Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Wilder-Helenius: The Comeback Begins

For many fighters that go on to become world champions throughout their careers, there comes a point where they enter a stage known simply as “The Comeback.” While it is a period that a fighter can find his or herself in for several reasons/circumstances, more often than not, “The Comeback” represents the start of a rebuilding process following a setback. In the case of former longtime WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder, the recent past has seen him suffer two notable setbacks.

This observer is referring to his two losses in his second and third fights against Tyson Fury in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Although the third encounter between the two was regarded as one of the best and dramatic Heavyweight championship fights in several years, Wilder did suffer two beatings in those fights and it was fair to question whether the former champion, who reigned as WBC king from 2015 until his first loss to Fury in 2020, would fight again. It was after all a fair question to ask after the punishment he sustained in those two bouts.

While that certainly can not be ignored as Boxing is a combat sport and fighters do risk their lives every time they compete, it may be easy for some to forget that prior to those setbacks, Deontay Wilder was firmly established as one of the sport’s feared “Knockout Artists,” having compiled forty-one knockouts in his forty-two career wins registering a career knockout percentage of over 91%. It can also be easy for some to overlook that in addition to his lengthy title reign in terms of time, Wilder also had one of the most active reigns as champion in terms of title defenses in the modern era of the sport in the five years as champion as he successfully defended his title ten times.

The loss of his crown in 2020, the legal hurdles he had to clear to get his contractually stipulated return bout in what was the third bout with Fury last year also likely took a toll on him in addition to what happened to him in those fights. After a year out of competition, Wilder now prepares to return to the ring as he will face longtime Heavyweight contender and former European Heavyweight champion Robert Helenius on October 15th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

The fight, which can be seen here in the United States on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View, has one central question that surrounds it. What kind of Deontay Wilder will we see inside the ring?

At his best, Wilder is a devastating puncher that is more than capable of ending a fight quickly should the opportunity arise. It is important to keep in mind however, that Wilder is attempting now to bounce back from two brutal knockout losses. Beyond the obvious question regarding what did those two fights take out of him physically, it is equally important to question what effect those bouts had on him mentally.

Although this observer is a firm believer in the saying that the biggest enemy of a fighter is inactivity, the year Wilder has spent out of the ring probably did him more good than harm. Beyond giving him time to reflect and decide whether he wanted to continue with his career, the year off also provided time for him to heal physically. What those two fights did to him psychologically however, will be as compelling as the question of what those fights took out of him from a physical standpoint.

While Wilder has never been regarded for his Boxing ability or technique, one possible change we could see is how he approaches his opposition. In the third fight with Tyson Fury, Wilder nearly brought an end to the fight by dropping Fury twice in round four. Although frankly I was surprised that Fury was able to survive the attack Wilder was able to dish out in that round as many fighters under similar circumstances would likely not have been able to survive, Wilder was not able to build on what he was able to do in that round. This in addition to suffering punishment himself in being dropped three times throughout the fight in what was a very grueling battle, ultimately worked against Wilder leading to his second defeat to Fury.

One could suggest that a tactical mistake that Wilder made was that he did not pace himself and perhaps thought he would be able to rely on his punching power after what he was able to do to Fury in the fourth round of that fight. It will be interesting to see if Wilder will be more tactical and more aware of pacing himself going forward if a situation occurs where an opponent is able to survive multiple knockdowns where he does not burn himself out over the course of a fight and if he will take more of a boxer’s approach rather than relying solely on his punching power.

Wilder’s opponent for his first step on the comeback trail may prove to be a sturdy test in the form of former European Heavyweight champion Robert Helenius. At one point during the era of the division that was dominated by Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, Helenius was viewed as one of the potential fighters that could have succeeded them as a potential central figure of the Heavyweight division.

Despite entering into this fight with an impressive record of 31-3, with 20 Knockouts as well as his status as a former European Heavyweight champion, some might say that Helenius has not fulfilled his potential. Much like Wilder, Helenius has gone through some setbacks in his career, but in recent times has gone through a resurgence including two knockout wins over highly touted rising prospect Adam Kowacki, who was unbeaten at the time Helenius fought him the first time in March 2020.

Although Robert Helenius has credentials and is not someone to take lightly, there are some who feel based on the fact that Wilder and Helenius were at one time sparring partners that this fight is designed to be a soft touch for Wilder in his first fight back after two losses to Tyson Fury. While you will never be able to convince some folks that their opinion may not be accurate, the sport of Boxing and by extension all combat sports are filled with stories of fighters who initially crossed paths as sparring partners and eventually met down the line in competition.

One thing that should be advised to any fan who watches a fight between fighters who have experience sparring with each other is there is a significant difference between sparring in a gym/training camp and facing each other in a competitive fight. A reason for this is a sparring partner’s responsibility is to mirror a style that their partner will be facing in their upcoming bout and as such, there is the obvious possibility that what a fighter sees in a sparring scenario may not necessarily be the same as in competition. It will nevertheless be interesting to see if Helenius either saw something in his sparring sessions with Wilder or in Wilder’s three bouts with Tyson Fury that he might look to exploit in this fight.

As was the case with his two bouts against Adam Kowacki, Helenius is being viewed by many as the opponent for Wilder as opposed to a competitive threat to the former world champion. In terms of how he should approach this fight, Helenius needs to get the respect of Wilder early, but must be cautious in doing so. Wilder does have the type of punching power that can end a fight suddenly and even though there is possibility that Wilder may not be as willing to let his hands go as freely as he was prior to those two losses to Fury, a fighter’s power is something to always respect.

The challenge for Helenius will be to find the balance between putting Wilder under pressure and doing so with caution. Helenius is also a fighter that is not known for his Boxing ability, but he must be the one to dictate the combat here in this fight.

While this fight has the tagline of being the first step for Deontay Wilder, this will be a good gage to evaluate just how much the two losses to Tyson Fury took out of him and this fight may also serve as an indicator as to how much Wilder has left to give as a fighter. We will see if we will get those answers when Wilder meets Helenius on Saturday, October 15th

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Wilder vs. Helenius takes place on Saturday, October 15th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight can be seen in the United States on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View beginning at 9PM ET/6PM PT for $74.99. In addition to being streamed on the Fox Sports app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs, the event will also be streamed in the United States and globally on digital combat sports streaming network and pay-per-view platform FITE in addition to also being available via traditional cable/satellite pay-per-view throughout the United States and Canada.

To order and stream on the Fox Sports app download the Fox Sports app on your preferred device and follow the ordering instructions or visit for ordering information.

To order and stream on the FITE app, download the FITE app on mobile, tablet or connected streaming devices/Smart TVs, or Click the following link to order and for instructions on how and where to download the FITE app:

*Fight and Card Subject To Change 

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