Otto Wallin: The Waiting Game

‘I wish I had some fight news for you guys but unfortunately I don’t.’

August 18, 2021, and Otto Wallin had posted on his Instagram page. It’s a frustrating time for the Swedish heavyweight who was once best remembered for his fight against Tyson Fury.

Boxing Social spoke to the New York based contender (22-1, 14 KOs) before he updated his thousands of fans and told us he had expected to fight in July on Showtime.

“It would have been nice to have a fight now and get a summer break and go home and see my family.”

Wallin followed up by adding that ‘This is boxing’ which is a three-word polite alternative to this business sucks sometimes.

Staying in the gym, working on his craft, keeping his eye on the ball and waiting for a phone call is all well and good but it’s nothing without the real thing. The 30-year-old notched up his biggest victory to date with a wide points decision over two-time title challenger Dominic Breazeale in February. However, you look at it, however you dissect the performance and opponent what mattered most to Wallin was the W and a recognisable name on his record. He’s now not just known as the man who gave Tyson Fury a difficult night’s work in 2019. Wallin hasn’t dined out on that perhaps as much as he should have. Who knows had more noise been created in the aftermath then opportunities may have presented themselves, but this isn’t a man who likes to get in your face, do some karaoke in a boxing ring and boom out a catchphrase that tests the resolve of your eardrums.

“That was good, and this win was good,” he said of his ring time with Fury and Breazeale.

“I think people are aware of me now, but I also think a lot of people see me as high risk and low reward actually. That might be one of the problems why I’m having a tough time getting a fight right now.”

So, what does Wallin bring to the party? A respectful personality, a skillset that bothered Fury, no titles, no top five ranking with the sanctioning bodies and the real potential to be a banana skin. Does he change, rip up the script and repackage himself? It’s boxing but it’s theatre too. A fight will come around but perhaps Wallin could force something to happen by implementing some uncharacteristic changes.

“That’s a possibility. But also, I’m always trying to be myself and not too much out of character, but I think at the right time I think that could be possible to really sell a fight and to make it happen.”

He will get another fight but against who? Charles Martin had been floated, Wallin’s promoter Dmitry Salita liked the idea of an Andy Ruiz fight. Dillian Whyte was looking for a fight in America but that appears to have been put on the backburner. Fighting on Showtime though means facing the heavyweights at Premier Boxing Champions for Wallin. Not a problem… as long as he could fight one of them.

“The politics of boxing, the networks and stuff.” Wallin knows other guys are available but ‘This is boxing’.

“That’s why it makes a lot of sense for me to fight the PBC fighters and that’s what I’ve had to do. I fought a tough man in Breazeale. We’re looking at Martin, maybe [Luis] Ortiz… Wilder is gonna fight Fury. There’s not a ton of guys there available actually. And I don’t know with the other guys like [Joseph] Parker and if they will fight over here in Showtime.”

Wallin needs to show his performance against Tyson Fury wasn’t a one-off. Image credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Boxing Social mentioned Ortiz. Behind Ortiz though there is a disappointing history. Banned substances, to be precise. Wallin didn’t get angry, but his tone changed.

“Honestly, when we talk about him, we have to remember he has been caught for steroids twice and he might be the most avoided guy in the division for a reason. I think for me to take a fight like that it should make sense for me. He comes with a risk, and it should be a high reward. If I’m not getting paid enough for it, I’m not going to take it.”

You can see both sides of the argument. 1. Pay me enough to fight a man caught cheating twice. 2. Wallin needs a fight and another significant one at that.

Overall, it’s a period of frustration. Covid gave a shot at trying to floor the Swede at the beginning but the ‘Light flu’ as he described it didn’t give him a wobble or shaky legs.

The big picture: Having two fights during the Pandemic is not a disaster for Wallin. Some boxers are only beginning to get work now as parts of the world ease restrictions more and more. Wallin is also ranked 12 with the IBF so there is a route available with a few of the PBC guys in that top ten. You can understand his frustrations though. Six months without a fight, in the current circumstances is acceptable and isn’t unusual without an earth-shattering disease, but what if that becomes nine then twelve.

“I know we’ve been pushing for Charles Martin a lot, but he doesn’t seem to want to fight,” Wallin says. “I think money is a definite factor for these guys. There’s been names thrown around and we’ve said yes and stuff, but nothing has come through. A guy from Joshua’s people contacted me about sparring and I said yes to that, but I haven’t heard from them.”

Not easy being a fighter where the limelight isn’t on you. Wallin wants the big fights, he wants to be a bigger part of a division that excites him. He believes everyone can beat each other. He mentions the days of Klitschko as comparison, an era he did not enjoy.

“It’s definitely more exciting now than when Klitschko was ruling for that long, he wasn’t really exciting.”

Wallin believes anyone can be beat in the heavyweight division. Image credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Wallin came close to an upset against Fury and who knows another apple cart may come around. As he said, ‘This is boxing’. Doors are shut, some are ajar, and some have suits with arms open wide on the other side.

He had hoped, like the rest of us to see Fury v Joshua but alas… well, you know the phrase by now. In its place we have a Ukrainian puzzle and an American rebuilding project for the British heavies. Oleksandr Usyk faces Joshua on September 25 in London and two weeks later Fury and Deontay Wilder will throw down for a third time. Boxing Social asked Wallin for his thoughts on both fights.

“Usyk was a great cruiserweight and one of the best ever, maybe. Now, coming up to heavyweight he hasn’t been that good. I think he’s going to rise to the occasion, and he might give Joshua a good fight. I don’t think it’s going be easy because Usyk is a skilled guy, but I do think eventually Joshua is going to be too strong and powerful for him.

“With Wilder and Fury, Wilder seems motivated. It’s been a circus around him with the excuses he’s come up with [from the second fight]. How much do you improve if you can’t accept your defeat and learn from your mistakes? I don’t know how much he is going to learn. He’s working with Malik Scott, and he’s been working on different things, so we’ll see. But like I said it’s a big question mark if you come up with excuses. I don’t know how much better you’re going to get because he has to realise, he has to work on himself before trying to improve.”

As for Wallin he continues to wait. Work at the gym never stops. Tinkering with what he does good and what needs improved on. Soon, we will find out if the Swede has what it takes to compete once again at the top. He needs to show that his efforts against Tyson Fury were not a one-off. In between the waiting game a fight against someone like Charles Martin or Luis Ortiz would be a good measuring stick.

Otto Wallin understands what boxing and its business can be like. He will wait this out, he will probably not begin shouting from the rooftops, he will do it his way. Only time will tell if the waiting game proves to be to his benefit or not.

Main image: Stephanie Trapp/Showtime