LONDON. – It was lights out for ‘The Nordic Nightmare’, but not necessarily a return of the ruthless Anthony Joshua many expected.
British heavyweight Joshua, 33, was hoping to roll back the years and breathe new life into what many feel is a stalling career, against an opponent who took the fight at a week’s notice.
Instead Joshua boxed cautiously, at times lethargically, and was subjected to jeers from the crowd before knocking out Finland’s Robert Helenius in the seventh round at London’s O2 Arena.
“If I could have done it earlier, I would have,” Joshua – sporting sunglasses to conceal slight swelling to his eye – said at the post-fight news conference.
“It’s a breaking down job. There’s many ways to skin a cat and I did it in the end.”
Joshua rediscovered his knockout touch, his first since beating Kubrat Pulev in December 2020.
“I’m pleased, relieved and ready to move forward,” promoter Eddie Hearn added.
But with a fight with Deontay Wilder mooted for early next year, was that a performance which would strike fear in the hard-hitting American? Or any of the top three or four heavyweights in the world?
‘Have any of them boxed before?’ – Joshua responds to jeers
Helenius – a replacement for Dillian Whyte after the Londoner failed a voluntary drugs test – is not a world-beater, but a credible opponent at short notice.
The 39-year-old was fighting fit, having competed in his homeland a week before. More importantly, he was a man with very little to lose and a great deal to gain.
But British fight fans are among the harshest of critics. Credit is not mindlessly dished out, high expectations need to be met.
In the build-up, Joshua promised an early knockout. He appeared to be up for the fight.
“You got a problem?” he barked at Helenius at the weigh-in. A question you’re more likely to hear moments before a pub brawl than from the usually composed Joshua.
However, for the first 18 minutes of the fight, neither boxer truly let their hands go. No flush shots landed.
An already agitated crowd – made to wait until 23:30 BST for the main event – voiced their frustrations. – BBC Sport.