Sweden has not had a heavyweight World Champion since Ingemar Johansson won the title in 1959 and now undefeated heavyweight Otto Wallin (20-0 13KO) carries the hopes of the nation on his shoulders as he continues to make his rise towards the top of the heavyweight division. The 6’5½” southpaw returns to the ring on Friday evening as he takes on veteran BJ Flores (34-4-1 21KO) in Tacoma, Washington, USA.
Born and raised in Sundsvall, Sweden, Otto Wallin followed his father and brothers into the boxing gym and ultimately fell in-love with the ‘sweet science’. Growing up he dedicated his time to amateur boxing without paying too much attention to the professional boxing world.
Professional boxing was banned in Sweden in 1970 after a study claimed that the sport can cause ‘severe and life threatening’ injuries. The sport remained outlawed until 1996 so for Otto Wallin, professional boxing was not the original dream, instead choosing to focus on representing his country by competing at the Olympic Games until he was approached, out of the blue, to turn professional.
“Professional boxing was not allowed for such a long time, so while being an amateur I didn’t look towards the pros much. The dream was to go to the Olympics and I was working towards that, eventually having 46 amateur fights and earning my place on the Swedish national team.
“But, I was taken by surprise and a big European professional boxing promoter (Sauerland Promotions) approached to sign me. At first I said no, but then after some time, I was interested and I felt ready to turn pro and did so”
Wallin’s professional career began in 2013 and his first fight lasted less than three minutes. Over the course of the next five years, he was kept active and picked up the WBA Continental Heavyweight title as well as the historic EBU European Heavyweight title with a comprehensive points victory over fellow countryman, Adrian Granat in 2018.
“I had 20 fights under the Sauerland banner and in that time, I became the WBA Continental Champion, Swedish champion and European Union champion. I was gaining experience by fighting and training in Germany and Denmark and this is also where I met my coach, Joey Gamache who has helped develop me into the fighter I am becoming today”
As well as being kept active, Wallin was spending training camps sparring the likes of Anthony Joshua, amongst others. The sparring sessions have been integral to his progress and provided him with an insight into what it takes to reach the top of the sport.
“I’ve sparred a lot of these guys and some have been really good, with each of them having good qualities and also their own flaws. Training with them and competing against them, helped me a lot. Sparring is the best training you can get as a boxer so sparring top guys is what you want to do if you want to become one of them”
Head trainer Joey Gamache moved back to New York in 2017 and from that point the training camps were relocated to the United States. This transition led to Wallin eventually deciding to base himself in the United States and he made the decision to part ways with Saureland promotions, linking up with American based Dmitry Salita and Salita Promotions for the next stage of his career.
The first fight of the new agreement with Salita was scheduled for April 13 in Atlantic City against Nick Kisner and with the fight being broadcast by Showtime across the USA, it was a perfect chance for Wallin to announce himself to a larger audience.
The fight itself, did not go to plan. The fighter’s heads accidently came together during the opening round and opened up a nasty cut for Kisner, ultimately forcing the referee to halt the contest. Due to the bout being only one round in, the fight was ruled a non-contest. Frustratingly for Otto Wallin, it is like his American debut never happened at all.
“Basing myself in the USA when Joey moved back, it made sense for me to link up with an American promoter. I found the ideal promoters with Salita who could provide me with the platform and opportunities I need and I was happy to be making my American debut on a big card in Atlantic City.
"Unfortunately for me, the fight was just one round and it didn’t turn out as expected. But now, I’m ready to put on a good show for the US audience."
The opportunity to formerly announce himself in the USA arrives this Friday evening as he takes on 39 fight veteran BJ Flores in Washington. Flores, has fought a host of big names at Cruiserweight and most recently moved up to heavyweight to challenge the unbeaten Trevor Bryan (19-0 14KO) and Wallin views the fight as the right fight at the right time.
“BJ Flores is a good name and has only been beat by top guys so beating him will show that I’m one to look out for. There’s a bunch of names that I’d like to fight but first and foremost I have to take care of BJ Flores."
"The heavyweight division is totally open and I’m happy to be a part of it at this time. There’s some great fights out there for everybody and I’ll just keep working and getting ready to throw my hat in the mix with the best”
Already ranked as high as 5 with the WBA and 11 with the IBF, Wallin knows the next fight is always the most important as he enters arguably, the most pivotal stage of his career.
“All the fights now are important and every fight is different and it’s hard to tell beforehand how it’s really going to play out. I feel we have a great game plan for BJ that I want to stick to but we also have options if things don’t turn out like we want. However, I believe my youth, size and boxing ability will get me a good win and keep me pushing on”
“I don’t think I’m very far away. I’m highly ranked in two of the organizations and a title shot could technically happen at any time. I just need to stay focused and keep winning”
As Otto Wallin discusses the future and his place in the heavyweight division, there is a feeling that he has been preparing for this stage of his career long before he arrived in the USA. The pressures of being the heavyweight hope of a whole nation does not seem to faze him and he carries a simple message from his childhood when discussing his motivation to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
“I remember when I first walked in the boxing gym and I realized that I could be something in this sport. My father made me realise that I only have one shot in life at this and if I really want it I will have to really work for it. That’s what still keeps me going, I want to be a world champion”