Lounge Act Theatrics: Tyson Fury Faces Otto Wallin

AS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 10: Boxer Otto Wallin works out at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on September 10, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wallin will face Tyson Fury in a heavyweight bout on September 14 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Otto Wallin works out at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas ahead of his fight against Tyson Fury Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

After fighting to a disputed draw last December and promising to renew hostilities at the nearest possible opportunity, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury then plotted themselves on as protracted and barren a course to that renewal as audacity would permit. Such conduct brings to mind questions about just how much momentum either man brings to this second collision considering the roundabout route to the point of impact.

That Wilder and Fury are taking their time should surprise no one. Sure, Wilder has often professed his desire to clean out the division, lamented the lack of a similar ambition in his peers, and yelled about it loudly enough to convince those eager to be convinced that he was hogtied in his pursuit. But does anyone think he’s been as dogged in his pursuit of the division’s crown as he could be? Fury, meanwhile, with his precious lineal title draped over his shoulder or around his waist or wherever he chooses to sport that invisible belt he won from a man who never won it from another, continues to flap his jaw about what will happen once revenge is near. And if you’re willing to wait until February, so says Fury, you’ll find out why Wilder should appreciate his delayed undoing.

Which means you won’t learn that on Saturday, when “The Gypsy King” faces Otto Wallin at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on ESPN+, just as you didn’t learn it in June when Fury toyed with Tom Schwarz.

How badly do you want to see a Wilder‒Fury rematch? Do you want it badly enough to learn what the Schwarzes and Wallins of the world bring to the ring? In a sense, this is a misplaced question: Fury, 28-0-1 (20), needn’t fight either man to rematch Wilder. The two could have had an immediate rematch, as any prizefighter obsessed with proving his superiority might wish to do (and as any promoter unconvinced of that superiority might discourage and delay). The question is misguided, too, in that you needn’t watch either the Schwarz fight nor the upcoming Wallin waste to tune in in February (again, provided there’s something to tune in to).

The question is meant only to draw attention to the dreadful matches Fury (and to a lesser extent, Wilder) has chosen to make in the nine months since either man earned their greatest goodwill. Wilder ruined Dominic Breazeale in May, confirming about Breazeale what Anthony Joshua had already established some time earlier. Next, Wilder will flatten aged Luis Ortiz—who momentarily imperiled “The Bronze Bomber” in their first fight—for a second time this November. But while Wilder is a frightening puncher, securing a knockout for Fury takes a little finesse, hence Schwarz’s appearance in the Top-Rank-cozy WBO rankings, and hence the call to Dmitry Salita, Wallin’s promoter.

If you know anything about Wallin—the twenty-eight-year-old, six-feet-five-and-a-half-inch southpaw from Sundsvall, Sweden, with the seventy-eight-inch reach and 20-0 (13) record—not gleaned from his Boxrec page you have greater interest in, and knowledge of, the best of Sweden’s four professional heavyweights than a number of the people tasked with writing about his first and last trip to the big time (and you’re probably a gambler). Whatever ability Wallin has shown in building his unremarkable record against unremarkable competition is moot. The matchmaking fix is in: Wallin should be Swiss cheese as soon as Fury has showboated enough to confirm the abyss that exists between him and any heavyweight in the world he has to introduce us to.

The sight of a six-feet-nine heavyweight slipping punches with his hands on the ropes or flashing his unnaturally quick hands from either stance might make Fury’s supporters empty their glasses a little faster. That’s not without its value, given that such histrionics, adored or abhorred, are likely to get Fury attention (if not on Saturday then at least when he again fights an opponent who belongs in the ring with him). But neither the chuckles had at the expense of a man unfit to prevent them, nor the lounge act theatrics of the walk-in that precedes them will do much to the pulse of people who enjoy a proper violent spectacle—and that includes the men who might make such a spectacle with Fury.

Of course, such matchmaking is typical of Fury, who by Sunday will have fought five times since returning from the three-year ring absence that comprised his run as heavyweight champion of the world. Wilder is the only noticeable name on the list. And if choosing that time frame strikes you as disingenuous considering the length of Fury’s layoff and his physical and mental state throughout it, feel free to go back further—back to Klitschko, yes, and Derrick Chisora. They’re there, just like Joey Abell, and Christian Hammer, and little Steve Cunningham.

Fury is a unique talent, however, a natural fighter with exceptional elusiveness for his size. He is without question one of the best heavyweights in the world, and he’ll prove as much the next time he has to. If everything goes as planned, he’ll have to do just that in February. Whether he does or doesn’t, obscure European pugs best stay ready.


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Jimmy Tobin is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in The Cruelest Sport, 15 Rounds, Undisputed Champion Network, Esquina Boxeo, El Malpensante, The Queensbury Rules, and The Fight Network. Jimmy is the author of Killed in Brazil? The Mysterious Death of Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, published by Hamilcar Publications. Connect with Jimmy on Twitter.