By: Sean Crose
“I had a tough training camp,” says Otto Wallin, “with a lot of quality sparring and many rounds in the bank. I feel very well prepared for Saturday.” By “tough,” of course, Wallin means successful. Camp shouldn’t be easy when one’s preparing to battle one of the most colorful and high profile boxers on the planet, Tyson Fury. “I feel great,” Wallin adds just days before his heavyweight battle with Fury at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas. “I’m very excited about this opportunity and I want to leave everything in the ring on Saturday.” This weekend represents the opportunity of a lifetime for the 20-0 native of Sweden. Should he defeat the 28-0-1 Fury, it would be a shocking upset, perhaps even more thunderous than Andy Ruiz’ stunning victory over Anthony Joshua last June at Madison Square Garden.
For Wallin isn’t a widely known commodity. Although the man has yet to lose a professional bout, many feel that he’s simply being sent into the ring to keep the flamboyant Fury busy until bigger fights come along. Fury himself has been busy talking about other fighters rather than the individual whose been focused for weeks on beating him. “I hope he’s focusing on other fighters and looking past me,” says Wallin, who doesn’t come across as one who gets easily rattled. “That would make it easier for me!”
One advantage Fury will have over Wallin is the fact that he’s been through the media circus before. He’s beaten Wladimir Klitschko…and battled Deontay Wilder to a draw. Those were two highly covered bouts, which means the Englishman knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight, while Wallin – up until now – had yet to be center stage. Wallin seems to be taking it well, though, rather than allowing the moment to swallow him whole. “It’s been good,” he says of the lead up. “I’ve got a good team around me that keeps me from not being overwhelmed with media requests but helps to balance it.” To Wallin, all the press and attention is simply part and parcel of engaging in a big fight. “Media work is of course part of the game and very important,” he adds reasonably. “I’m very happy with all the interest around the fight and everything that comes with it.”
The interest in Wallin himself will be intense should be pull off the upset. Everyone will want to know who the polite, undefeated giant slayer is. Not that the attention won’t be well earned. Upsets bring about their own rewards. As does defeating the man many argue is the lineal heavyweight champion of the world (the man who beat the man who beat the man). If he wins on Saturday, Wallin will find himself spoken of alongside the likes of Wilder, Ruiz, and Joshua. Not that that a win would surprise Wallin. As he said of Fury in our previous interview: “He has not much to win and everything to lose in this fight and that’s great for me. He probably feels a ton of pressure and knows that he needs to look good in this fight.”
In other words, it’s not just the challenger who has to feel the heat on this occasion.