As heavyweight boxing looks set to announce a top-tier fight between a Frenchman and a Croatian, one of Sweden’s best exports still lingers in the shadows, disappointed that his year closed out to muted fanfare.
Speaking to Boxing Social, Otto Wallin (22-1, 14KOs) was in fine form, yet couldn’t quite avoid the topic of his abandoned bout with Brixton’s Dillian Whyte. The pair were just 10 days away from trading punches, and then, an injury to the Brit forced a delay – or so Wallin thought: “I can’t say whether it was, or it wasn’t [real], but the only thing I can say is that we haven’t had any type of evidence about this injury.”
“It’s not really something I’ve been through before. I had to pull out of a fight before with Lucas Browne because I had a foot injury that required surgery. It wasn’t even signed, they didn’t ask for x-rays or anything, but I had them, I still have them.”
“I heard about it the day when I was gonna fly out to England. I had finished my training pretty much, I was ready for the fight, I had fixed everything, and I was on my way to the airport. Then, I got a text saying he’s injured and he’s gonna see a doctor tomorrow.”
“It was just, ‘Yeah, don’t get on the flight.’ It starts to become annoying when we try to take this further and check with the WBC, the BBBoC, to see if they can help us have an independent doctor take a look at it. But we weren’t able to have any of that, and that was a little bit frustrating, to be honest.”
That fight with Whyte would have given Wallin the platform his recent performances had earned. A decision win over one-time fringe contender, Dominic Breazeale (W UD), may have been his only outing of the last year, but it was dominant. Before that, he knocked out Travis Kauffman on the comeback trail, after suffering his only loss to reigning WBC world champion, Tyson Fury.
That fight with Fury – in which Wallin opened up a gruesome cut and took the Morecambe fighter to the judges’ scorecards – marked his highest payday. But in missing out on that fight with Dillian Whyte, he was denied a close second.
“I made more money when I fought [Tyson] Fury,” the 31-year old reiterated, “But that wasn’t even the biggest thing with this fight; I know the money is gonna be there when I get to the absolute highest level – that wasn’t the biggest thing. The biggest thing was that it was for the interim world championship, and the winner was supposed to face Tyson Fury. So, that was the real big thing with it. It was sort of strange the whole situation.”
“They [the WBC] awarded that after our fight was signed; they said the winner of our fight was gonna fight Fury. So, I was of the opinion that I must have been in the talks. By winning that fight [with Whyte], I would have gotten my rematch with Fury – I was one of two guys that could have been in the talks for that fight. It was kind of strange and frustrating.”
Wallin drew a line under his thoughts on a potential fight with Whyte, saying, “I’m looking at other fights. I’d love to fight Dillian Whyte for the interim title, which would be great, but the ball is in their court, and I can’t be just focusing my career on Dillian Whyte or any of these other guys. I’ve got to stay busy, have fights and move forward with my career. I just wanna stay busy, and when these big fights come, I’ll be ready for them.”
Wallin’s promoter, former challenger himself Dmitriy Salita, had tried to his best to reach a conclusion on the Whyte v Wallin saga, so far to no avail. So, they move on. And Wallin himself has been chasing some of the division’s fellow prospects in an attempt to establish himself top of the pile:
“I think there’s a bunch of guys that would make a lot of good fights. When you’re willing to face anybody, it just has to make sense. I watched that card a few weekends ago with Luis Ortiz and Charles Martin and I tried to make both of those fights last year, but we were unable to make it happen. Frank Sanchez could be a good fight, too. There’s a lot of good names out there for me.”
The successful amateur star and now highly touted professional speaks to Boxing Social from his apartment in New York, fresh from sparring with names like Adam Kownacki and Zhang Zhilei. The hustle doesn’t stop while he waits for an official announcement – he is always in shape. This year, the southpaw is determined to remain active and to fight his way to a heavyweight title shot. We speak about Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua (who toppled Wallin as an amateur), and of course, Tyson Fury; he’ll fight them all, whenever they afford him the opportunity.
“I’d take them all on in a heartbeat. It would be good to get a couple of fights in first but if it made sense, would take them. I feel like I already showed I could be up there with Fury, I feel like I’m getting better, and I’ve had two more years of training since then. It was a great experience to go 12 rounds with him, but it’s made me better, I hadn’t fought at that level before, and I feel like I’m learning the game better now.”
“My dream is to be a world champion, of course. I want to be that. But at the same time, I wanna be somebody that’s a good role model and somebody that you’d respect – I think that’s important. Mostly, whatever happens, I wanna know that I gave my all and, in every fight, and whatever else happens… happens. I feel like I can be proud of myself; as long as you do your best, you can be proud of yourself. That’s my philosophy and that’s what my father told me: ‘You can be something, but you have to work as hard as you can every day.’ If you win, you win; if you lose, you lose.”
Winning and losing is dependent on turning up – something the 6-feet 5 fighter prides himself on. He speaks of Sweden’s impressive professional boxing culture, given the country only reinstated professional boxing 14 years ago after a ban of over 40 years. They have plenty of female world champions, past and present, and Wallin is representing for the men, alongside former world champion Badou Jack, and former world title challenger Anthony Yigit. For a small country forbidden from embracing the professional code at home, they are overachieving. He is determined to cement his name in Swedish heavyweight history, shoulder-to-shoulder with Ingemar Johansson.
“I’m not towards the end [of my career], that’s for sure. I never really thought of it, but maybe I’m halfway towards what I want to achieve. I had that big fight with Fury but I wanna be world champion, so, I have a lot left. I’m 31-years old but I really haven’t had a tough career, you know. So, I feel pretty fresh, I feel like I’m. getting better all the time, and heavyweights bloom differently – I think I could be a late bloomer…”
Main image: Showtime Boxing