It gets me, still, that one of the top ten or so heavyweights in the game is a Swede.
Maybe it shouldn't surprise me where Otto Wallin was born, being that boxing is truly an international sport, more so in the professional sphere than most any other. But, traditionally, Sweden is no super-power within pugilism.
Historically, the most glittering name of fighting Swedes is Ingemar Johansson, Sport's Illustrated's male athlete of the year in 1959 for downing champ Floyd Patterson. Back in the day, Ingo drew hot buzz, he'd get covered in the sports pages and also in the section that trafficked in gossip and goings on in the world of entertainment.
Fight writers were fascinated that he danced the night away with his “secretary” during camp in the Catskills for Floyd. And reporters at the time didn't know that Ingo enjoyed horizontal sessions with Elizabeth Taylor, a massive movie star in the 50s-70s. Fight fans enjoyed his power, and how he'd refer to his right hand as “tunder and lightning.”
Anders Eklund, a heavyweight, took part in the 1980 Olympics. He rose to be a top 25-type heavyweight, whose best wins came against Glenn McCrory, Jesse Ferguson and an aged Alfredo Evangelista. Current practitioner Robert Helenius, another heavyweight of some note, lived in Finland, but was born in Sweden. Badou Jack is a native of Sweden and since he lives in Las Vegas, and is Muslim, isn't all the time credited as a Swedish ATG. Swede Anthony Yigit has campaigned well, at 140, and is still active, seeking to drop to 135 and make a splash.
But it is Wallin who reps Sweden in the pugilism to a large degree, more so than others from the Scandinavian nation. His manager Zach Levin gives the 21-1 fighter high marks for the August 15 victory on Showtime over Travis Kauffman.
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“Otto came prepared with a game plan and executed beautifully,” Levin said. “People got to see his rapier jab. He controlled the distance with it and never let Travis in the fight. He got off and got out. He was turning Travis quite a bit. Once he tamed Travis with the jab, he started putting his punches together. There was a nice variety of shots; check hooks, left hooks to the body, he worked the right side too, some uppercuts in close, left hands coming at different angles.
“Few knew Otto before he fought Tyson Fury last September,” Levin continued. “That night Otto got on the front foot and swarmed Fury to great success for the better part of seven rounds, not to mention causing those two hellacious cuts. Based on that, most thought him a technical brawler. But that's just what he chose to be that night. Those familiar with him from Europe, know what a fine boxer he is. For Kauffman, he gave that look. He's an intelligent, multidimensional predator.”
Wallin also clicks well with trainer Joey Gamache. The Mainer is a long time New Yorker and Wallin also makes NYC his home base.
“So what we've got here is a big athletic southpaw who can bring the fight to you, or, if he so chooses, get on the back foot and pick you apart,” Levin shared, putting forth a technical assessment of the fighter rated No. 15 by the IBF. “Plus, he doesn't take any crap if you want to play rough. He expects to be the boss. And he can boss you around in more ways than most. Otto has not had three fights in a 12-month span since 2016. The goal is to change that. We expect him back on Showtime relatively soon. He has a multi-fight deal with the network that he's excited about.”
In case you are curious, no, there isn't that “Ingo” side to Wallin, there won't be hijinks with a Kardashian gal or anything, to get Otto ink in the gossip/human interest realm, to lure casuals to follow him. He's a solid sort, prone to posting on IG an homage to his pop, who died in 2019 from a heart attack (see below).
Wallin himself gave us some insight into the outing against Kauffman, because, yes, there were adaptations to deal with in getting ready for the bout and on fight night to contend with.
“The experience was different, with no audience and quarantining in the hotel,” the 29 year old Swede said. “The fact there was no audience affected me in a way, in that it wasn’t as exciting walking to the ring and getting up there… but it was important for me to get a fight. So I’m happy I got that and I’m happy that I got the win, which is the most important.”
Promoter Dmitriy Salita no surprise thought Wallin performed surperbly against Travis.
“Otto did a great job, he showed that he is one of the best-skilled heavyweights on the division,” Salita said. “Skill wise, Otto has the best fundamentals in the division and that is why he was able to have such success against Fury. Otto wants to stay busy and wants to fight before the end of the year. I will have to sit down with the team and see who is available and what fights we can make but a rematch with Tyson Fury is the ultimate wish!”