Otto Wallin figured Tyson Fury would take out Francis Ngannou whenever he wanted to end their 10-round, non-title fight October 28.
A surprised Wallin called Ngannou’s competitive performance “incredible” and commended the former UFC heavyweight champion for testing the heavily favored Fury in his professional boxing debut. Wallin feels Fury took Ngannou lightly, though, which is why the Swedish southpaw expects the only opponent who has beaten him to defeat Oleksandr Usyk in their title unification fight.
Wallin knows Fury will prepare properly for Ukraine’s Usyk, who will likely fight Fury at some point in February at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“Fury will be the favorite for me, but he didn’t look great the last time out with Ngannou,” Wallin told BoxingScene.com. “I think Ngannou did a really good job. I can’t believe how well he did. But I’ve also got a feeling Fury really underestimated him and probably didn’t expect much from him. So, it was probably a big surprise for Fury. I think with Usyk that Fury is still the favorite, but Usyk will give him a really good fight.”
England’s Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs), the WBC champion, was knocked down by Ngannou’s left hook late in the third round. The 6-foot-9, 277¾-pound Fury came back to beat Ngannou by split decision in their pay-per-view main event.
Fury also suffered a small cut on the lower left side of his forehead and some swelling around his left eye, which pushed back a showdown with Usyk that The General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia had hoped to put on December 23.
Wallin believes Fury’s subpar performance against Ngannou will motivate him to train as hard as possible for his showdown versus Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), a southpaw who owns the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO championships.
“Sometimes Fury doesn’t seem to take things seriously,” Wallin said. “The last time he fought was against [Dereck] Chisora. That was in December, so it had been almost a year. And who knows what he’s done during that time? He’s a champion and I’m sure he knows that, but he’s gotta stay in the gym and take things seriously because otherwise it’s gonna take its toll if you’re doing a lotta other stuff.”
Skeptics speculated that Fury didn’t take Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) as seriously as he should have when they fought in September 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Wallin’s hard left hand opened a grotesque gash above Fury’s right eye in the third round of that bout, but Fury fought through that adversity and won their 12-round bout by unanimous decision.
The 32-year-old Wallin is 6-0 since his loss to Fury. His 12-round, split-decision victory over former unified cruiserweight champ Murat Gassiev (30-2, 23 KOs) on September 30 in Antalya, Turkey earned Wallin the number two position in the IBF’s heavyweight rankings.
“It feels amazing,” Wallin said. “I had some tough years [after the Fury fight], and I had to take this fight. I was happy to get a big fight like this. I felt like it was a big opportunity to fight Gassiev, who’s a former unified champion. It was a good opportunity, but there was also a concern that it was gonna be in Turkey, with his promoter and those things.
“But we felt, all in all, it was a good fight and that it was worth taking the risk. I felt like I won almost every round. And then they said it was a split decision. Then I thought, ‘Oh my God! They’re gonna steal it now!’ But they came to their senses and gave me the win, so that was good.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.