Tyson Fury fight: Otto Wallin on the personal heartbreak that will drive him on this weekend

Tyson Fury fight: Otto Wallin on the personal heartbreak that will drive him on this weekend

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At around 10pm on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena, set half a mile back from the Strip in Las Vegas, as he awaits the five-minute call ahead of his ring walk, Otto Wallin will be focusing not on Tyson Fury but another man.

It was May 22 of this year when his father Carl, a former boxer and trainer himself, suffered a fatal heart attack which crushed the close-knit Wallin family and threatened to derail his son’s undefeated 20-fight career which began back in 2013.

But within 24 hours, the 6ft 6in southpaw was back in the gym, fighting back tears as he tore into the heavy bag with the sort of ferocity only a deep personal tragedy can provoke. Wallin’s life can change forever in Sin City on Saturday night, but his dad won’t be there to see it.

He will think of Carl, who will be absent from ringside for the first time since his son began boxing at the age of 15, in the dressing room and remember his father’s final plea as he bids to make a mockery of the 11/1 odds that local bookmakers have offered on him causing an upset.

“My father passed away on May 22,” Wallin says, the jovial, friendly tone now deserting him.

“It was tough. He was here in New York in April and he told me that time that if something would happen to him I had to keep working hard, keep training and fighting.

“He wasn’t ill. He had diabetes, problems with his feet and stuff. He died of a heart attack, it was probably related to the diabetes when he said it but I don’t know why. Maybe he felt something or maybe not.

“I’ve just been trying to keep going like he said. Even the day after he passed away I was in the gym working out. I was thinking about him. It was hard to keep it together, I was almost crying on and off but I got through it. I stayed in the gym and it has paid off.”

Boxing is not a big part of life for most of the 100,000 people who live in Sundsvall, the small town on the eastern coast of Sweden, where ice hockey and cross-country skiing are the more common past-times. “It’s definitely quieter than Vegas,” Wallin says.

Professional boxing was outlawed in Sweden between 1970 and 2006 and it remains a very marginal sport as a result but things were different in the Wallin household.

“My dad never pushed me into it but he was a boxer and a trainer,” he adds. “You can say he was my first trainer but not officially. In the house he would work with me.

“I have two older brothers, we would play fight a lot. I started boxing at 15 because my parents didn’t let me start before that. When I started high school they said I could go. I fell in love with it right away. I knew boxing was what I wanted to do.”

A solid amateur boxing career followed, including two defeats to a Londoner called Anthony Joshua, before he turned professional five years ago. His decision to go full-time, however, meant turning his back on a career in the prison service which involved working at a facility for the ‘mentally ill’.

“That was when I was 19 until I was 22 when I turned pro,” he explains. “I was there just looking after them and making sure everything was ok.

“I would serve them food and take them out. It gave me a different perspective on life, it was crazy sometimes, seeing what people go through.

Wallin faces Fury this weekend (Getty Images)

“Sometimes they might be murderers or paedophiles but they are sick, you can’t see if people are sick in the head. You can see if someone has cancer or something, that’s different. It was special, it was a good experience.”

So too, has his first taste of Las Vegas, despite being written off by just about everyone in the boxing world this week. It is difficult to deny that there are similarities between him and Tom Schwarz who was brutally vanquished by Fury in this same city just 13 weeks ago.

Like Schwarz, he is a reasonably obscure undefeated European heavyweight who arrived in Nevada with the distinction of being ranked inside the top five by one of the governing bodies. Also, like Schwarz, his credentials as a challenger to arguably the finest heavyweight of his generation have been widely dismissed.

“I couldn’t care less what people think,” he says. “They don’t know me. They can say whatever they want. I put in a lot of hard work over the years, a lot of sacrifices over the years. I care about what my family and friends think and they’re all for it.

“This is a fight, an opportunity you can’t say no to. I wanted the fight. I feel like I belong at this level and I’m ready to prove it.”

Tyson Fury takes on Otto Wallin live on BT Sport Box Office this Saturday. The fight can be watched through BT Sport Box Office on BT TV, Virgin TV, Sky, online via the web or the BT Sport Box Office App

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