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Is Otto Wallin the next Ingemar Johansson or the next Olle Tandberg?

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  • Is Otto Wallin the next Ingemar Johansson or the next Olle Tandberg?

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Back in March of this year, there was a collective groan when it was announced that Germany’s Tom Schwarz would be Tyson Fury’s next foe. Fury’s U.S. promoter, Bob Arum, had already announced that the rematch with Deontay Wilder had been placed on the backburner, but yet there had remained a glimmer of hope that public opinion would force Fury to proceed directly to a rematch with Wilder rather than let it “marinate” and potentially dissolve.

    When the Fury-Schwarz fight was made, Tom Schwarz, although undefeated, was ranked by BoxRec as the world’s 41st best heavyweight. To put that in perspective, he ranked 31 places below Dominic Breazeale.

    To create more interest in Fury vs. Schwarz, by all indications an egregious mismatch, the promoters conjured up the name of Germany’s most famous boxer, Max Schmeling. Back in 1936, Schmeling upset the previously undefeated Joe Louis and there was nothing fluky about it. Schmeling chewed up the Brown Bomber before stopping him in the 12th round. But for publicity purposes, the Schwarz-Schmeling comparison wasn’t a good one as Schmeling fought Joe Louis again and was so thoroughly drubbed in a fight that lasted only 124 seconds that it almost blotted out what Schmeling had accomplished in their first meeting.

    Fortunately for the promoters, there was a more helpful comparison right at their fingertips in the form of Axel Schulz who would attend the fight as part of the German broadcasting team. Schulz, a virtual unknown when he was pitted against George Foreman at the MGM Grand in April of 1995, was the anti-Tom Schwarz, the counter-point to the argument that Tyson Fury’s hand-picked opponent was a no-hoper.

    Foreman was long in the tooth in 1995, but Axel Schulz, raised in East Germany, was yet considered easy meat. “Ring experts,” said Alan Goldstein in the Baltimore Sun, “classify Schulz as a harmless piece of strudel.” But those experts were wrong. Big George escaped with a majority decision that many considered a gift.

    “I would never fight that kid again. Forget it. Wherever he came from, let him go right back. He was like a Tasmanian devil or something,” said Foreman after the fight. True to his word, he spurned a rematch, leading the IBF to strip him of his title.

    Could Tom Schwarz be the next Axel Schulz? We know the answer. That’s yesterday’s news.

    And now, after this meandering preamble, let’s move on to Otto Wallin who will fight Tyson Fury on Sept. 14 at the MGM Grand.

    Wallin hails from Sweden. He stands six-foot-five, similar to Tom Schwarz, but is somewhat leaner and unlike Schwarz he’s a southpaw. He’s undefeated as a pro (20-0, 13 KOs), but has fought only once in the United States. His bout with journeyman Nick Kisner, a puffed-up cruiserweight, ended after one round when Kisner suffered a bad cut over his right eye from an accidental head butt and would not come out for the second round, claiming that the cut had blurred his vision. It was ruled a no-contest. A second U.S. fight fell out at the 11th hour when shopworn B.J. Flores failed his pre-fight medical exam.

    As far as good boxers from Sweden, it’s a very short list, understandably so as professional boxing was banned in Sweden from 1970 until 2007. The most famous Swedish boxer, needless to say, is the late Ingemar Johansson.

    Sixty years ago, Johansson was accorded scant chance of taking the heavyweight title from Floyd Patterson. But Ingemar not only did it, he did it in a spectacular way, knocking Patterson to the canvas seven times in less than three full rounds of fighting before referee Ruby Goldstein halted the slaughter. The stunning upset was the lead story on the front page of dozens of newspapers including the New York Times. (They fought twice more with Patterson winning both inside the distance, but it is their first fight that everyone remembers.)

    As the Fury-Wallin fight draws closer, the name of Ingemar Johansson will be bandied about in many pre-fight reports: Can Otto Wallin accomplish what Ingemar did on that balmy night in Yankee Stadium?

    For the sake of ballast, writers that invoke the name of Johansson ought to leaven their copy with a reference to Olle Tandberg.

    Tandberg, from Stockholm, was 18-4-1 but riding a 12-fight winning streak when he made his U.S. debut on Jan. 9, 1948 in a 10-round contest at Madison Square Garden. In the opposite corner was Joey Maxim.

    Joe Louis was nearing the end of his title reign. The previous month, in the same Madison Square Garden ring, he had been fortunate to turn away Jersey Joe Walcott, winning a split decision that was widely viewed as a gift. It was obvious that a shake-up in the heavyweight division was imminent and those with a vested interest hoped that Olle Tandberg would add his name to the mix.

    Joey Maxim was a solid technician who would go on to win the light heavyweight title, but at this juncture of his career he was regarded as nothing more than a high-class journeyman. He wasn’t a hard-hitter. He had knocked out only 13 of his 69 opponents. Tandberg would out-weigh him 208-179.

    Tandberg was the “A” side, but Joey Maxim took him to school. “Maxim gave a thorough lacing to the Swedish giant,” said New York Times ringside reporter James P. Dawson. “He exposed Tandberg as a cumbersome novice, little more than an amateur.” Incredibly, one of the judges actually favored Tandberg (5-4-1) but his score was myopic, to say the least.

    Tandberg never fought for the title, but his managers succeeded in luring future title-holder Jersey Joe Walcott to Stockholm in the summer of 1949. Jersey Joe knocked him out in the 5th before an announced crowd of 43,000 at a soccer stadium and that was all she wrote for Olle Tandberg who promptly retired.

    Fury

    Early in his career, Tyson Fury attracted notoriety for off-the-cuff remarks that were flat-out ignorant and were hurtful to certain segments of the population, but of late he has been on his best behavior, mending fences, as it were. In Las Vegas in the days before his bout with Tom Schwarz, he was the opposite of reclusive, chatting and posing for pictures with strangers, basking in their adulation and winning legions of new fans with his charismatic personality. A prizefighter with the soul of a troubadour, the big galoot is larger than life, a cartoon character, a promoter’s dream. Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in his second act were cartoon characters too.

    Oh, and the self-styled Gypsy King can fight more than a little. He’s very fluid for a man his size and can deliver punches that sting with either hand. He thoroughly dismantled the seemingly rugged Schwarz who was a bloody mess when the fight was stopped late in the second round.

    Returning to the question that was the title of this story, we ask whether Otto Wallin, the Swede, is the next Ingemar Johansson or next Olle Tandberg.

    That’s a rhetorical question, folks. If you foresee Wallin winning this fight, we know a bookmaker who will give you juicy odds and take all that you can beg, borrow, and steal.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Badou Jack is a pretty damm good boxer and Attila Levin wasn't bad.

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    • #3
      Good article.

      Johansson is rather underrated. As for Tandberg -- he spoiled Joe Baksi's chances of getting a shot at Joe Louis' title by beating him by majority decision. The result surprised everyone -- no one more so than Tandberg.

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