It was the great Lennox Lewis who popularised the phrase ‘politricks’ to describe the shenanigans and manoeuvrings that all so often characterise boxing.
This week Otto Wallin found himself an unfortunate victim of what – to some – seemed a classic case of boxing politricks.
With his bags packed and air ticket in his back pocket, the likeable and talented Swedish heavyweight was about to head for the airport to fly to London for a slated October 30 WBC interim title showdown with Dillian Whyte.
Then he received a text telling him the contest was most likely off.
“I was done packing and everything,” Wallin revealed on Friday during an online press conference with his promoter Dmitry Salita.
“I was going to head out to the airport when I got a text saying: ‘Don’t board that flight because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Whyte says he’s got an injury and he says he’s going to see a doctor and then we’ll know for sure.’”
Whyte’s subsequent claim that he was suffering with a shoulder injury, and was thus withdrawing from the fight, has been greeted with scepticism by both Wallin and Salita.
“It’s very frustrating,” Wallin said. “I’ve been going through training for a period of time now. I’ve had injuries in this camp but I’ve kept going, I’ve kept pushing forward. This fight was a huge opportunity for me and something I really wanted.
“I don’t know if Dillian is injured or not. But we just want to know and have all the facts and so far we haven’t got any facts at all. They’ve sent us a statement saying that he’s injured and he’s had a doctor look at him but nothing more than that.
“We want to find out the facts and see if he’s injured and we want to talk to his doctor and have an independent doctor look at him. I feel like that is very important. But so far there’s been no effort from their end to help us with that. We want to find that out and then make sure the fight gets rescheduled.”
Given the WBC’s announcement in the lead-up to the fight that their Interim champion – currently Whyte, but potentially Wallin if he had beaten Whyte – would get a mandated and lucrative crack at title holder Tyson Fury, one can appreciate Wallin’s frustration.
A source of particular contention for Team Wallin has been the fact there has been no indication from promoters Matchroom that the fight will be rescheduled.
Indeed, the British promotional behemoth’s announcements regarding the fight have tellingly stated that the fight has been ‘cancelled’ rather than ‘postponed’
“We believe that Otto had a great chance to win,” Salita argued, “He was going to London to Whyte’s hometown. He put himself under that pressure and we feel he has really been dealt an unjust card. Otto is not a robot, he’s not a slave, he’s a human being.
“The WBC announced that the WBC Interim champion was going to fight the winner of Fury vs Wilder. They announced that many weeks after the fight [between Whyte and] Otto Wallin had been signed, sealed, delivered and announced. That means that Otto was part of the equation. Until the fight takes place there’s no definite resolution as to who fights Tyson Fury.”
Whether you believe Whyte’s injury is genuine or not, or merely a ploy to secure a fight with Fury without having to fight Wallin first, it’s easy to feel sympathy for the Swede.
The 30-year-old Sundsvall native is one of the sport’s good guys. Since bursting on to the world scene in 2019 when he pushed Tyson Fury all the way in a bloody showdown in Las Vegas, he has been thirsting for another shot at the big time.
However, periods of pandemic-enforced inactivity as well as a spell suffering from Covid himself have seen Wallin fight just twice since that dramatic night at the T-Mobile Arena.
But his dream of becoming just the second Swedish boxer after the great Ingemar Johansson to win the world heavyweight title has sustained and motivated him through a period of great frustration.
Wallin has shown himself willing to face the best fighters he possibly can. He took on Fury without hesitation and, prior to signing to fight Whyte, was also willing to take up a potential opportunity to face Cuban dangerman Luis Ortiz.
Wallin also has a keen sense of boxing history. When he learned of the WBC ruling that the winner of his contest with Whyte would face Fury next, he told Boxing Social that he drew a parallel between his fight with Whyte and the world title eliminator Johansson faced against Eddie Machen way back in 1958, arguing that Ingo’s sensational one-round victory that heady night in Gothenburg was a good omen for him.
Now, though, Wallin is having to face the prospect that rather then being one win away from a world heavyweight title fight he may now be back out in the cold and the latest victim of the dark arts of boxing politricks.
“It’s a huge let-down that they’ve cancelled the fight like this,” he confessed. “I haven’t seen my family for two years. I could have gone home but I’ve been training here for a big opportunity to come. I was going to go win this fight and then go back to Sweden and see everybody.”
The history of boxing politricks would suggest that the prospects of Whyte-Wallin being resurrected are slim to none – with slim perhaps having left town.
Nevertheless, there’s something inspiring about Wallin’s work ethic and imperturbable optimism that this shot – or another one down the road – will come together for him.
“I’m going to keep training,” he vowed on Friday. “I’m going to keep ready.”
Main image: Amanda Westcott/Showtime.