Robert Helenius Resurrects Title Hopes With Second Straight Stoppage of Kownacki
By: John “Gutterdandy” Walker
It took a while, but the “Nordic Nightmare” has finally returned to boxing’s heavyweight division in full force.
Perhaps lost in the much deserved excitement over Tyson Fury’s demolition job of Deontay Wilder last Saturday evening was an amazing, brutal performance by Robert Helenius, aka “The Nordic Nightmare,” who destroyed Polish-born Brooklyn resident Adam Kownacki earlier in the evening during the impressive, heavyweight-stacked undercard.
The Sweden-born, Finnish national Helenius (31-3, 19 KOs) was once upon a time seemingly headed for the very top of the heavyweight division. Those such as this writer who were mesmerized by some of his best performances have long awaited the return to form Helenius has now shown during his last two stoppage wins over the formerly rising star Kownacki.
During the early part of the extended period of heavyweight domination by the Klitschko brothers, it was Helenius who most often seemed a possible successor to the Ukrainians. At 6′ 6 1/2″ tall, Helenius had the size, and in his best run, demonstrated the kind of power that could match what Vitali and Wladimir brought to the ring.
2011 was the year Helenius peaked, with devastating stoppage wins over the still viable Sam Peter and former WBO heavyweight champ Sirhei Liakhovich, and a split decision victory in a brutal contest against over tough then-rising Brit Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora. In the latter fight, however, Helenius aggravated a shoulder injury suffered during training, and that injury started a downward spiral that would derail Helenius’s career for close to a decade.
Helenius showed only flashes of his former promise during his years in the heavyweight wilderness when he was knocked out by the likes of Johann Duhaupas and Gerald Washington. Fans of the Nordic Nightmare could only wonder where the old Helenius had gone, and wonder if he was lost forever.
However, Helenius wasn’t done quite yet. After a knockout loss to Washington, he decided to overhaul his training methods, including adopting a new high protein diet, and soon felt himself growing stronger. Helenius recently reflected on the changes he made before his first meeting with rising heavyweight Kownacki in 2020:
“My conditioning was great. My strength was perfect. It’s the healthiest I was in three years,” said Helenius.
“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],” Helenius explained.
Boxing experts can be forgiven for not expecting much the first time Helenius met Kownacki, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in March, 2020. Helenius knew he had been brought in to lose, but finally injury-free and brimming with newfound physical confidence, the old Nordic Nightmare suddenly made a startling return. Helenius shocked Kownacki, using his height, reach, and power to stun his then-undefeated foe with a fourth-round stoppage.
Even then, as Helenius knew, the win over Kownacki would be seen by many as a “fluke,” not proof that after so much time, the old Nordic Nightmare had returned. It would take the rematch on the undercard of Fury – Wilder 3 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to convince all but the most cynical that Robert Helenius was once again a serious force in the heavyweight division.
Proving his seriousness, Helenius sparred with the powerful Deontay Wilder to get himself ready for his next test.
“I’m not thinking any differently than the first time I faced (Kownacki),” Helenius said going into the rematch.
“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.”
True to his word, Helenius in the rematch delivered perhaps his finest hour as a fighter to date. Kownacki (20-3, 15 KOs) now knew what to expect, but couldn’t do much about it, as the newly confident Helenius roared out of the starting gate, peppering the Brooklyn-based fighter with heavy power shots. By the end of round one, Kownacki was in big trouble, and later it would be determined that Helenius had broken the Pole’s left orbital bone during the brutal assault.
The first round set the tone, and though the brave Kownacki would try to rally, Helenius continued to hit his opponent with an array of uppercuts, left hooks, and hard straight rights, peppering the Pole’s left eye, which was rapidly swelling shut. Kownacki was finally reduced to using low blows, seemingly as a way out of the fight as much as to defend himself. The referee mercifully called a halt to proceedings at 2:38 of round six with the Pole out on his feet.
The stoppage was initially ruled a disqualification but later changed to a TKO. Either way, Kownacki left the arena after this one-sided beatdown with his once-promising boxing career in tatters.
After his long period in the heavyweight wilderness, Robert Helenius, however, had proven he was not only back, but better than ever, and ready to, as he puts it, to keep “grinding towards being a world champion.”
Adam Kownacki: “It Hurts My Pride That In A Fight Where I Was A Huge Favorite, I Got Stopped”
By: Hans Themistode
Adam Kownacki was forced to take a long, hard look at himself in the mirror.
No matter who was placed in front of him, both oddsmakers and his crazed New York fanbase, believed he would take home the win. For the most part, both parties were right as Kownacki picked up several notable victories against the likes of Gerald Washington, Chris Arreola, and former heavyweight titlist, Charles Martin.
