Heavyweights can turn a fight around with a single punch. Ask Deontay Wilder.
And now you can ask Anthony Joshua. After six sluggish, uninspired rounds, Joshua of Hertfordshire (26-3, 23 KOs) blasted Robert Helenius of Finland (32-5, 21 KOs) out cold at 1:27 of round 7. A hard right hand over the top got the job down and turn the frowns of the British fans upside down. Joshua blasts Helenius to blast himself back into the heavyweight mix.
After the referee waved off the fight, Joshua jumped out of the ring and took something of a victory lap, greeting friends, promoter Eddie Hearn, and infamous MMA fighter Conor McGregor.
After calling for the fans to give Helenius a round of applause for saving the fight, Joshua answered a question about his performance with defiance. “People need to leave me alone and do what I want. This is my time. Let me breathe a bit. He’s got talent. I needed to figure him out a bit.”
Joshua then admitted, “I do need to stay busy. I need to keep on building, keep on building, keep on building. I’ve been off for too long.”
Joshua started on the front foot. Helenius was right there to meet him, lunging in range to follow up jabs with body shots. The pair continued to circle and dance through the first half of the fight. By the third round, the partisan British crowd present to see Joshua deliver destruction began to boo and whistle. Perhaps at their urging, Joshua landed his first hard shot of the fight, a hard straight left. And then – no follow up.
In hindsight, Joshua was looking for the one hard shot leading to victory. But his reluctance to pull the trigger and engage was frustrating to watch. Until the seventh round when he turned the entire fight around and infused his future with energy.
Bring On The Bronze Bomber
Asked about his future and the prospect of a fight with power puncher Deontay Wilder, Joshua coyly asked, “How’s my back? I need to carry this heavyweight division to the top!”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed Wilder is the fight they want next as part of a three-fight plan: Helenius, Wilder, Fury.
“He’s now a mature heavyweight,” said Hearn. “I know everyone wants to see first, second, third round knockouts. He delivered a knockout of the year. He took his time. He tried to find the range and delivered in devastating fashion,” crediting Helenius for his effort and for saving the show Saturday.
“(Joshua’s) given everything to British boxing. It’s a box ticked, he’s ready for some big marquee fights. He’s going to take his time. No more losing. We’re ready to sign for that fight,” saying Wilder’s manager Shelly Finkel texted him and things are progressing for a Saudi-financed fight in the Middle East in January.
Nevertheless, the first half of the fight must give fans pause. Trainer Derrick James had hard words for Joshua after six rounds. There’s still a lot to work on with the clock ticking against a far more dangerous puncher than Helenius. The questions Joshua brushed off Saturday will continue to swirl.
War Horses Ride Again: Chisora Prevails Over Washington
The co-main event featured two veteran heavyweights who are seeing out their careers. Dereck “War” Chisora of London (34-13, 23 KOs) took on Gerald Washington of Vallejo, California (20-6-1, 13 KOs).
After ten rounds, it was Chisora with the apparent benefit of the British judging getting the unanimous decision. Scores were 98-93, 97-94, 96-94, all for Chisora. After a personal moment of outrage on behalf of Washington, I moved on.
In a sluggish 10-round fight, Chisora looked every bit a worn down 39 years old, as opposed to the 40-year-old Washington who was in better condition. He has only been boxing since age 30 after a brief NFL career.
Whether you believe either man should still be taking blows to head or body, at least they weren’t put in as fodder for a real killer. Both stopped in their last bouts. Chisora was little more than a sparring partner for Tyson Fury last December. Washington is coming off a loss in January 2022 to Ali Eren Demirezen of Turkey.
Chisora was the early aggressor, chopping away at the taller Washington. Washington fired back. The pair showed heart and the last remains of their power, if not a lot of skill. It would come down to whoever could land a big bomb first.
It appeared to be Washington as Chisora sat down hard at the end of the first round. It was ruled a slip. Unfortunate for Chisora who quickly started gassing out, breathing heavily between rounds. Washington was infinitely better conditioned and would fire off shots when he could gain distance or pin Chisora to the ropes.
Chisora would rally on muscle memory and blast at Washington, but those rallies became fewer in the second half of the fight. For the judges though, it was enough. Both men will go home to their families without serious injury, and let’s hope they both choose to retire for good.
Philip Hrgovic Pulls A Win Out Against Dempsey McKean
Philip Hrgovic of Croatia (16-0, 13 KOs) managed to keep his mandatory challenger status alive with a 12th-round TKO win over Demsey McKean of Australia (22-1, 14 KOs). But oddsmakers took note and should Hrgovic get the match he wants against Oleksandr Usyk, the betting line will lean even more toward Usyk.
Hrgovic needed more of a statement after a narrow win against Zhilei Zhang, even more so after Zhang demolished Joe Joyce. He was sluggish and rusty, completely uninspired when it should have been the opposite.
McKean gave him enough challenging moments to make an observer wonder whether McKean was better than expected, or Hrgovic worse. Whatever the truth, trainer Ronnie Shields has a lot to work on with Hrgovic. His career has stalled. While waiting for Usyk, he needs to stay busy.
Johnny Fisher Delights Fans With KO Win Over Harry Armstrong
British heavyweight prospect Johnny Fisher of London (10-0, 9 KOs) thought it would be an early night when he scored a knockdown in the first 30 seconds of his bout against “Dirty” Harry Armstong of Devon (5-2-1). To his credit, Armstrong got up and stood his ground against Fisher for seven rounds until his corner threw in the towel at 1:19 of the seventh round. Fisher landed a big overhand right to score the fight’s second knockdown. Once again Armstrong got up, but this time Fisher was not going to let him off the hook.
There’s a lot to like about the 24-year-old Fisher, who’s a good interview with plenty of raw skills. He needs more work and more polish, but the potential is all there.
Campbell Hatton Remains Undefeated
Campbell Hatton of Lancashire (13-0, 5 KOs) remains undefeated winning his first eight-round bout by decision over Tom Ansell (10-5, 2 KOs) of Hertfordshire. The 22-year-old super lightweight is making steady progress in the ring under a hot spotlight as the son of the beloved Ricky Hatton.