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Robert Helenius gave up family holiday in Lapland to fight Anthony Joshua

Finland’s Robert Helenius put his family vacation on pause to step into the ring with Anthony Joshua this weekend.

As the saying goes, there's no rest for the wicked. Just asked Rob Helenius.

The fighting Fin had just claimed the 32nd victory of his professional career when he was posed the question of whether he would accept Matchroom's SOS call to step in as an 11th-hour replacement at London's O2 Arena for Dillian Whyte, who failed a drugs test with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.

With wraps still on his hands and sweat from a third-round victory over Mika Mielonen inside a 15th-century castle in Finland, Helenius decided to roll the dice and sent Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn a video on Saturday night to confirm he was in.
A day later and Helenius' manager Markus Sundman sealed the deal over the phone while at a zoo with his family, which meant his 39-year-old boxer was set to be thrust back into the limelight.
Last October, Helenius suffered a vicious first-round knock-out loss to former world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in New York and, while many have viewed this fight for Joshua as merely a stepping stone to a bout with the ex-WBC belt holder, his last-minute opponent has other ideas.
"Yeah, I have to get a rematch. I have to redeem myself," Helenius said of Wilder, who is being lined up to face Joshua in December or the start of 2024.
"I had just finished the last fight on Saturday and my manager came to me and said I have something to ask you.
"He said it was the Joshua fight and I was like, 'oh man. Let me think'. And 10 minutes I thought about it and after that I was like, 'yeah, let's do this,' This is what we do.
"I would probably be in Lapland in the forest. Tenting, fishing, hunting, relaxing.
"I haven't had a lot of time but I have been hunting now and then. That was the plan."
It is no longer the plan for Helenius, or his wife and three children, with his mind now cast back to 2017, when he sparred with Joshua ahead of the British heavyweight fighting Wladimir Klitschko.
Victory over Klitschko at a sold-out Wembley helped take the Finchley boxer to the pinnacle of the sport, but recent years have been leaner with back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk followed by a laboured display against Jermaine Franklin in April.
It was in a shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in 2019 that Joshua's previously untouchable crown slipped for the first time and there is much debate about whether he has been the same since, but the 29th opponent of his career knows a thing or two about mental scars from boxing.
Helenius insisted: "I can't compare him to Wilder. I have also been sparring before with David Haye, I have been sparring the Klitschkos, both of them, I have been sparring Tyson Fury, Wilder.
"I have even been sparring Joshua when he was going against Klitschko so I have been a long time in this game.
"He is a tough guy. I think we went eight-round sessions. It was pretty closer. Hard-hitter, good technicals, a little bit robotic but his last fight, he made a good fight against Jermaine.
"I have seen that (change) but I think with his last fights, because he didn't get knocked out against Usyk and his last fight he didn't get knocked out, he did a pretty good fight and showed he has still got it.
"Of course you have to come over the gun-shyness after you get knocked out. I have been knocked out three times in my life and the first was the really bad one. I was probably depressed for two or three months after that."
Johann Duhaupas inflicted that painful maiden loss of Helenius' career in 2016, eight years after his debut, and perhaps unsurprisingly for a 36-fight veteran, the 'Nordic Nightmare' is reflective about his past experiences in the ring.
An aggressive style was adopted against Wilder for a reason but he was caught by a punch the American had been fine-tuning for Fury for years.
Helenius will bring a different style into Saturday's fight and admitted victory against the odds would propel him into Finnish folklore akin to the notorious exploits of world-record javelin holder Seppo Raty.
"I think I would probably be elected for president," he joked.
"I haven't been in the ring for a while with him but now is the best time to win.
"Nobody will remember a coward."
READ MORE: Anthony Joshua wants boxing to get on top of doping

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