Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder celebrated his long-awaited return to the boxing ring with a resounding knockout that halted Robert Helenius in the opening round of their bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
A punch like that announced Wilder’s intentions to be a force in the band. In the event that his performance was unclear, Wilder emphasized the point after the match.
“Deontay Wilder is back,” he said in an interview after the fight on Fox. “The excitement in the heavyweight class is back.”
Wilder was returning to the ring for the first time since losing to Tyson Fury last October. After Fury rose from a 12th-round knockout in his first match of 2018, the English boxer became the first opponent to rise from a Wilder knockout in a separate tie. Fury then proceeded to win the next two knockout fights, including last year’s match that featured five knockouts between them and was considered by many to be the fight of the year.
In his first fight since the Fury trilogy, Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) chose to fight Helenius, the Finnish rival who sparred with Wilder for his match with Fury. Helenius (31-4, 20 KOs) was coming off two consecutive wins by knockout over Adam Konaki.
“I knew what he was capable of,” Wilder said after the match. “I didn’t take it for granted. I could look him in the eye. He wanted it to be so [the first Finnish] Heavyweight Champion.”
Feeling Wilder’s strength in a headgear is one thing. Trying to withstand this force in an actual frenzy is quite another.
In the final seconds of the first round, Helenius attempted to land on Wilder from a distance. The former champion from Tuscaloosa, Alabama picked his spot and emptied his right hand which immediately brought down Helenius and ended the fight three seconds before the bell rang.
Helenius did not even return to his corner.
“I gave him access,” Wilder told Fox. “And then when he arrived, I attacked.”
The victory definitively began the final phase of Wilder’s career.
Prior to the match, Wilder stated that he intends to fight until 2025, when he will be 40 years old. With his personal deadline on the horizon, Wilder said he wanted to chase fights against top boxers who would have to calculate his strength.
“Most of the time when guys say they want me and come to my show, they see such a devastating knockout, turn a corner in my face,” Wilder said in the ring after the fight.
He mentioned unified champion Oleksandr Usyk and former champion Andy Ruiz as potential rivals. Anthony Joshua, another former champion who lost the USIC belts, was someone Wilder mentioned during the pre-reinforcement, but made no mention of Joshua after bringing down Helenius.
The person Wilder encounters will then attempt to join Fury and Bermane Stiverne as Wilder’s only opponents who will not succumb to his power.
Immediately after the final punch landed on Saturday, Wilder put his gloves on his hips and stared into the crowd as Helenius lay flat on the canvas, another recipient of one of the most devastating punches in boxing history.
Wilder cast a blank look on his face. It was as if he was asking fans in Brooklyn if they expected anything less.
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