Having suffered successive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022, Anthony Joshua has spent this year on a comeback mission.
Known as ‘AJ’ to his mass following, the 34-year-old has already bounced back with victories over Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius at the O2 Arena in London in April and August, respectively.
The next rung on Joshua’s ladder back to the top of the heavyweight division is a bout against Otto Wallin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 23.
The Anthony Joshua odds are firmly in the former unified heavyweight champion’s favour, as AJ is as short as 2/9 to win the fight with the bookmakers.
But while Wallin is not as well-known as the man he will be trading blows with, he brings a formidable record and tenacious spirit to the ring.
That said, let’s take a more in-depth look at Joshua’s next opponent.
The journey to becoming professional
Born on November 21, 1990, in Sundsvall, Sweden, Otto Wallin began his professional boxing career in 2013.
With an impressive amateur background, including winning several national titles and representing Sweden in multiple international events, Wallin transitioned to the professional scene with determination.
Wallin boasts a commendable professional record of 26 wins, one defeat, and one no-contest against Nick Kisner, as his opponent was forced to retire in the first round after an accidental headbutt.
A significant highlight on his CV is his clash with Tyson Fury in September 2019. While he suffered his first defeat in that bout, Wallin showcased his resilience by giving the Gypsy King a tough challenge.
With a run of six straight victories since then, including winning the WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title with a win over Murat Gassiev in September, Wallin is not to be underestimated.
Wallin’s southpaw stance (which is a trait he shares with Usyk) immediately sets him apart, presenting an unconventional challenge for opponents.
His ability to fight from this stance allows him to create angles that can disorient adversaries, making it challenging for them to predict the trajectory of his punches.
Wallin’s southpaw advantage often serves as a foundation for his technical precision, enabling him to exploit openings with accuracy.
Despite facing a taller opponent in Joshua, Wallin has shown an adeptness for managing the space in the ring.
He uses his footwork to dictate the pace of the fight, often forcing opponents into uncomfortable positions.
This control of distance is a crucial aspect of Wallin’s strategy, allowing him to set up his shots and avoid unnecessary risks.
Training and preparation
Although Wallin only fought a couple of months ago in Turkey, he will be more than ready for this fight in the Middle East as he stayed in training following that aforementioned victory over Gassiev.
Wallin’s commitment to his craft suggests that he is entering the ring with a strategic game plan.
The opportunity for an upset
While he forced Fury to go the distance in Las Vegas, Wallin ultimately lost by a convincing unanimous decision to the Gypsy King in 2019.
But he landed more punches on Fury than anyone else, and this is another chance for the Swede to upset the boxing odds.
A victory against a heavyweight of Joshua’s stature could catapult Wallin into the limelight, proving that he has learned and grown from his previous experiences in the ring.
What has Wallin said ahead of the fight?
“I think just the fact that I’m a southpaw helps against him,” he said. “He has obviously lost two fights against Oleksandr Usyk who is a southpaw, so that’s good.”
“Also, I feel like I’m in a much better mental space than he is.
“I really love this situation that I’m in. I don’t feel like I have that much pressure on me. I can just go out there and have fun.
“He’s in a much tougher position where he probably feels a lot of pressure and kind of has to win and do it in style. That’s all in my favour.”
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