Boxing is a cruel sport. We love to tell ourselves that it’s poetic and has the power to uplift its participants, but at its core, boxing is about hurting another human being with your fists. Obviously, there are rules, and we expect them to be enforced, but it’s always enjoyable to see a serial rule-breaker get a dose of their own medicine.
In the 6th round of their heavyweight bout from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, televised on ESPN+, Otto Wallin (20-1, 13 KO) used his glove to peel back an enormous cut over Tyson Fury’s right eye. The cut had been caused by a booming left hook Wallin landed in the 3rd round, and it was bad immediately. Fury’s eyebrow split wide open and leaked blood profusely, masking the fact that the punch had also caused a cut on the eyelid which was exacerbated by swelling. Fury (29-0-1, 20 KO) protested the tactic, but as much time as he spends holding opponents behind the head with his left hand and punching with his right, it seemed more like street justice than a foul.
The fact that Fury found himself in a fight at all was a bit of a shock. Wallin holds the distinction of being the most highly rated heavyweight in Sweden but was just a whisper inside the top 50 worldwide according to Boxrec. This should’ve been another showcase bout for Fury, a tune-up prior to finally having a rematch with Deontay Wilder this winter.
In the early going, Fury was in full spoiler mode, which is often unwatchable. When Fury uses his height, length, and enormous frame to endlessly feint, he often takes on the appearance of an epileptic polio victim slow dancing to “End Of The Road” at senior prom. It’s just jiggly, discomfiting and boring.
Fortunately, that didn’t last terribly long, as Wallin was aiming everything he had at Fury’s sternum, and landed the hook that opened the aforementioned cuts in the 3rd round. It was not an isolated moment of success for Wallin, who fought valiantly throughout. Fury pawed at the cuts ceaselessly, and in every clinch, Wallin made sure to touch them in some way, when he wasn’t working Fury’s body. It worked.
Fury was never able to ignore the cuts, and how could he, but he was able to assert himself, and as the second half of the bout progressed, Fury began beating Wallin up. When he uses his enormous reach, Fury can take over any fight, and Wallin ate serious leather from sharp right crosses and sneaky uppercuts on the inside.
It was a gutsy performance from both fighters, but class tells, and Fury is simply better than Wallin. The official verdicts were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110. TQBR scored the bout 118-110 for Fury. Fury’s corner did a terrific job on the cut, and trainer Ben Davison kept cool, always gave Fury salient advice and enforced order when cutman Jorge Capetillo was slightly freaked out and talking over him.
Hopefully, this marks the last time we see Fury against anyone outside of the heavyweight elite. All the pageantry that Top Rank and ESPN can muster, which is considerable, is not enough to distract from the fact that Tyson Fury is too damn good to be fighting guys like Otto Wallin.
In the co-feature, Mexican Emanuel Navarrete (29-1, 25 KO) fought for the second time in 28 days, stopping Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KO) in the 4th round of a junior featherweight fight. It’s rare enough to see any fighter in the ring that frequently, but Navarrete’s last bout was quick, so he stepped right back in.
Navarrete can sometimes look sloppy in the early rounds before dialing up the work rate and accuracy, so when ESPN announcer Tim Bradley was convinced that Navarrete was flat in the 1st round, Andre Ward gently corrected, “Tim, it’s only been a minute and a half.”
Ward was right.
By the 2nd, Navarrete was using every inch of his 72-inch wingspan, cracking Elorde with straight rights, using lead left uppercuts from middle distance, and basically just doing whatever in the hell he wanted. In the 3rd, ‘Vaquero’ switched southpaw and speared Elorde with right jabs. Elorde attempted to get Navarrete’s timing down so that he could counter, but that’s easier said than done when your opponent changes stance, distance, and technique at the speed of thought.
Near the end of the 3rd round, Navarrete feinted a right cross, then fired a sweeping left hook that crashed home full force and sent Elorde backward and down. The ropes held the Filipino mostly vertical, but referee Russell Mora rightly scored it a knockdown and gave Elorde a count. It was academic after that. Navarrete jumped all over Elorde to open the 4th, and Mora stopped the fight with Elorde on his feet, his nervous system having been short-circuited by a vicious right hand. Normally, I would have called it a quick hook, but Elorde’s leg had spasmed out, and his eyes were completely glazed over. He was frozen. It was only Navarrete’s momentum having sent him off balance that allowed Mora to jump in and save Elorde from taking further punishment.
Emanuel Navarrete is only 24 years old and becoming better with every fight. His prime should be a helluva thing to watch.
(Photo by Mikey Williams for Top Rank)