When October 9 comes, fans will see the best Helenius that they’ve ever seen. It felt good to beat (Kownacki) the first time and after I beat him again, I want to get my title shot.”
For a closer look at Robert Helenius, check out his fighter page.
- Robert Helenius