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Anthony Joshua’s hopes of fighting Deontay Wilder in the next six months remain alive after Robert Helenius agreed to replace Dillian Whyte for Saturday’s bout at London’s O2 Arena. Matchroom confirmed on Tuesday morning that Helenius would step in for Whyte, who saw his hopes of avenging defeat to Joshua in 2015 ended last weekend after “adverse analytical findings” were detected in his doping test by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). Whyte has vowed to clear his name but knowledge of his failed test left Matchroom in a race against time to find a new opponent for Joshua, but 72 hours later and Helenius answered the SOS call, despite being in action in Finland last Saturday. Joshua was eager to still fight this weekend and Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn had revealed if no replacement could be arranged, it would have put the potential clash with Wilder in jeopardy. Talks continue to take place between the camps of Joshua and Wilder over a fight at the end of this year or in early 2024, but the British heavyweight must first overcome Helenius. Hearn told talkSPORT: “We all wanted to see the Dillian Whyte fight but at the same time Anthony Joshua has trained for 12 weeks, he wants to fight Deontay Wilder next and wants to fight on Saturday. “The other option honestly was to fight in October or November. “And we want to fight Deontay Wilder. We know December is unlikely but we’re still being told and we were told as recently as two, three days ago or whenever it was, that you will be fighting (in December). “If he doesn’t take this fight on Saturday, then he won’t fight Wilder in December or January because he’d end up fighting in October or November.” Former two-time world heavyweight champion Joshua hinted at his long-term goal being Wilder when he reflected on Helenius replacing Whyte. “This wasn’t in the script. I respect Helenius and, may I say, I respect any male or female who steps into the ring,” Joshua added. “I am laser-focused on the win. I can make steps forward to bigger and better things but the road map has a check point – Saturday night. May the best man win.”
Helenius said: “I am excited about fighting Anthony Joshua on August 12. “I am a true Viking that is willing to face any challenge at a moment’s notice. This is not an opportunity I was going to let slip away. I plan to make the most of it.” Stockholm-born Helenius (32-4, 21KOs) is no stranger to the British boxing scene after he beat Derek Chisora in a contentious split decision to win the vacant European Championship title in 2011. The heavyweight with an orthodox style lost to Whyte on points six years later in Cardiff but only after he took the bout at two weeks’ notice. Whyte’s failed test saw Matchroom immediately cancel the planned domestic clash and opened the door for Helenius to secure another handsome payday in Britain. Hearn did express his shock at Whyte’s doping test result with the British boxer determined to prove his innocence, which was the case in 2019 after UK Anti-Doping concluded the levels in his sample were “very low” and he was ultimately not to blame, therefore clearing him of a doping violation. On Whyte, Hearn admitted: “I don’t represent Dillian so I can’t talk on his behalf. What I can say is I am surprised, I am in shock. “He’s had this VADA test and employed it meticulously over his career. I had an email from his team as early as this morning to say obviously there is a strict confidentiality on his behalf, not on my behalf and he has got a big fight on his hands. “We will let him go through that process and see how it ensues, but I was in big shock on Saturday when we found out about it. I was definitely surprised and he has a tough road ahead.” With Whyte set for a battle out of the ring, Helenius now looks ahead to the 37th fight of his career. The veteran has only fought three times since the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020, but an added element of intrigue to this clash is the fact Helenius was knocked out in the first round by Wilder last October. All eyes will now be on how Joshua performs against Helenius, 39, who enters this bout after his 32nd victory with Mika Mielonen stopped in the third round of their contest last Saturday.
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