By: Sean Crose
“I would say he is still one of the best heavyweights out there,” Otto Wallin explains – courtesy of The Daily Mail – “and he’s made an amazing career for himself.” With that being said, Wallin – who is squaring off against former heavyweight titlist Joshua this weekend in Saudi Arabia – clearly feels the towering Londoner isn’t the fighter he once was. “There has been a decline,” Wallin says of Joshua, “and I think he has reached his peak already.” If so, that’s nothing but good news for 33 year old longtime contender Wallin. “I think he is mentally fragile,” Wallin continues. “He’s not sure of himself. He cares a lot about what people think of him, and I think it’s hard for him when people are being critical or there are boos in the crowd.”
Sweden’s Wallin feels the moment to strike is now. “I think it’s the perfect time to face AJ,” he says. “He was a seek-and-destroy kind of guy, very aggressive. Then, he lost to Ruiz, he got stopped. He lost to Usyk twice. He knows he can lose and get hurt, and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like getting hit.” Although he’s not known as a knockout artist himself, Wallin is an aggressive fighter, one who gave Tyson Fury all Fury could handle when the two men threw down in 2019.
Joshua, however, appears keenly aware how important this weekend’s fight is for his career. What’s more, he proved how hard he can still hit when he knocked out Robert Helenius during his last fight back in August. It’s easy to forget that all but three of Joshua’s wins have come within the distance. That’s 23 knockouts out of 26 victories. What’s more Joshua has beaten numerous fighters of note, from Wladimir Klitschko, to Dillian Whyte, to Joseph Parker. And that Andy Ruiz fight Wallin brings up? Joshua won the rematch handily by changing tactics. Only Usyk has been able to dominate the man.
“He should be banking on his skills,” Joshua responds – via talkSPORT – to Wallin’s assertion that he’s become weak. As far as Joshua is concerned, Wallin shouldn’t be focusing on his opponent’s mental state. “He should be banking on the fact he’s worked hard, he trusts his skills and he thinks he’s good enough…he shouldn’t be banking on whether I’m mentally strong or not.” As Joshua sees it, Wallin is approaching matters the wrong way heading into Saturday’s fight. “That’s crazy,” he says, “to go into a fight and hope that the fighter you’re fighting isn’t mentally strong and that gives you an opportunity to beat them.”
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