ANTHONY JOSHUA’S recurring bad dream has been saved by the Nordic Nightmare.
Sweden-born Finn Robert Helenius has accepted the last-minute challenge to replace Dillain Whyte and fight the London 2012 Olympic legend on Saturday, after a second doping disaster wrecked another show.
The sold-out O2 card was in serious danger of getting cancelled as a handful of approached opponents priced themselves out of facing the 33-year-old Brit.
But 39-year-old Helenius – who is in fine form and confidence after a KO win just FOUR days ago – has snapped up the opportunity.
AJ supposedly has a £47million Deontay Wilder showdown booked for the Spring in Saudi Arabia, so couldn’t face an elite opponent likely to give him a scare.
But Helenius has a controversial 2011 points win over Derek Chisora on his record and took Whyte the distance in a dull 2017 defeat, so is known to UK fans and, at 6ft 6in, looks the part.
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Team AJ made a disastrous error in 2019 when planned opponent 6ft 6in, 23st oaf Jarrell Miller was booted out of the fight for a string of doping offences and they subbed in 5ft 10in rapid-fisted Andy Ruiz who pulled off the shock upset.
A similar mistake cannot be made again and the brutal 40-second knockout Helenius suffered against Wilder in 2022 is an encouraging sign their man will win in explosive fashion.
The two-time world champ said: "This wasn’t in the script.
"I respect Helenius and may I say, I respect any male or female who steps into the ring.
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"I am laser focused on the win. I can make steps forward to bigger and better things but the road map has a checkpoint, Saturday night. May the best man win.”
Helenius – who spent time in Sheffield sparring AJ in September 2017 – only needed three rounds to spark Mika Mielonen on August 5.
But is the exact type of huge, orthodox fighter AJ prefers to box, with his weakest performances coming against shorter, hard-to-hit and especially southpaw opponents.
The 32-4 Viking 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!"
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