If Tyson Fury is going to remain retired, the most electric heavyweight boxer in the world is returning to action after a year away. How else can we label Deontay Wilder? The only fights that didn’t result in Wilder getting his hand raised in victory came against Fury and all those victories with a lone exception came via stoppage. It’s hard to say Wilder isn’t still that man today. However, that doesn’t mean Robert Helenius doesn’t have a chance to prove the world wrong. After all, that’s why we have these fights, right?
Deontay Wilder vs. Robert Helenius, Heavyweight
Physically, we all know what the deal with Wilder is. He’s extremely lanky, possesses ungodly power, and is hardly a technical marvel. That’s been the book on him since he began to make noise about a decade ago and that hasn’t changed. He’s about to turn 37, so there’s always the potential that his physical skills could begin to decline, but there haven’t been signs of that. Given Wilder began late in his boxing career, he doesn’t have quite the mileage on his body either. The likelihood of Wilder declining physically is unlikely.
However, just because Wilder should be physically fine, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be his old self. We all know how important the mental side of things is in sports, especially combat sports. Wilder is coming off the first two losses of his career at the hands of Fury. It isn’t just that he lost, but he also endured a hellacious beating in their third contest. Wilder protested the stoppage in the second fight of their trilogy. He didn’t in the final fight. Taking the year off after that was wise to better ensure there are no long-term consequences from that fight. That’s a big reason why I have no expectations of a physical decline. But mentally? That’s a completely different story.
Helenius is in many ways the perfect opponent to test Wilder out. Helenius isn’t quite as savvy as Fury. He’s not as big either, nor is he on Fury’s level in terms of pure athleticism. He probably isn’t as heavy handed either. All that said, it Isn’t like Helenius is a huge step down by any means in any of those categories. He’s just a bit shorter than Fury. His reach is about six-inches shorter, but it’s still longer than the vast majority of other heavyweights. And while no one will accuse Helenius of being an elite athlete, he’s hardly a slug. The way he handled Adam Kownacki showed he’s capable of putting together a god gameplan too. Throw in the fact that Wilder was clearly struggling with Fury’s height and Helenius has a path to victory.
Of course, that’s dependent on Wilder. For a while, the hard hitter was able to get by on his physical gifts. He never sharpened up his fundamentals, largely because he didn’t need to. After Wilder lost to Fury the first time, he made a commitment to adding to his arsenal, developing a jab. It wasn’t the most effective jab, but it did prove Wilder can add to his bag of tricks. At the very least, it makes him more unpredictable. Given it was his predictability that proved to be one of the keys to Fury’s victory in their second contest, Wilder needs to address that.
The other thing that Helenius is sure to have caught onto is Fury taking the fight to Wilder. If Wilder’s jab proves to be more effective than it was against Fury, that will be far easier said than done. After all, while Helenius did a number to Kownacki, Wilder isn’t nearly as plodding as Kownacki and Kownacki was notably smaller than Helenius. That said, no one has found much success looking to counter Wilder and we now know that Wilder can be finished. Once a chin is cracked once, it is more liable to be cracked again.
While Fury exposed how Wilder can be beaten, the trilogy also revealed some positives that were in question around Wilder. The man truly has the heart of a champion. He pushed himself beyond what anyone expected him to in their third contest, proving unable to be interviewed immediately post-fight after the beating he endured. Showing the type of mettle Wilder did, it’s hard to believe the former champion will prove to be mentally broken. I probably wouldn’t have the odds quite as wide as the bookmakers currently have them, but there’s a reason Wilder is a sizeable favorite. Wilder’s willingness to add to his toolbox only solidifies my position. He’s never going to become a technician at this stage of his career, but he can sharpen his skills to make himself even more dangerous than he already has proven himself to be. I expect Wilder will return looking to make a statement. Helenius is no chump, but Wilder has the advantage in too many areas. Wilder via KO of RD5