Deontay Wilder will return to his favorite venue Saturday night for his first fight in over a year.

The former WBC champion became the heavyweight division’s most prolific knockout artist of the 21st century in large part due to the numerous memorable moments he produced at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “The Bronze Bomber” dismantled Dominic Breazeale in less than one round the last time he fought at the home arena of the NBA’s Nets in May 2019.

Before blasting Breazeale out of there three years ago, Wilder withstood serious trouble in seventh round to knock out Luis Ortiz in the 10th round of their telling first fight in March 2018 at Barclays Center. Two of his previous title defenses resulted in highlight-reel knockouts of former WBC champ Bermane Stiverne in their rematch and Artur Szpilka at that venue.

As relaxed as Wilder will feel within the comfortable confines of Barclays Center when he walks to the ring to fight Finland’s Robert Helenius, he will simultaneously enter unfamiliar territory.

Wilder will fight for the first time since Tyson Fury viciously knocked him out in the 11th round of their third title fight last October 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-7 Wilder figures to be every bit the pulverizing puncher he has always been, but his fight with Helenius will mostly amount to learning whether Wilder can overcome the psychological and physical hurdles caused by such a crushing knockout loss.

Unlike his seventh-round, technical-knockout defeat to Fury in their rematch in February 2020, Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) has had to accept an indisputable, devastating defeat to his British nemesis in their third fight. Similar to Mike Tyson 30-plus years ago, Wilder, who was accustomed to knocking out opponents, also must overcome the loss of his aura of invincibility.

An ever-confident Wilder, who will turn 37 on October 22, has less wear and tear on his body than most boxers his age because he didn’t try this inherently dangerous sport until he was 20 years old and had only ** amateur fights. But that third Fury fight was grueling and presumably took something out of both boxers.

Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) responded positively to their unforgettable slugfest, in which Wilder dropped him twice during the fourth round, by knocking out Dillian Whyte in the sixth round of his following fight April 23 at Wembley Stadium in London. Oddsmakers have installed Wilder as an 8-1 favorite to accomplish something similar versus Helenius.

Wilder, who seriously contemplated retirement, feels refreshed following an extended break. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist understandably believes he’ll return to his old ferocious form in what will be his first fight in 53 weeks.

“You can always expect nothing but the best from me,” Wilder said during an open workout Wednesday at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. “You know, I don’t get paid for overtime. So, I’ve been known for the knockouts. I’m gonna end my career with getting the knockouts. I put my life on the line each and every time. And with that being said, I’m gonna go out with a bang.”

Wilder seemingly should knock out Helenius (31-3, 20 KOs), a former sparring partner who was stopped by Gerald Washington (20-5-1, 13 KOs) in the eighth round of a July 2019 bout at The Armory in Minneapolis.

Helenius has considerable power as well and remarkable resilience, as “The Nordic Nightmare” demonstrated early in the first of his back-to-back stoppages of Brooklyn’s Adam Kownacki (20-3, 15 KOs), which helped him secure this high-profile fight with Wilder. The 38-year-old contender mostly is a stationary target, though, who Wilder should be able to hit consistently.

Helenius still should at least help us learn how Wilder will react when a big, strong opponent connects clean on his chin. We haven’t seen that happen since Fury emphatically knocked Wilder out with a crushing right


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