Despite suffering his first career loss last year the career prospects of Otto Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs) have never looked better.
Four months ago at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas the Swede was the heavy underdog in what was the second installment of Tyson Fury’s plan, co-promoted by Top Rank and Frank Warren, to invade America and leave fans clamouring for the Gypsy King’s rematch with WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
The traditional Mexican Independence Day fight weekend had Fury in full tribute mode donning a lucha wrestling mask at the weigh in, then for the ring walk was draped in the country’s colours with a sombrero on top on. A showcase entrance for a showcase event. Twelve rounds later, a number the fight was not supposed to reach, and Wallin had proved himself on the biggest stage giving one of the world’s top three heavyweights a rough old night that was a mix of backing Fury up on the ropes, targeting the body and landing that left hand in round three which caused a potentially fight stopping cut for Fury. Wallin lost out on points but his reputation rocketed, his name now on the list of potential opponents for other top ten heavyweights in the future, and all of this having had only participated in a one-round no contest decision against Nick Kisner, an American heavyweight nowhere near the top ten or twenty in the division.
“I showed I belong at the top level,” Wallin told BoxingScene.com from New York.
“I’m a good fighter and one of the top guys but finally I got to show it. Now I don’t just think I am, I know I am and everybody else knows so that’s good. You gotta remember that before the Nick Kisner fight I fought Adrian Granat. That was in April the year before so in 18 months I only had one round. That’s way too little and if I would have had two-three fights before Fury the fight might have been different.”
Wallin now has the added expectation of proving that his performance against Fury was no fluke, was down to him and not because the former unified heavyweight champion was having an off night. Wallin has to back it up and show he belongs in the top ten or fifteen in the world. In 2020 his return could come in March in America, kicking off the first of potentially three fights this year to establish himself as a contender fighting against “good opponents” before stepping back up against the very best the division has to offer. Wallin and his trainer Joey Gamache are focussed on development and the right fights until a tempting offer for a big fight comes in.
“I’m not going to be able to go down too far in levels. I want to fight guys that are going to push me and develop me, “ he said before adding, “I’m not thinking too much about what people think and this and that.”
And as conversations go nowadays any known heavyweight is often linked to a fight in Great Britain where unified champion Anthony Joshua leads the invasion once again, followed by Dillian Whyte, Dereck Chisora, Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois.
“I seen Dillian Whyte had been mentioning my name,” said Wallin, “but also Chisora when his fight [against Joseph Parker] was cancelled. I know Eddie Hearn reached out to us about Chisora and Dmitriy [Salita] my promoter got back to him but we never heard back again. I don’t know if we had any offers from Dillian Whyte, I hadn’t heard anything so I don’t think so.”
The performance against Fury, the manner in which he took the loss, speculation linking him to big fights and a hero’s welcome when he returned to Sweden after his efforts in Las Vegas: A seismic shift in a career that looked like it was treading water for a while. But while 2019 was memorable for Wallin’s boxing aspirations, his personal life turned to tragedy when his father Carl died suddenly on May 22nd.
“He died from a heart attack so one day he was here, the next he was gone and it was very unexpected so I miss him a lot,” said Wallin who gave an emotional tribute to his father on Swedish television in the aftermath of the Fury fight.
“My father said to me plenty of times that if something were to happen to him I have to keep going, keep training and keep doing what I’m doing and that’s what I’ve been doing since he passed away. I was back in the gym the day after. It was very hard and I had to try really hard to keep it together and… it was hard days and times but I still try to do my best to honour him and remember what he told me that if something happens I have to keep going.”
And keep going he will. Times are a changing in the life and times of Otto Wallin. His profile has hit new heights, he has noticed a difference in his popularity back home in some of Sweden’s biggest cities and he has felt a new wave of respect from his peers, media and fans.
“I feel like that fight [against Fury] was my breakthrough and it makes the hard work I’ve been doing all worth it. I’m very happy and we’re getting good offers, so we take it from here.”
In just under a month Wallin, like millions of others, will be tuned into the much anticipated heavyweight title rematch between Fury and his American rival Deontay Wilder. Wilder’s WBC title on the line, it’s round 13 from where they left off in their memorable first fight, February 22nd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The sporting world will be watching and ‘Scene asked Wallin for his prediction on the fight.
“You never know with Wilder. He’s a huge puncher and when people say he may be the biggest puncher of all-time I agree. He only needs one shot to knock people out. I felt that Fury won the first time and of course he can do it again and now he’s had more time to get back to the ring, he’s had a few fights and hopefully that fight for me was good for him. I’m rooting for Fury because if Fury wins it would make me look better! I don’t think Wilder is a great boxer but he’s a great puncher. You never know. Anything can happen. I’ll pick Fury on points.”