Sweden’s top-ranked boxing heavyweight, Otto Wallin, stepped back into the ring a few weekends ago to showcase his skill. We spoke to him about his most recent fight, his plans for 2023, the business side of boxing, and how it is difficult to find a matchup given his skill set.
The past years have been a comparatively slow grind. After his 2019 brawl with “The Gypsy King” Wallin cemented his name amongst the world-leading heavyweights of boxing, despite a loss. Since then he has found it difficult to get the match-ups he is looking for. Dillian Whyte was set for late 2021 but Whyte pulled out due to a purported injury. Rydell Booker and Helaman Olguin have been his two most recent fights, both won by unanimous decision.
I am high risk and low reward. People know they can lose if they face me.
Wallin wants more. As his nick-name foretells he wants to go “all in.” Four names seem to recur in the discussion about the heavyweight division: Joshua, Wilder, Fury, and Usyk. Wallin would love to get his hands – or gloves – on some of those names. But more realistically he mentions the Dillian Whyte fight as a logical next step. It has already been scheduled before, why not do it again. “There is unfinished business with Whyte and I know I can beat him. That would be a great fight,” he adds.
Yet, finding fights has proved difficult for him. I ask why he thinks that is. “I am high risk and low reward. People know they can lose if they face me.” Now everybody knows there is a price to pay fighting against Wallin, potentially a loss. He, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to offer so he becomes dependent on other promoters.
THE HURT BUSINESS
That’s where business steps in. Boxing has come to be led by an almost blind belief in the need to be an undefeated boxer in order to be considered good or, better yet, great. Yet Ali lost. So did Foreman, Frazier, Tyson, and the list can go on. “I have showed the world that even a loss doesn’t show you don’t belong at the top. My fight against Fury proved this. A good loss is not always bad.” The undisputed fallacy comes from greats such as Marciano and, in our own time, Mayweather. But are they both better than Ali?
The best thing for the sport is that the best face each other.
Here’s the missing piece of the puzzle: in the unrelenting search for the title of undefeated, fighters are no longer fighting the best. They don’t put on the Foreman – Ali fights, because in such an epic showdown, one of the “greatest” will be shown to be merely human. He agrees, saying that the “best thing for the sport is that the best face each other.” Wallin mentions that he lacks the big promotions and the limelight that comes from TV-productions following him and elevating his career. “We have been trying to get the big fights but for now I need any fight to stay active.”
Moreover, Sweden has ended on the back foot in boxing viewership. The fan base is limited, and a national rallying behind Wallin such as the one that has arisen behind Alex “The Mauler” Gustafsson is yet to happen. But it’s a two-edged sword: as Wallin rises, so does boxing in Sweden, and as boxing in Sweden rises the fanbase grows. Traditional sports media have not yet caught on to our great Nordic athletes in the martial arts arena, but they are slowly getting there.
RECENT VICTORIES AND FUTURE PLANS
Returning to Wallin’s most recent fight, he speaks of how Olguin was a good fight, but primarily a fight he took to stay active. As we speak he has just received surgery in New York for a cut sustained during the fight. “I won all rounds. I haven’t seen the fight yet and I wish I had got a finish, but sadly I didn’t get it. He was not on my level though.”
Leading up to the fight Wallin says the training camp was much the same as always. No matter whom he faces, he takes it seriously. He didn’t find a proper southpaw to train with (Olguin is a southpaw), but other than that he focused as usual. Joshua in April is still an exciting prospect, but with Joshua vs Franklin just being announced it’s hard to predict when such a fight might take place.
For now, Wallin is chasing any fight he can to prove to the world that he belongs among the titans of the sport. And as he does so, let’s hope his native Sweden realise what a national treasure they carry.Lyssna på det senaste avsnittet av Fighterpodden!