Anthony Joshua produced a devastating knockout against Robert Helenius to set up a blockbuster fight with Deontay Wilder.
The Finn, who stepped in on short notice for Dillian Whyte after a failed a drugs test, produced a disciplined display to frustrate ‘AJ’ for several rounds. But Joshua eventually caught Helenius with a clubbing right hand in the seventh round, suddenly ending the fight, sparking celebrations at ringside, including Conor McGregor.
Helenius had previously lost to Wilder, who was left in tears after stopping the 39-year-old in the first round in October. But now the Bronze Bomber is likely the next opponent for the Briton in one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history. The former two-time heavyweight champion could now face Wilder in Saudi Arabia, with negotiations for a January date already underway. Relive all the action, analysis and reaction from Joshua vs Helenius below.
Anthony Joshua shares a drink with Conor McGregor
Anthony Joshua is back and reveals the defiant edge needed to take down Deontay Wilder
It was at a quarter to midnight that Anthony Joshua turned out the lights on Robert Helenius. Several minutes later, they finally came back on.
The right hand came out of nowhere, hidden behind a pair of feinted jabs, and it turned the tide on a wave of boos in the O2 Arena, after the crowd had seemed to turn on Joshua. The Briton, 33, has been accused for some time now of being gun shy, but when he finally found the trigger on Saturday, he throttled it.
It was killer instinct, coupled with god-given power, that allowed Joshua to rise through the sport quickly and impressively despite his late start. The ‘sweet science’ side of the game seemingly only appealed to him after he was stunned by Andy Ruiz Jr, and “AJ” employed elements of that approach in their rematch to construct a smart, safe performance and win on points. ‘Safe’ may just be the key word there, however, and it does hint at the downside to Joshua trying to add another string to his crossbow; that development also seemed to indicate a fear of letting loose – of risking ending up in a firefight.
His interest in that tact increased after his first loss to Oleksandr Usyk, in which the Briton was discombobulated by the southpaw’s speed, angles and invention. Joshua tried to adapt in their rematch, but - although he improved upon his previous showing - he was outboxed again.
Joshua dispatched Robert Helenius in seven rounds to put himself in position for a superfight against Deontay Wilder next year
David Haye: Anthony Joshua performance would not have beaten Oleksandry Usyk
David Haye: “I’d like to see him of the calibre of Helenius, and treat him like Wilder, you can’t stand there jabbing against Wilder. It doesn’t work against Wilder. Would that performance have beaten Usyk? No.”
Andy Lee: Anthony Joshua is a man of the people
Andy Lee: “I could see Helenius, he was slowing down. Joshua was figuring things out. He was hesitant. The way the world works, those previous six rounds, forget about them, the knockout will go around the world. He needs another two or three fights.
“Wilder is technically not great, but he’s devastating, you can’t be hesitating with him. He’s a man of the people though, Joshua.”
Darren Barker: Anthony Joshua got what he wanted
Darren Barker: “We got what we wanted, AJ got what he wanted. There’s no doubt AJ wanted a knockout, going into the blockbuster against Wilder.
“It’s a fight that’s been in the making for a long time. Imagine the energy. Wilder will be straight in his face.
“There’s so much money on the table, so many fans, everybody wants to see that fight. Usually people get what they want.”
Tony Bellew: Joshua could be recovering from haunting Andy Ruiz experience
Bellew adds: “When you go back in the ring after being stopped, it can haunt you for a while.
“It’ll take knockout victories like this. Kabayel? Too scared.
“When you get done, you find out your vulnerabilities.”
Anthony Joshua still ‘not punching through the target'
DAZN boxing analyst Barry Jones: “There’s still a confidence issue. He’s still not punching through the target.
“He’s throwing the right hand too far out. He’s committed to the jab, when he throws the right hand, it’s done.
“The right hand is always falling a bit short. He’s lacking that confidence since Ruiz 1.
“Once you do it, you believe it, I think now we’ll see a more confidence Anthony Joshua.”
Anthony Joshua knocks out Robert Helenius in seven rounds
Conor McGregor calls out KSI
“Greatness don't rush, he took his time, landed a heavy shot. The fans should be grateful, no fear, put in a great performance, I'm happy to see him get up. Big congrats to the UK,” says McGregor.
“KSI is here... He wants to come in here, and we’ll give him a bare knuckle fight.”
Eddie Hearn reacts to Anthony Joshua knockout
“It's the fight we want, it's a three-fight plan, Helenius, Deontay Wilder, then Tyson Fury. That's the ambition of the team. Things have changed, he's a mature heavyweight. He took his time and delivered one of the knockouts of the year. He's smarter, he'll take his time.
“It’s dangerous coming in, everybody expects one round, two rounds, three rounds. He saved the show. It’s a box ticked, now it’s Wilder in January. Saudi Arabia want a January date, Shelly texted me with a fingers crossed, it’s one of the biggest fights of all time.”
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