Heading into his showdown against fringe contender Robert Helenius in March of 2020, Kownacki was once again expected to take care of business in destructive fashion. As his Polish fans rose to their feet at the Barclay Center, in Brooklyn, New York, Kownacki appeared to be in full control. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he wasn’t.
In the blink of an eye, Kownacki hit the deck. Shortly after, he did so again, this time for good. As more than a year has gone by, Kownacki admits that not only did he lose his undefeated record on the night but also, that his ego took a huge hit as well.
“It hurts my pride a little bit that in a fight where I was a huge favorite, I got stopped,” said Kownacki on the PBC Podcast.
While it’s been quite some time since their showdown last took place, Kownacki remembers it as if it was just yesterday. When asked what went wrong on the night, Kownacki vividly recites the most painful night of his boxing career thus far.
“I got a little reckless,” explains Kownacki. “I wanted to get him out of there early. I thought I had him but he caught me with a good right hand coming in. I tried to go after him but he caught me again.”
Kownacki’s lucid memory is exacerbated by the constant waiting he’s been forced to endure. Originally, both Kownacki and Helenius were expected to face off in July on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3. However, with the card delayed approximately three months due to Fury testing positive for COVID-19, Kownacki has been forced to patiently twiddle his thumbs as he waits for their new date, October 9th, to arrive.
With their showdown now just a few weeks away, Kownacki is salivating over the opportunity to exact his revenge. Considering the way their first contest played out, the normally aggressive Kownacki could find it more beneficial to adopt a more box-first approach. That said, as the heavyweight contender sinks back into his chair and reminisces about how he was brutally stopped over a year ago, his eyes flare in rage. In short, he wants to hand Helenius a one-sided beating that results in a knockout victory.
“I can’t wait to get in there. I wanna get him out of there. It was a good learning experience and I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen in the next couple of weeks. I definitely want to make a statement.”
Efe Ajagba Vs. Frank Sanchez, Adam Kownacki Vs. Robert Helenius Rematch And Jared Anderson Appearance Round Out Deontay Wilder Vs. Tyson Fury III Undercard
By: Hans Themistode
The third installment between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury has officially been transformed into a night of heavyweight boxing.
With both Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and Top Rank hosting the card, they have decided to put their talent in the ring against one another. According to their contractual agreement, both sides have the right to put one fight on the undercard as well as a joint bout. For Top Rank, they have decided to showcase the talent of rising heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson (9-0, 9 KOs). The undefeated Toledo, Ohio native will open the pay-per-view card against an opponent yet to be named.
Following that bout, heavyweight contenders Adam Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) and Robert Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs) will have their long-awaited rematch. In March of 2020, Kownacki walked into their showdown as the prohibited favorite. While he was dominating the action early on, Helenius floored his man in the fourth round before finishing him off. The loss for Kownacki represents the only blemish in his young career.
With Top Rank and PBC announcing bouts within their own stable, both sides have reached an agreement for the final undercard contest that will see both sides trek out an undefeated prospect.
Newly signed Top Rank prospect Efe Ajagba (15-0, 12 KOs), who once partnered with PBC, will take on fellow undefeated prospect, Frank Sanchez (18-0, 13 KOs). For Ajagba, he made his Top Rank debut in September of 2020, easily outpointing Jonathan Rice. He then followed that up with a knockout of the year candidate over Brian Howard in April of this year.
As for Sanchez, after working closely with Eddy Reynoso, trainer of pound for pound star Canelo Alvarez, the Cuban born native has continued to look more and more impressive. In early May of this year, Sanchez extended his knockout streak to three in a row with a sixth-round stoppage win over Nagy Aguilera.
The long list of heavyweight bouts on the night will come to an end with Fury and Wilder. After settling for a split decision draw in their first contest in December of 2018, Fury made a huge statement in dismantling Wilder via seventh-round stoppage in their 2020 rematch. The loss for the Alabama native ended his five year title reign.
The night of heavyweight boxing goes down on July 24th, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on pay-per-view.
Robert Helenius Wants Anthony Joshua Next: “I Think I Would Beat Him”
By: Hans Themistode
Unpredictability has always been the name of the game when it comes to boxing’s Heavyweight division.
Unlike most weight classes, you just never know what you’re going to get once the big guys step inside of the ring. And on March 7th 2020, at Barclay Center in Brooklyn New York, that unpredictability was on full display.
Evaluating a fighter takes a bit of time. So deciding to take out the pen and paper and hand a grade to them during the first few years of their career is incredibly unfair. Yet, in the case of Robert Helenius, the grade on him seemed beyond fair.
