|Tyson Fury v Otto Wallin|
|Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas Date: Saturday, 14 September Ring walks: 04:00 BST approx on Sunday|
|BBC coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Las Vegas should be braced for the “best Tyson Fury we have seen” when Britain’s former heavyweight world champion faces Otto Wallin on Saturday, says the 5 Live Boxing team.
Those close to Fury, in his second bout of a lucrative ESPN contract in the US, hope he can enhance his growing profile in the country.
With the contest falling on Mexican Independence Day weekend, fight week has seen Fury dressed as a Mexican wrestler, serving tacos in a Mexican restaurant and delivering phrases in Spanish to the media in a bid to maximise the non-title bout’s profile in the States.
Nevertheless, if Fury is in the shape and form of his life, it is the calibre of his opponent that has drawn negative comment.
But Sweden’s Wallin will “attack” the “obvious” flaws his team say they see in his British opponent.
‘Is Fury better than in 2015?’
Fury’s physique is unrecognisable from two years ago, when he weighed around 28st following well-publicised mental health struggles.
“He might just be, right now, the best Fury we have seen,” said 5 Live Boxing’s Steve Bunce.
“That includes the Fury that got in the ring with Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. He looks faster, slimmer and is clearly better mentally. He is getting close to optimum.”
Mike Costello, 5 Live’s boxing commentator, added: “Wallin was a key sparring partner for Anthony Joshua. He is not unknown but looking online he does look slow on his feet, so he will be beaten for speed, variety and class, it seems.”
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The Ruiz reminder
For all Wallin’s limitations, however, the truth is that promoter Bob Arum did not really want this bout. Despite Fury being a 1-25 favourite, he deems it an unnecessary risk en route to a rematch with WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder in 2020, the big-hitting American Fury fought to a draw in LA in December.
Media, fans and even organisers repeatedly raise the prospect of staging the Wilder fight on the famous Vegas strip. The scenario was exactly the same in New York in June, when Fury’s fellow Briton Anthony Joshua faced repeated questions about a fight with the American, only to then be stunned by Andy Ruiz Jr.
“No result will favour Fury in terms of the hard-nosed critics of the opponent and we understand that,” added Costello.
“But if he gets it done with minimal fuss and we get to Wilder, then no-one will remember the ordinary fights if the big ones come around often enough.”
If seats are filled at the T-Mobile Arena, it will in some ways be a win in itself and proof he is cutting through with US fans.
Wallin aware of mind games
Fury says Wallin beat a fighter once dubbed a “golden boy” when he out-pointed fellow Swede Adrian Granat last year and reckons the Swede is “dangerous” given he has “nothing to lose”.
But Wallin, a 6ft 5in southpaw with 20 wins from as many fights, has brought a psychologist with him to prepare and is wary of Fury’s mind games.
“We are aware of how Tyson gets in peoples head and can throw them off,” said Wallin’s trainer Joey Gamache, a former two-weight world champion.
“We have talked about not falling into those traps.
“We know we are in there with the best heavyweight out there, a fighter who is very unorthodox. But we see openings that are pretty obvious and will attack those openings.”
One step to Wilder… or is it?
Drake, Calvin Harris and Eric Clapton play concerts in Vegas this weekend in Las Vegas, underlining the challenge Fury has faced shifting tickets locally.
There would be no such problems, however, if he faces Wilder again.
That rematch is apparently agreed for February, although there have been rumblings that Wilder has alternative plans.
Fury has said he would probably sue the Alabama fighter if he doesn’t follow through on their deal – but any slip-up here would prove hugely damaging to hopes of a rematch.
The grit the unbeaten Fury has shown in climbing from the canvas several times in his career means his Swedish opponent has a daunting task if he is to upset the odds as Ruiz did with Joshua.
But Wallin has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a name for himself. As Fury summed it up in this city full of people taking risks in search of riches: “Everybody is a nobody until they get a big break.”