Anthony Joshua took out Robert Helenius inside seven rounds at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
Helenius surprised when he took Joshua into the second half of their contest but then with a single shot, a huge right cross to the jaw, Joshua extinguished his efforts, dropping him heavily at 1-27 of the seventh round.
Joshua was due to renew hostilities with old rival Dillan Whyte on this show. But that bout had to be cancelled after Whyte returned adverse analytic findings in the pre-fight anti-doping protocols.
It left Joshua looking for a replacement opponent at just a week’s notice and Helenius, moments after he had taken a three-round victory over Mika Mielonen last weekend in Finland made himself available for this fight.
After being knocked out in the first round by Deontay Wilder, Helenius was seizing an opportunity to return to action at the top tier of the heavyweight division. He began with spirit too, rushing out in the first round to cuff punches at Joshua’s guard.
Joshua, a former unified champion, is determined to reclaim a title and for him Helenius was just another step on the road back.
He was patient, he softened Helenius up with the occasional combination and then delivered a brutal ending.
By the second round Joshua was taking control. He lunged in with a left hook to catch Helenius. His jab thumped into the body but he wouldn’t rush himself.
Joshua might gradually have been taking the measure of this short-notice opponent, having a close look at him. But that wasn’t what the crowd wanted to see. They wanted more action.
As early as the third round boos began to ring out from some quarters of the arena, a demand for urgency.
Joshua answered that call though and launched a right cross flush into Helenius’ jaw. It connected and a cursory glance at Helenius showed it was a hurtful punch.
But the Finn collected himself. He withstood a charge in the next round and boxed through it. In the fifth, with Helenius backed into the ropes, Joshua smacked in a right that struck so hard the thud was audible.
The pace leaked out of the contest in the sixth round and if Joshua was affronted to see Helenius still in with him in the latter half of the contest, he finished matters with a sudden burst of speed.
His jab flicked out, distracting Helenius and the right carved a path through to hit the Finn cleanly to the jaw.
The blasting shot dropped him heavily, ending the contest at once.
The result, and the manner of the finish, clearly delighted Joshua. He even left the ring to celebrate before returning to have his hand formally raised by the referee.
He took his time but eventually Joshua got exactly the ending he wanted.
“My back’s gone,” Joshua cried. “I’m carrying this heavyweight division to the top!”
Joshua should be on course to fight Wilder himself. Malik Scott, the American’s trainer revealed that fight was effectively “locked in” for January of next year.
Picking up a second consecutive victory with new trainer Derrick James in his corner, and his first stoppage win since 2020, won’t have hurt Joshua’s confidence ahead of that potential clash with the division’s biggest puncher.
On the undercard Filip Hrgovic retained his status as the mandatory challenger for the IBF heavyweight title, held by Oleksandr Usyk along with the WBO and WBA belts. But it took until the 12th and final round for Hrgovic to find a stoppage.
He hurt Australia’s Dempsey McKean with a right to the jaw but got away with clubbing blows to the back of the head before the referee halted the Australian.
British heavyweight Derek Chisora, once a world title challenger but now at the very tail end of his career, laboured to a unanimous decision over 41-year-old American Gerald Washington.
Chisora took the slow paced 10-rounder 98-93, 97-94 and 96-94 the judges’ scorecards.