Next Saturday, when Deontay Wilder and Robert Helenius meet in the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, both men will be fighting for the same thing: relevance. Wilder, now 36, and Helenius at 38, are both in must-win situations if they are to line up significant future paydays before hanging up their gloves. That fact puts a lot on the line for each of them, but, having held a world title belt before, it is Wilder who has the most to lose.
Deontay Wilder held the WBC title for just over two years before suffering consecutive, heartbreaking and brutal, TKO losses to Tyson Fury.
The last fight between Wilder and Fury was particularly difficult for the Bronze Bomber. Despite putting Fury down twice in the bout, Wilder could not close the show against the Gypsy King, and in losing, took on more punishment than at any other time in his career.
While no one is going to confuse Helenius with the division’s cream of the crop, the Nordic Nightmare is no easy mark. Since losing to journeyman Gerald Washington by 8th round KO in 2019, Helenius has revitalized his career with three consecutive KO wins, including two in a row over Adam Kownacki, who was undefeated before their first tussle two and a half years ago at Barclays. Despite a 31-3 record with 20 KOs, Helenius has never risen above the level of fringe contender, but a win over Deontay Wilder would likely get him his first world title shot. See video below, this is Helenius before the first Kownacki fight. He wasn’t lyin:’
To put it another way, Helenius, coming in hot with recent quality wins, has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. That puts most, if not all, of the pressure on Wilder. A loss to Helenius might not convince Wilder to retire, but if that happens, it likely should. Wilder has had an extraordinary run for someone who picked up the sport late, has suspect fundamentals, skinny legs, and no plan B. If he doesn’t land his saving grace, that huge right hand, he’s going to struggle. A loss to Helenius would make it clear that Deontay Wilder has lost more than a step after consecutive losses to Fury.
You have to respect what Wilder (now 42-2-1 with 41 KOs) is doing here. I’m sure many strategists might recommend Wilder look to break his two fight losing streak against a less accomplished, not as troublesome opponent. Wilder needs a win badly, and there are definitely easier ways to get a W than to take on the big Fin on October 15. Helenius is likely brimming with more confidence than ever before, and can see a clear route through Wilder to a title shot.
We learned in Wilder’s last fight with Fury that he has plenty of guts and heart, but those two attributes worked against him as they led to him taking a terrible beating before the fight was halted in the 11th round. After taking such a painful loss, fight fans have to be wondering how much Wilder has left. My bet is that Deontay Wilder has to be wondering too. IF Wilder wins, he would be well set up to fight for the title again, but a fourth bout against Fury would seem like a questionable choice, making Oleksandr Usyk the more likely target.
The heavyweight division is nearing a full on state of flux. Wilder is 35, Usyk 35, Fury is 34 and his recent erratic behavior raises multiple questions about his future. The youngest of the division’s top flight fighters is Anthony Joshua at 32, but despite being the most talented fighter in the division, Joshua has lost three of his last five fights, and his future is as murky (if not murkier) than the other three men who sit at or near the top of the weight class.
Before writing this piece, I hadn’t thought of Wilder as the oldest of the top-tier foursome, but the birth certificate doesn’t lie. What I do know is that if Deontay Wilder is to sustain his position as a top draw and title threat, he will have to defeat Helenius. If he doesn't, all roads lead to nowhere
DEONTAY WILDER VS. ROBERT HELENIUS BETTING ODDS
Per BetMGM, Deontay Wilder is the favorite at -700, and Robert Helenius is the underdog at +450.