Wednesday 27 March 2013

Robert Helenius, the 'Nordic Nightmare?'

By Nathan Orr @orrzboxing.

Before I get started I want to make it clear I’m not a “hater” of Helenius, I respect every fighter that enters the ring but I feel the media, expectations and thoughts about the “Nordic Nightmare” should be adjusted considering his circumstances. 

Robert Helenius (19-0-0) had a promising start to his boxing career with success in the amateurs which included a silver in the amateur boxing championships in 2006 and at a stage in his amateur career featured a points victory over David Price! Since entering the pro ranks Helenius has been hyped as “The next big thing” especially in his homeland of Finland and on the Sauerland card on Saturday in Magdeburg he faced his next test in Michael Sprott(37-20-0).

“Robbe” is an unconventional fighter, lets be honest he doesn’t look like one and his entrance music Sonne by Rammstein says it all! From the first bell the tempo of the fight was set with Helenius controlling the pace with the jab but it was clear on the rare occasions that Sprott threw punches in bunches and moved forward he caused problems.

Helenius lands his stiff jab. 
From the 1st until the 10th round there was a clear pattern in the bout and Sprott fought a static fight lacking effective pressure and the head movement to trouble the “Nordic Nightmare”. Finally Sprott woke up in the last round and smelt the coffee when he provided some movement along with effective pressure, and guess what? He landed that right hand several times, coincidence- I think not. Sprott was handed a blueprint in how to beat the 6 foot, 6 inches monster by Dereck Chisora, but he ultimately failed to follow this up effectively getting to the chin of the Nordic giant! 

Team Sauerland have promoted Robert since he turned pro but it appears he is being groomed as another Klitschko victim, not headlining his own bill in Finland but instead being placed on the undercard in Germany tells it at all as they look to reveal the “Nordic Nightmare” to the German public. It’s clear that Roberts’s opponents are being chosen VERY carefully, previous opponents Chisora, Peters, Sprott and Sherman all share a very similar physical makeup and one which Helenius has been taught to deal with over the duration of his career.

Chisora caused Helenius all sorts of problems.
The reason Helenius had problems with Chisora was he wasn’t the same as the rest of these fighters, he fought dynamically with his bob and weaving movement to effectively get past the stiff Helenius jab and fired wide hooks when inside. This ultimately gave Robert something which he wasn’t taught to deal with and in the end was very fortunate to escape away with another “W” on his record. Personally I saw the result of Helenius winning by split decision as the robbery of the year and rated it greater than that of Bradley’s controversial decision victory vs Pacquiao.

What Helenius does do well is use his frame, height and reach effectively, for a small heavyweight reaching that chin can be too hard of a task over the duration of 12 rounds. Now I can’t criticise Helenius too much as he has beat what has been put in front of him but I don’t understand how the WBO have ranked him as their number 1 contender?!

At times Helenius threw some uppercuts which were impressive but what struck me is whether he has the temperament and mental strength of a World heavyweight title challenger? The spite in his work that he used to have appeared to be missing, in the past Helenius looked at his most impressive ripping the European HW belt off Gregory Tony and then following to knock out Samuel Peters brutally after he had previously been dismantled by Wladimir Klitschko. Throughout the whole fight vs Sprott it was clear that Helenius struggled to throw his once powerful right hand effectively in the same fashion he once used to knock out Samuel Peters and Tony. 

This loss of venom in work could be explained by the severe shoulder injury he picked up in the bout vs Dereck Chisora, since then it has affected his commitment to punches and his overall confidence. Evidence of his mental vulnerability caused by previous injury was seen when Wegner had to shrug off concern in the corner at the end of the 9th round when Helenius stated “My hand is broken”, to which Wegner replied “What, just stop that crap?”.

At the end of the 7th round, Jim Evans (Sprott's trainer) highlighted his thoughts on Helenius’ vulnerabilities by stating. “Right Michael this is the end of the road, this is your last fight tonight with me mate. Because you’ve f****** had it. Your f*****, right? You better go out there and go out on your sword cause this is your last fight. Seriously alright? I’m not being messed about but you know you got to go out on your sword. You’re not performing at all and this bloke is two bob. Seriously! It’s all over mate, all over. Go out and have a go, 2 more rounds! Away you go, come on! This statement from Evans spoke volumes and highlighted the realisation that with more movement and effective pressure his man could of came away with the victory and propelled himself into a world title challenge in the future!

Even though Robert managed to come away with the unanimous points victory vs Sprott, I still am left feeling sorry for the Nordic Giant. In the past he has shown promise but recently has been dealt setbacks suffering tough, damaging injuries which appear to of ended his hopes of being World Heavyweight champion. Unfortunately I feel it’s only a matter of time until he is overmatched, exposed and taken advantage of by Team Sauerland in putting him in against a Klitschko. By facing a more reputable name in the future such as Helenius it would help avoid the same criticism which Wladimir Klitschko is currently receiving due to his proposed fight with Francesco Pianeta on the 4th of May.

So Robert Helenius, the Nordic Nightmare? For now with his injuries its more like the gentle slumber. Unfortunately without the effective use of that right hand on the inside it’s only a matter of time until the hype ends. The jab can’t defend you forever.

Want to share your opinion with me on Robert Helenius and his career? Drop me a message on twitter at @OrrzBoxing

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