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.
Johnny Fisher up next on Joshua vs Helenius undercard
Here comes Johnny Fisher, the British heavyweight is eyeing a first title against Harry Armstrong.
The Southern Area title is on the line and the Romford Bull has huge support inside the O2.
One of the biggest ticket sellers in the country.
Eddie Hearn’s three-fight plan for Anthony Joshua
“The Saudis are here tonight to make that fight, in January, if he gets through tonight,” Hearn adds.
“We have a three-fight plan, actually, it’s Helenius, Wilder, Fury, but if the first win doesn’t happen, the second two don’t matter.”
Eddie Hearn inside Anthony Joshua’s dressing room
“He’s been here before, it didn’t work out too well last time,” Hearn says at the O2 arena just moments ago.
“He wanted to make sure he could put on a good show. You need somebody who could get on the plane the next day.
“Helenius is full of confidence, a good guy, he can punch. He’s credible.”
Anthony Joshua reacts to Dillian Whyte’s failed drugs test
“In today’s society, it’s expected,” says Joshua. “These things happen. Put on a game, who’s next?
“Oh, somebody else, it’s normal in boxing now. DAZN has a massive input on the opponent.
“I’d fight somebody off the streets, they said you need somebody credible. The funds changed.
“Helenius was realistic, if he wasn’t fit and didn’t think he’d win, he wouldn’t be here.”
Dillian Whyte vows to prove his innocence after doping test ‘adverse finding’
An eagerly-anticipated rematch between the British heavyweights was called off by Matchroom after the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association informed the promoters and boxing authorities about the test result.
It is understood Joshua could still fight at London’s O2 Arena as Matchroom seek a late replacement opponent for the former two-time world heavyweight champion but Whyte faces a battle to clear his name.
The scheduled rematch against Anthony Joshua next Saturday has been cancelled.
Joshua vs Helenius undercard update
There were big decision wins for Brandon Scott and George Liddard, both of whom had plenty of support in the O2 Arena.
Scott, “the Baddest Nerd on the Planet”, won all six rounds against Louis Norman to stay unbeaten, before Liddard beat the brakes off Bas Oosterweghel.
Earlier in the night, Maisey Rose Courtney was a decision winner over Gemma Ruegg to stay undefeated.
Now in action, Campbell Hatton - son of British icon Ricky - against Tom Ansell.
George Liddard in action on Joshua vs Helenius undercard
Anthony Joshua interview: ‘Robotic? I became a champion being robotic'
Anthony Joshua was expecting to fight a familiar face this weekend, just not this one.
Until last Saturday, the former two-time world heavyweight champion was on course for a clash with Dillian Whyte, who outpointed Joshua when the Britons were amateurs, but who “AJ” knocked out brutally in a professional rematch in 2015. The trilogy bout was set for this Saturday, at London’s O2 Arena, which hosted the rivals’ last meeting. But then Whyte completed his own trilogy, returning an adverse drug-test finding for the third time in his career.
Whyte served a two-year ban from 2012 to 2014 in the first instance, before being exonerated during his 2019 episode, and now fans await the outcome of this latest saga. Stepping in for the 35-year-old, in any case, is Robert Helenius, who Joshua also knows well. The pair sparred in 2017, as Joshua prepared for his fight with Wladimir Klitschko, and Helenius recalled of AJ this week: “[He was a] hard hitter, good technicals, a little bit robotic. I felt pretty confident.”
Those comments were put to Joshua. “A bit robotic? Maybe,” he said. “But I became a champion being robotic. It’s true, right? It’s paid off.”
Interview: ‘AJ’ will box Helenius, one of his former sparring partners, on seven days’ notice after Dillian Whyte’s failed drug test
Anthony Joshua vs Robert Helenius LIVE: Campbell Hatton - exclusive interview
It has been a whirlwind week in British boxing, with Joshua, Helenius and Eddie Hearn among those swept up in the storm caused by Dillian Whyte’s failed doping test. But they have not been the only figures forced to brace and hope for the best.
Campbell Hatton, son of boxing icon Ricky, is one of many undercard fighters to have been disorientated ahead of tonight’s event.
“I was sweating, me!” the 22-year-old tells The Independent. “I found out probably a couple of hours before the announcement that [Joshua vs Whyte] was off. I spoke to Matthew – my trainer and uncle – and he was always pretty confident they’d be able to get someone in, but I just thought: At this stage of the game, and at the very top level, you’re struggling if you lose your main event.”
Read and watch our interview in full, here:
Exclusive interview: As the son of British boxing icon Ricky Hatton, Campbell was immersed in the sport from day one
Anthony Joshua vs Robert Helenius LIVE: AJ reveals the loss that hurt him the most
Joshua revealed this week that his second loss to Oleksandr Usyk was the most painful defeat of his career.
Joshua was unbeaten until he suffered a shock TKO loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019, a defeat that he avenged by outpointing Ruiz six months later. The Briton then knocked out Kubrat Pulev in 2020 before losing to Oleksandr Usyk on points in 2021. Joshua, 33, fought the unbeaten Ukrainian again in August 2022, but unlike in his rematch against Ruiz, “AJ” could not regain his unified heavyweight titles.
Joshua bounced back with a decision win over Jermaine Franklin in April, and ahead of his clash with Helenius, he was asked which loss hurt him the most.
He told Dazn without hesitation: “Usyk 2. Yeah, massively. I respect Usyk, yeah? But it just hurt, the defeat.
“It was weak. It was a weak performance by me. I wasn’t supposed to lose, in my head. It just... I give my life to this game, man. I give everything, I swear to you. I give a lot.
“Even talking about it now, it just makes me feel like... choked up a bit. When you put everything into something, it’s not easy... The only thing we get credit for is winning, there’s no silver medal in boxing. And what I gave wasn’t enough.”
Joshua suffered a shock TKO defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, before losing to Oleksandr Usyk on points in 2021 and 2022
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies