Posted on 08/10/2023
By: Sean Crose
“Late replacements aren’t ideal,” Anthony Joshua said at a Wednesday press conference to promote his Saturday fight with last minute replacement opponent Robert Helenius, “but it’s the third time it’s happened. A long career will present these types of obstacles and I’ve just got to get used to them, it’s just another rock in my shoe to the top of the mountain.” Former WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titlist Joshua has had a tough few years for himself. After losing his titles to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021, he subsequently lost the rematch in 2022. His April return win against Jermain Franklyn, although dominant, was less than impressive.
And now he has to face a replacement opponent this weekend after his scheduled opponent, old foe Dillian Whyte, failed a VADA test last week. Still, the 25-3 heavyweight believes the fight must go on. “You have to stay active,” he says, “keep expressing your skill as that’s the only way to improve. I fought in April, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the ring in the gym as we do a lot of ring work in Dallas, and that’s the closest thing to a fight. It’s not just hitting the bags and mitts, there’s a lot of combat training so I am physically ready.”
As for the 32-4 Helenius, Joshua doesn’t aim to take his determined 6’9 foe lightly. Helenius may have recently been knocked out in thunderous fashion by Deontay Wilder last October, and he may have had his comeback fight just last Saturday (where he stopped Mika Mielonen in three) but the man knows a great opportunity when he sees one. There’s no denying this is the chance of a lifetime for the 39 year old contender.
“It would be silly to underestimate him, or anyone,” Joshua said. “I have to take him deadly serious and credit to him, he’s coming to roll the dice, he wants to win. Other heavyweights that were mentioned, finance is an issue – risk versus reward, but in reality, that’s not all there is for him, so good luck to him, and shout out to everyone in Finland, I’ve been there before, and we’re looking to provide some good entertainment from top to bottom as the card is unbelievable.”
“You have to move forward,” says Joshua’s trainer, Derrick James. “Now it is all about Robert who is a pretty good fighter, you will see everything ‘AJ’ has been able to work on throughout camp and implement it into his game.”