When Otto Wallin cut Tyson Fury with a left hand in the third round of their September bout, it forced Fury to recalibrate and adopt a more aggressive style.
Gone was the fleet-footed boxer who glided across the ring.
What emerged was a more purposeful Fury, walking forward and waging war in the trenches in an attempt to muscle Wallin on the inside.
The change in behavior worked as Fury survived the cut and walked away with a decision against Wallin.
Wallin hasn’t forgotten the lessons learned in that fight. Wallin doesn’t think that Fury has forgotten either.
Sitting in his Las Vegas hotel room on Wednesday minutes before hitting the gym, Wallin (20-1, 13 knockouts) ruminated on how Fury may have been onto something with his new inside, claustrophobic, chest-to-chest strategy.
When Fury faces Deontay Wilder again on Saturday for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (ESPN/FOX PPV), the prevailing notion is that Fury will step around Wilder and box him from the outside, relying on his superior skill-set to offset Wilder’s awesome power. But Wallin believes Fury may adopt the same aggressive, interior fighting style he used again him.
And with Fury weighing 273 pounds and Wilder 231, Wallin believes that Fury could use his bulk to push Wilder around the ring and even bully him on the inside.
“He’s got a big weight advantage. He’s probably going to out-weight Wilder by close to 50 pounds, so he can use that to his advantage like he did against me and push Wilder around and lean on him,” Wallin told BoxingScene in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Fury told us this morning that he doesn’t find Wilder very strong, like in his body. He punches hard, but he’s not very strong, so Fury said he could bully him and move him around. Let’s see if he tries that because I think that’s one way to stay away from Wilder’s power and not give him any space to land those big shots.”
It’s a risky strategy that may sound preposterous, given Wilder’s ferocious power and that Fury was down twice the first time they met, which ended in a split draw.
But the Swedish heavyweight doesn’t think staying away from Wilder is necessarily the best way to neutralize his vaunted power.
Wallin, 29, was in Las Vegas last week to do media for the Wilder-Fury rematch and to hype his own return to the ring on March 28 against former secondary titleholder Lucas Browne at the Park Theater at the Park MGM in Las Vegas as part of a Showtime tripleheader (former bantamweight titleholder Luis Nery is in the main event).
Wallin sat down with Fury (29-0-1, 20 knockouts) for an interview with a Swedish television outlet and the two commiserated over their time in the ring together.
“I think Fury can do it and if he’s playing it smart by staying close to Wilder so he can’t get off his big shots — he can’t give him any space,” he said. “But it’s a risky strategy because he’s going to be in there and Wilder is such a big puncher, but Fury is going to be landing punches, too, and if he hits you in the right spot anybody can get knocked out in the heavyweight division.”
Wallin thinks it’s more likely that Fury will win a decision in the rematch than stop Wilder. A lot has been made of the 47 stitches that was required to mend Fury’s cut above his right eye in his fight with Wallin. While Wilder (42-0-1, 41 knockouts) will surely be targeting the eye, Wallin thinks it’s a mistake for Wilder to fixate on that spot and become predictable in his attack, which is what Wallin admitted he did a little too much when he faced Fury.
“I think he shouldn’t head-hunt,” Wallin said of Wilder. “He should throw Fury off by jabbing him to the body, throwing body shots and trying to knock him off balance. If Wilder goes out there just trying to open up that cut, then it’s going to be hard for him because that’s going to play into Fury’s favor because just going after Fury’s head isn’t a good idea because he has good movement and good defense. So Wilder has to be smarter than that to try and set up his shots better. He’s got the big punch and he’s got a good jab, too, but he doesn’t use it enough.”
With Wallin’s star on the rise, every time he’s around a top heavyweight, he’s scouting, observing, to see if he can spot any weakness, knowing he may face them one day. He thinks he may have spotted a minor, out-of-the-ring flaw in Wilder this week in the way he conducts himself with the media. While the genial and outgoing Wilder has received praise for the amount of interviews he’s sat through and his willingness to do the work required to sell a big pay-per-view fight, Wallin thinks Wilder gets a little too carried away in his presentation.
“I feel a lot of times that Wilder goes into this role when he’s in front of the media that he wants to be a tough guy and intimidating,” he said. “His power is intimidating, but I don’t think his persona that he tries to project is very intimidating. It’s a little off when he tries to act like that. I would like to see him just show more of his true self.”