Helenius proved that he was a legit contender with solid wins over Samuel Peter and Dereck Chisora. But he also proved that he was more of the fringe variety rather than an actual threat with knockout losses to Johann Duhaupas and Gerald Washington.
He was solid. Nothing spectacular. More of a stepping stone sort of fighter. If you lost to him, then you were never a true contender in the division. If you picked up a win against him, well, you still weren’t considered a contender just yet. But you were ready for the next step.
For the formerly undefeated Adam Kownacki, he was in search of the latter. The Brooklyn raised Kownacki scored three solid wins in a row over Charles Martin, Chris Arreola and Gerald Washington. So when both Kownacki and Helenius met up on March 7th, many expected him to make it four in a row.
Everything seemed simple and pretty easy to follow. Helenius was knocked out by Gerald Washington in the eighth round of their contest in 2019. Kownacki on the other hand, destroyed Washington in the second round of their match in the very same year.
Fortunately for Helenius, that didn’t have a trickle effect on him as he dropped and ultimately stopped Kownacki in the fourth round.
It was a major win for Helenius. And now, he’s trying to use his massive upset to launch himself towards the top of the division.
“I think it would be a very interesting fight,” said Helenius when discussing a matchup with unified champ Anthony Joshua. “I would like that very much. It would be fireworks and tactics, of course. But I think it would be a very, very interesting fight for me.”
Huge upsets in the sport of boxing has a tendency to lead fighters into the biggest fights of their careers shortly after.
After scoring one of the biggest upsets of the year in 2013, with a win over Adrien Broner, Marcos Maidana walked into the two biggest fights of his life with back to back contests against Floyd Mayweather. Corrie Saunders in 2003, grabbed a huge upset win over Wladimir Klitschko which subsequently landed him a one sided butt kicking against his older brother Vitali Klitschko. More recently, Ivan Redkach parlayed a huge win over former champion Devon Alexander in 2019, into the biggest fight of his life against Danny Garcia earlier this year.
It’s scenarios such as those, coupled with Joshua’s recent loss against Andy Ruiz Jr, that has Helenius not only believing that he should be next in line for Joshua, but that he can also beat him.
“I was very surprised that he got knocked down by Andy Ruiz Jr. He made mistakes, but he did well in the second fight. Ruiz and me are very different fighters. We are the same height, Anthony and me. I’ve been there in a sparring camp with him. I have nothing personal against him, he’s a very good guy. I think very highly of him and I like him a lot, but I think I would beat him.”
With fighters such as Dillian Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk, Luis Ortiz and a slew of others still presumably ahead of him, Helenius isn’t expected to walk into a title shot just yet. But he’s alright with that. He simply wants to fight the best.
“I hope I will get the biggest fight. I don’t really care who I’m fighting next. I’m going to be ready for whoever comes in my way.”
Is Robert Helenius a Real Heavyweight Contender?
By: Hans Themistode
Robert Helenius was supposed to make a quick couple bucks. Come into the ring, get beat up for a few rounds against Heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki and walk out. Nothing more, nothing less.
The script was already written, it just had to be played out.
For the first three rounds of their Heavyweight contest which took place on March 7th, 2020, everything was going according to plan. Kownacki had the Polish, Brooklyn crowd at Barclay Center, on their fight for every second of the fight. It all looked easy. Kownacki was landing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. After two rounds that were easy to score in the favor of the hometown guy, Kownacki almost had his man out of there in the third round.
Helenius managed to make it to the bell, but the fans in the arena were already packing their bags and getting ready to miss the rush out of the building as Kownacki was just about ready to close the show.
The fans were right on their first initial thought. The fight was coming to an end, but not the way many of them were expecting.
Kownacki hit the deck within the first few seconds of the round. Initially, it was ruled a slip. But everyone in the arena knew that it wasn’t. A few seconds later, Kownacki hit the deck again. This time with a thud. He bounced right back up, but things wouldn’t last much longer as Helenius pounded him against the ropes until the referee put a stop to the contest.
It took 12 long years as a professional boxer, but Helenius picked up the biggest and most credible win of his career. And now, everyone is looking at him a bit differently.
Before his contest with Kownacki, Helenius was never viewed as a threat to anyone in the division. Calling him a gatekeeper would be disrespectful to the word. No, he was something below that. A fringe contender. Somewhat of a step up fight for young prospects to jump on.
Kownacki on the other hand, was a star in the making. He had a fan friendly style and had the sort of fanbase that would lead you to believe that he is the best Heavyweight fighter since Muhammad Ali. A win wasn’t just needed, it was expected. Yet, Kownacki didn’t deliver.
So what now? Kownacki will need a few fights, maybe even a few years to rebuild his image. But what about Helenius? Knockout losses to Johann Duhaupas in 2016, and Gerald Washington in 2019, had given many the impression that he wasn’t a contender in the slightest. But with a win over Kownacki, he has officially placed himself in the front of the line as their contest was a WBA title eliminator.
In just a few short hours, Helenius went from the bottom of the barrel, to the top of the food chain.
At the moment, the WBA title is in the hands of British star, Anthony Joshua. But at this point, it isn’t about if, but when, Robert Helenius takes on Joshua, does he have a chance? It’s hard to tell isn’t it.
Joshua has proven that he can be beat, but Helenius would seem to be in over his head against the unified Heavyweight champion.
Is Robert Helenius a true contender? Or did he just get lucky on the night?
Sure Adam Kownacki looked every part of a true contender, but maybe he wasn’t. If you ask Helenius, he’ll tell you that he can beat anyone. That’s what he is supposed to say.
James “Buster” Douglass knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990, in what many still believe is the biggest upset in boxing history. He would go on to lose his very next fight against Evander Holyfield. Leon Spinks handed Muhammad Ali a surprising loss in 1978. He would also go on to his very next fight, and 16 more throughout his career.
Helenius seems destined for that same fate. It may have been a great win for him, but as far as being a big time player in the Heavyweight division, it seems unlikely.
Did We Buy Into Adam Kownacki Too Soon?
By: Hans Themistode
Boxing contenders seem to arrive on the scene every other day. They often flash a bit of speed, power and defensive acumen. But more than anything, they seem to have that “it” factor.
In the case of Heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki, he never really checked all of the boxes. He was never considered a fighter with fast hands. Nor was he thought of as a huge puncher. Sure he does have 15 knockouts in his 20 career victories, but Kownacki is known much more for his volume punching. Case in point would be Kownacki and his last opponent, Chris Arreola breaking the Heavyweight record for the most punches thrown and landed in a contest.
So let’s go over everything so far. Does Kownacki have fast hands? No. Power punching? No again.
So how about his defensive acumen? Well, Kownacki has become known as a fighter who will jump in the line of fire in order to get his own offense off. So once again, Kownacki doesn’t check off that box either.
That leaves us to our final box. The “it” factor.
The “it” factor is always something that is difficult to explain. It essentially means a fighter who gives you the belief that he can beat anyone. That no matter what is thrown his way, he will walk right through it and come out on the other side unscathed. Most importantly, the “it” factor is a fan favorite fighter.
Kownacki may not have checked any of the previously mentioned boxes, but when in terms of the “it” factor, no one seemed to exhibit it more than the Polish born, Brooklyn raised star.
Unlike past years where getting a shot at the Heavyweight title was considered a cakewalk, making your way up the ladder takes a lot more work.
For the past 11 years, Kownacki was doing just that. Working his way up the Heavyweight ladder and making real headlines along the way.
In a boxing world that mostly rewards the loud and overbearing type, Kownacki was the exact opposite. His fans, on the other hand, had his back.
They screamed from the top of their lungs every time their man stepped into the ring. And for the past 11 years, it worked. But on March 7th, 2020, at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, the screams of Kownacki’s fans that were usually met with their man pushing himself past his limits, fell on deaf ears.
Kownacki made his way to the ring on the night with the biggest fight of his life waiting in front of him. No, his opponent, Robert Helenius, was not the best person he’s ever faced. He wasn’t the most dangerous either. But the prize waiting for Kownacki at the end of night was exactly what he was hoping for. A shot at the WBA Heavyweight title.
At this point, the only thing that mattered was when, not if, Kownacki was going to take on current champion Anthony Joshua.
No one gave Helenius a chance to win that fight. His 30-1 odds represented just that.
As Helenius sauntered his way to the ring, he smiled as if to say he had everything under control.
The moment the opening bell rang however, that smile went away quick, fast and in a hurry. Kownacki poured the pressure on his man, and seemed well on his way to an early night.
Fans did in fact get a chance to go home early, but not because of the reasons they were hoping for.
Helenius beat down the crowd favorite to the tune of a fourth round stoppage. The cheers from Kownacki’s fans turned into dead silence as their man picked up the first loss of his career.
Everything changes now. Kownacki was viewed as a legitimate title contender. Now however, not so much.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Kownacki during the post fight presser. “It’s boxing. It’s a tough sport and things just didn’t go my way tonight. It was a learning experience and I’m going to go back to the drawing board and get back to work.”
The road to a championship hasn’t come to an end, but the hype train that is Adam Kownacki officially fell off the rails.