The storyline you will hear throughout the week is how a clash between Otto Wallin and Travis Kauffman pits two heavyweights who’ve both recovered from COVID-19.
There is plenty more about the fight that appeals to at least one side of the equation.
“I feel good about this matchup,” Wallin told BoxingScene.com of his upcoming fight this weekend at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut (Saturday, Showtime, 9:00pm ET). “This is a fight we’ve wanted for a while. He’s a tough guy and always in fun fights.
“This is a good fight for me to show the world I am ready for anyone in the heavyweight division.”
The bout is Wallin’s first since his well-publicized 12-round clash with Tyson Fury last September in Las Vegas. Sweden’s Wallin (20-1, 13KOs) boxed well early, opening a huge cut over Fury’s eye and was seemingly one punch away from busting open the wound to the point of forcing the stoppage. The moment slipped away as Wallin ultimately suffered the first defeat of his career.
Plans for a redemptive 2020 campaign were severely put to the test. Wallin was due to face Australia’s Lucas Browne on a March 28 Showtime tripleheader from Park MGM in Las Vegas but had to withdraw after suffering a fractured left foot.
It proved moot as the card as a whole was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—a circumstance with which Wallin is all too familiar. As first reported by BoxingScene.com senior writer Keith Idec earlier this year, Wallin self-quarantined beginning March 14 after becoming convinced that he had contracted the infectious disease.
A full recovery came, at which point Wallin did his best to train at any available facility at a time when gyms were shut down in New York, where the 29-year old Swedish heavyweight has been since last October. Since then, he has done everything in his power to be as ready as possible for this weekend.
“I’ve been out since last September with Fury. It’s been almost a year and a crazy year at that,” notes Wallin. “I’ve been training all of this time. I take this very serious. I eat good, train hard. [Former two division champion and current head trainer] Joey Gamache is getting me ready. My strength and conditioning coach, my nutritionist are all keeping me on track.”
His next bout comes versus a fellow recovering coronavirus victim also on the comeback trail. Kauffman tested positive for the disease in late March, but—like Wallin—managed to return to full health and now to the ring. The fight will be the first for the Reading, Pennsylvania native since a 10th round stoppage loss to Luis Ortiz in December 2018. Subsequent shoulder surgery and a COVID-canceled April 11 PBC on Fox undercard appearance has led to a 20-month inactive stretch by the time he hits the ring on Saturday.
Once the opening bell sounds, Wallin suspects his well-schooled opponent will be ready to fight.
“[Kauffman] grew up in boxing. He’s always been a boxer and has some decent skills,” acknowledges Wallin. “He’s a fan friendly fighter. Usually he gets knocked down or the opponent gets knocked down. It’s always fun to watch him. I have been studying him and his fights. I’ve been watching with Alexander, Chris Arreola, Tony Grano, Luis Ortiz. They’ve all been great fights.
“He’s been out two years. He had shoulder surgery. All that matters. I know that he doesn’t take care of himself between fights like I do. I just think that all works to my advantage. I’m younger, I’m fresher and I’m a good fighter. And I’m hungry. It’s a very good matchup for me.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox