Back in the early part of the 2010s, Robert Helenius was a dangerous heavyweight on the rise, a 6’6” guy with power, a great nickname (“The Nordic Nightmare”), and some buzz. He’d run through Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter, and Siarhei Liakhovich, stopping all of them, and was considered by many to be a likely challenger for Wladimir Klitschko, who them co-ruled the division with brother Vitali, who would retire after a final bout in 2012.
Helenius never got there. A controversial 2011 win over Derek Chisora and a shoulder injury stalled his progress, and when he got back, he just never quite looked the same. In 2016, Helenius lost to Johann Duhaupas, but Wladimir’s reign had ended in 2015, anyway.
Still, Helenius wishes he’d have gotten his chance against Klitschko before it was too late, and says back then he was told that Klitschko did not want to fight him.
“I would really have liked to fight him,” Helenius told Sky Sports, “but they also told me back then that he didn’t want to fight me. I don’t know why.”
Style-wise, a pre-shoulder injury version of Helenius really might have been at least an interesting matchup for Klitschko, or at least more interesting than many opponents. Tall and rangy with power, he wasn’t going to be someone Klitschko towered over or took lightly. Wladimir would absolutely have been a major favorite against Helenius, but there really was a point people were interested in that as a potential fight.
Helenius would go on to suffer a loss to Dillian Whyte in 2017 and one to Gerald Washington in 2019, before shocking pretty much everyone with a fourth round stoppage win over Adam Kownacki in March of this year, a lead contender for Upset of the Year.
At 36, he’s now back in the mix, and Helenius (30-3, 19 KO) may have his sights set on a possible fight with WBA/IBF/WBO titleholder Anthony Joshua. PBC may have other plans for him — he’d be useful with some momentum against a number of guys right now, but we’ll see what happens. He’s where he is because he went out and won a fight basically nobody expected him to win.