Deontay Wilder watched friend Luis Ortiz lose live in the arena as the former world champion ran the rule over a forthcoming opponent in Andy Ruiz Jr.
The pair will meet in an Al Haymon in-house WBC heavyweight title eliminator in early 2023. Both had to win their respective WBC preliminaries to make it a reality.
Ruiz did his part and booked his place on Pay Per View at the weekend. The Mexican dropped Ortiz three times on his way to a superb win over a dogged old warrior.
Now, on October 15, it’s Wilder’s turn. However, he has a massive obstacle in his way in the shape of ex-sparring partner Robert Helenius.
The rangy Finn, who helped Wilder in training camp for his Fight of the Year performance against Tyson Fury last year, is favored by some for the upset.
A similar build to Fury without the flair, Helenius can be a dangerous task if Wilder doesn’t get his gameplan correct on the night.
Helenius is sure he can stop Wilder vs Ruiz from taking place next.
“I’m’ feeling really good, and training camp is going great. I’ve fought many good opponents and had a long career so far,” said Helenius.
This is, of course, a big fight for me. I have respect for Deontay. But I’ll give everything I have when I come to America.”
After two victories over Adam Kownacki, the man Wilder was supposed to share the Barclays Center headliner with next month, Helenius gets his big PPV chance.
The 38-year-old believes he has learned everything he needs to know from Wilder in camp to cause a stunning outcome.
“I’m’ ready to do everything in my power to win. I only took two weeks off after my last fight. I’ve’ been training since then. I know what it takes to win at this level.
“I’ve’ promised my fans in Finland that I would bring the world title back home. Sometimes you have to go through a lot to get there.
“But I’m’ going to do everything I can. We’re’ doing all the extra work that we need to.
“This is a huge deal. All I’ve’ ever wanted is to get the chance at the world heavyweight title. That’s why I’ve’ continued to fight.
“If I didn’t see myself becoming a world champion, I would have stopped and found a much easier job to do.
“I’m’ thankful to Deontay for his nice words, but on October 15, I’m’ going to bring the Viking spirit into the ring.”
Deontay Wilder vs Andy Ruiz Jr
There’s no doubting that fans want to see Wilder vs Ruiz. It’s the most significant battle outside an undisputed clash between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.
Haymon had hoped the full WBC title would be on the line for Wilder vs Ruiz if Fury retired by then. WBN understands PBC representatives did run the situation by WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman.
Sulaiman recently said: “Deontay Wilder returns to the ring on October 15 to face Robert Helenius at the Barclays Center in another semifinal elimination bout.
“The winner goes against the winner of Ruiz vs. Ortiz.
“While all this is happening, WBC world champion Tyson Fury hopes that his and Oleksandr Usyk’s promoters will reach an agreement to achieve the first unification heavyweight fight of the four-belt era.
“If this fight is signed, Fury, our WBC champion, will face Usyk, WBO, IBF, and WBA champion.
When Fury changed his mind about vacating, all hope was gone. WBN now envisions the interim championship coming back into play, though, if Fury still intends to hang up his gloves in 2023.
Wilder has to get past Helenius first to secure his place opposite Ruiz.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of Phil Jay.