After heavyweight hopeful Robert Helenius polished off former titlist Sergei Liakhovich in a ninth-round knockout win in August 2011, he was red-hot and being discussed as a possible future challenger for either of the heavyweight champion brothers, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.
Even Wladimir Klitschko himself brought Helenius up as a possible challenger to his throne.
Liakhovich was the third former world titleholder whom Helenius had knocked out in less than two years, adding him to a list that also included Samuel Peter (in devastating fashion) and the long-faded Lamon Brewster.
But since the Liakhovich fight, it’s been a struggle for Helenius (18-0, 11 KOs), who hopes to get back on track with a good performance against British journeyman Michael Sprott (37-19, 17 KOs) on Saturday (Epix and EpixH.com, 4 p.m. ET) at the GETEC-Arena in Magdeburg, Germany. Helenius-Sprott is the co-featured bout on the card headlined by the rematch between super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (36-3, 28 KOs) and Robert Stieglitz (43-3, 24 KOs).
After beating Liakhovich, Finland’s Helenius -- known as the “Nordic Nightmare” -- won the vacant European title by claiming a split decision against Dereck Chisora. But it was a terrible hometown decision in a fight many thought Chisora had won rather easily.
Then came a 13-month layoff for the 6-foot-6 Helenius, who needed surgery to repair a nagging right shoulder injury. When he returned in November, Helenius fought with no passion in a lethargic and an uninspiring 10-round decision win against 5-11 journeyman Sherman Williams, who actually hurt Helenius with an overhand right in the sixth round.
The 38-year-old Sprott is vastly experienced against numerous name opponents in his 17-year pro career, including losses to former world titleholders Corrie Sanders, Ruslan Chagaev and Brewster. Sprott’s biggest win came in 2007, when he knocked countryman Audley Harrison out cold in the third round (but then was stopped in the 12th round of their 2010 rematch).
More recently, Sprott ended a four-fight losing streak in December with an upset decision win in a rematch with unbeaten prospect Edmund Gerber, who had stopped Sprott in the fourth-round in his previous fight in September.
“I was present in Nuremberg (Germany) when he beat Gerber,” Helenius said. “Sprott is technically gifted, so I will have to make use of my height and reach advantage. My jab could make the difference.”