Exclusive interview with Otto Wallin

Written by Mohammed Dirawi

Otto Wallin reveals the period of time where he felt like quitting, who would win between Tyson Fury and AJ, and future plans.

A year ago he was a small-town Swedish boxer on the verge of quitting but then he got an opportunity that would change his life. 

After being doubted, underrated, and mocked, Otto Wallin is now respected worldwide for his performance in the ring against Tyson Fury. 

But how did the 28-year-old from the north of Sweden manage to land the biggest fight in Swedish heavyweight history for 60 years?

“… my parents didn’t allow me to box…”

Before we get into it, let’s start from the beginning. The story of a Viking who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and almost managed to defeat the undefeatable starts in Sundsvall, a small town in the north of Sweden. 

Sundsvall, North Sweden – where Otto Wallin lived as a child

During the early periods of his life, Wallin was an ordinary Swedish kid who played several sports, but boxing wasn’t one of them.

“I used to play football, ice hockey, and floorball when I was young. I wanted to start boxing, but my parents didn’t allow me to box before I started high school.

“As soon as I started high school, I quit everything and began boxing. I felt right away it was the right thing for me, and I was pretty good at it also.”

The sport seemed like Wallin’s natural calling in life and it appeared that boxing provided the Swede with an extremely bright future.

“I was talented but also had the will to work hard, which is often more important than being talented. My father and older brother were boxers, so I already knew the basics when I began. They taught me some simple things at home, so I had a head start.”

“… I had to stay at home while my friends were partying…”

The Swede was a massive underdog in his fight against Tyson Fury, as boxing fans debated whether he really deserved to step into the ring with Fury. The Gypsy King, who had recently silenced the undefeated Tom Schwarz in the second round by K.O, was massively criticised about his choice on fighting Wallin as boxing fans claimed that the Swede was a weak opponent. 

But if anyone deserved to step in the ring with Fury, it was the 28-year-old that dedicated his life to boxing. Even though the bout ended in a defeat by unanimous decision for the Swede, he showed what a fighter he was as he received tons of love and support following his great performance.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot for the sport and always been serious and willing to train hard. That’s what it takes to be successful. Growing up, I often had to stay at home while my friends were partying because I needed to wake up early and train the next morning.”

“After everything bad, something good finally came up.”

The year of 2019 has most certainly been a rollercoaster for the Swede. His intentions of completing his American debut didn’t go as planned after his trainer was randomly beaten up on the streets of New York, which forced them to cancel the fight.

Following that incident, his next two bouts were cancelled, one ending in no contest after an accidental head clash, and the other being cancelled after his opponent failed to pass the medical test. Alongside this, his father also tragically passed away in May. 

“It’s been a tough year, but I’ve kept working hard and tried to stay positive. I try to be patient because I know that the big opportunities will show up. And then in September, I got a big opportunity, so it was good that I had been training. After everything bad, something good finally came up.”

“… I was sick of it all…”

Otto started his professional career when he was 22-years-old as he moved from Sundsvall to Berlin, Germany. Since then he’s lived in Denmark but now situates and trains in New York. 

“I have moved around a lot which means I have sacrificed a lot of time with my family when I’ve been away. It has been very lonely, but always been worth it for me.”

Wallin fighting Ukranian boxer Maksym Pediura

But living away from his family has not always been that easy. During the summer of 2018, the 28-year-old experienced a mental dip in his career. In a generation where our minds are constantly connected, Otto began to learn the importance of resting. The dip forced him to re-evaluate his training routines. 

“I had been away from my family for a long time as I was training really hard. I also missed my friends and was sick of it all. So, I took a break last summer 2018 but it only lasted for 2 months and I was back at it again.

“I had to re-evaluate everything so that I made sure that I spend enough time at home with family and friends. Nowadays, I go back home to rest for a couple of weeks and when I’m in New York I have to be fully focused on boxing and nothing else. It is important to have a balance so that you don’t burn out.”

“I believe that Fury would beat Joshua.”

After the so-called ‘biggest upset of 2019’, it is no secret that Anthony Joshua will be facing Andy Ruiz Jr for a rematch December 7th in Saudi Arabia. But what many people do not know is that the Brit is well known to Wallin, as they have faced each other twice as amateurs. The Watford-ace won both bouts on points but was impressed enough to use Wallin as a sparring partner twice ahead of his world title shot in 2016.

Wallin is one of few who have faced both Fury and Joshua, arguably the best British boxers at the moment. But who’s really the best of the two Brits according to Wallin?

“They are good in different ways. Fury is big and uses his size well. He’s a very good boxer as well, just like AJ. But Joshua hits a lot harder.

“It’s a difficult question because they’re good in different ways, but if they meet, I believe that Fury would beat Joshua. Fury is a big and strange boxer. He’s better defensively while Joshua has the power.”

“I want to become a world champion…”

So, how did the 28-year-old from the north of Sweden land the biggest fight in Swedish heavyweight history in 60 years? 

The Viking sees no limit of much he can conquer. We often see boxers settle when they receive a big check, as the former middleweight champion Marvin Hagler said: “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 am when you’ve been sleeping in silk pyjamas.”

But money isn’t the first priority for the Swede. He has something else in mind… 

“I want to become a world champion and be as good as possible. When you reach that level, the money is just a bonus. The most important thing for me is to enjoy boxing and I really want to achieve things in this sport.”

He added: “I believe that you won’t be able to carry on if money is the only motivation. In this sport, you have to work very hard, and sometimes you get sick of it.

“But it is still the love to the sport that motivates you to carry on. If money was my only motivation it would be hard for me to keep working as hard as I do.”

Easier said than done, first Otto Wallin has some obstacles to get through. We will see him in the ring again very soon but the opponent still remains unnamed. 

“At the moment I’m negotiating for a new contract here in America. I don’t know if I can say with who but it’s an American TV channel. I think my next match will be in February if everything goes well, then I’ll probably do some matches for them in the future.”

Sub-edited by Tom Kelly


Feature image:

This image of a boxing arena by Nick complies with the Creative Commons License.

This image of Otto Wallin by Karlis Dambrans complies with the Creative Commons License.

Story images:

This image of Otto Wallin by Tiltat complies with the Creative Commons License.

This image of Sundsvall by Swedish National Heritage complies with the license as it is in the public domain.

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