By Ronan Mcilhennon: On East 26th Street New York City, you will find The Mendez Boxing Club. In that club you will find an undefeated Swedish heavyweight boxer who aims to shock the world on Saturday night. His name is Otto Wallin (20-0,13 KOs). He was born in the small town of Sundsvall in 1990. Boxing, although banned in Sweden at the time, was never far from young Otto. His two older brothers liked to use their younger sibling as a sparring partner growing up. Petter the oldest of the brothers was a silver medallist at the 2010 Muay Thai boxing world championships and Marten the middle of the three was trained in Jiu-Jitsu.
Otto recalls how growing up the trio would often tussle for kicks with him. Always on the losing end, “it wasn’t like they were abusing me or anything, but I was always younger and smaller than them. It’s pretty tough competition in the house and that’s helped me a lot.” The brothers love for combat sports stems from their late father Carl, who sadly passed away in May of this year from a heart attack. He was an amateur boxer having around 25 fights before moving into training and convinced Otto at the age of 15 to concentrate on boxing instead of ice hockey, soccer and swimming that he was also participating in.
As an amateur, Otto at the age of 16 won the first tournament he entered , the Swedish amateur championships in 2007. That same year the Swedish ban on professional boxing was lifted. He ended with an amateur record of 34-12 ,losing via decision twice to former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0-1,21 KOs) along the way. Later he was hired as a sparring partner by AJ to help him prepare for his world title challenge against Charles Martin in 2016. Otto had had enough of the amateur game and turned professional signing with Sauerland Promotions, making his debut in November 2013. It was that same year that he first met Joey Gamache the former two weight world champion of the world turned trainer.
Wallin says the two of them clicked straight away. “We had good chemistry right away and we’ve been together since. Without Joey, I don’t think I would be where I am today.” Fighting in Europe against low level opposition, the ambitious Otto grew weary. He relocated his camp to New York City and joined the ever growing Salita Promotions under the guidance of former welterweight world challenger Dmitiry Salita.
Boxing fans will struggle to recognize any of Wallin’s previous opponents. He is undefeated as a professional, although he is yet to face a credible challenger. He made his U.S national debut in April of this year against Nick Kisner (21-4,1,6kos), only for the bout to be stopped and declared a no contest by referee David Franciosi after an accidental head clash in round one. He was then scheduled to face former Tony Bellew victim BJ Flores in July, only for the American to be denied a licence. The big Swede’s American dream looked to be turning into a nightmare until he received the call to take on ‘the Gypsy King,’ and he jumped at the chance. It would not be the first time a Swedish heavyweight shocked the American public.
In 1959 Swedish contender Ingemar Johansson was given little chance when he traveled to New York City to face the world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. Johansson became a legend that night when he stopped Patterson in the third round at the Yankee Stadium. Otto believes he can emulate his homeland hero. Since the ban on professional boxing in Sweden has been lifted, the country has started to produce some talented fighters such as former two weight world champion Badou Jack (22-2-3,13kos) and super lightweight contender Anthony Yigit (24-1-1,8kos) with also a batch of highly talented amateurs hotly tipped for success at the next Olympics.
Saturday night will be only the second time Otto has faced an undefeated opponent since his debut against Roman Cherney in 2013. Although it should be pointed out that Cherney at the time had a record of one fight one win and retired a year later with a record of W1,L2,D0. Standing at 6’ 5.5″ and with a reach of 78,” Wallin meets the athletic demands needed to be a modern day heavyweight, although he will be dwarfed in the ring when facing the 6’ 9” Tyson Fury (28-0-1,20 KOs) and have a reach disadvantage of 7”. Critics have been quick to compare the contest to Fury’s last outing in June against unbeaten Tom Schwarz, when the unbeaten German folded in the second round. WBC champion Deontay Wilder(41-0-1,40kos), who is set for a rematch with Fury in 2020, labelled Wallin a “night-shift graveyard worker.” Eddie Hearn said he “wouldn’t make his worst enemy watch” the Fury-Wallin fight. Anthony Joshua speaking about Fury said, “they shouldn’t be fighting them type of people, I can’t fight Wallin. I don’t think I can ever fight low-tier heavyweights.” Although Wallin says he takes no notice of any of them and is ready to prove them all wrong, “I know I’m an underdog in this fight, but I’m ready for this opportunity and I’m going to grab it with both hands. I like the fact that I have everything to gain and Tyson has everything to lose.”
Can he win though? Every fighter especially the heavyweights have a punches chance, but with a KO ratio of 62%, Wallin does not seem to be a conclusive puncher. He prefers to work from a distance behind a high guard. This strategy might not be effective given Fury’s reach advantage. He is a southpaw which brings its own challenges. Although with Fury’s ability to switch stances himself, he should easily deal with this threat. One factor that will make this fight more competitive than the Schwarz contest is the mindset that Wallin has. He says he will use the memory of his late father to give him extra motivation to shock the world, similarly to Buster Douglas who used the passing of his mother as extra motivation to defeat Mike Tyson and shock the world in 1990. In reality though, Wallin is still a prospect with a lot to learn in the fight game. This contest has probably come three years too soon for him, but as we all know in heavyweight boxing anything can happen. You can find out if Wallin can shock the world this Saturday, 14th September at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight will be broadcast live on BT Sports Box Office at 2 AM BST and ESPN+ at 11 pm ET.