Former heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder returned to the ring on Saturday night with a destructive first-round knockout of Robert Helenius, powerfully punching his way back into the win column after consecutive losses to Tyson Fury.
Wilder moved cautiously for most of the round before unleashing his right hand that has long been considered the best in the business. He knew it was over, posing against the ropes even before the fight had been stopped.
“When you fight Deontay Wilder, you have to have your A-plus-plus game,” the American said.
Wilder, 43-2-1 (42 KOs), won emphatically in his first fight since getting stopped twice by Fury, the latter in the 11th round last October after Fury got up from two knockdowns.
But Helenius (31-4) wasn’t getting up from the straight right hand that ended the fight with three seconds remaining in the first round at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Fury was able to deal with Wilder’s power — and he’s been the only one so far who has — getting up from four total knockdowns in their three fights. But Helenius wasn’t in that class.
He used his roughly 40-pound edge to move Wilder back for much of the round, and had him back in the corner when Wilder unleashed the right that ended the Finnish fighter’s hopes of moving closer to a title shot.
“I set him up,” Wilder said. “I allowed him to reach and when he reached, I attacked. It was a great fight.”
Wilder held the WBC title for five years and could seek a chance against Oleksandr Usyk, who owns the three belts besides the one Fury took from Wilder. Other names that will be mentioned include former champions Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.
“I’ve been hearing rumours about Usyk, but he’s not here, is he?” Wilder said. "When guys see these knockouts, they turn the corner away from me.”
Wilder turns 37 next week and said he only wants to fight three more years, but is willing to do whatever it takes during that time to get back on top of the division.
“Deontay is back and the excitement in the heavyweight division is back,” he said.
Wilder finally got to work after Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs) knocked out Anthony Dirrell (34-3-2) in the ninth round of their super middleweight matchup between past champions.
Plant lost his belt in his previous fight when he was stopped by undisputed champion Sauk 'Canelo' Alvarez.