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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Return of Otto Wallin, Bad Judging, and Obits

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  • Kid Blast
    Yes, the Reaper is "alive" and "wel"l..................

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  • Boxing Odds and Ends: The Return of Otto Wallin, Bad Judging, and Obits

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    By Arne K. Lang

    The fight attracting the most buzz this coming weekend – and rightfully so – is the all-Mexico showdown in Las Vegas between Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez. It promises fireworks. Lost in the shuffle is an intriguing heavyweight contest between Otto Wallin and Dominic Breazeale. It’s happening at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and will be televised on Showtime.

    Wallin gave Tyson Fury a very tough tussle when they clashed on Sept. 14, 2019 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Wallin opened a cut over Fury’s right eye that turned into a very bad gash that bled profusely from the third round on. In fact, had this been a generic fight rather than a fight where the stakes were so high for one of the sport's biggest stars, it would have likely been stopped.

    Since then, the 30-year-old southpaw from Sundsvall, Sweden, who currently resides in New York City where he works out in a private gym under trainer Joey Gamache, has had an interesting ride. Last year, he withdrew from a March 28 match in Las Vegas with Australia’s Lucas Browne for what was described as a minor foot injury. His pull-out became a moot point when the entire card was cancelled because of the pandemic.

    He would subsequently catch Covid-19, losing his sense of taste and smell for a spell. He made a full recovery, which opened the door to an August encounter with Pennsylvania veteran Travis Kauffman. Wallin won the first four rounds on all three cards and then, in the fifth, Kauffman retired with a shoulder injury.

    Dominic Breazeale, the former quarterback at the University of Northern Colorado, now 35 years old, will be making his first start in 22 months. In his last outing, he was bombed out in the opening round by Deontay Wilder. He entered that bout with a record of 20-1 (18 KOs), his lone previous defeat coming in London at the hands of Anthony Joshua who beat him up pretty good before taking him out in the seventh round.

    The six-foot-seven Breazeale, a 2012 Olympian, will have a two-inch height advantage and a three-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. He is accorded a better chance of ending the fight with one punch; the Swede is more of a grinder.

    This is the sort of fight where nothing that happens would shock us and the oddsmakers apparently felt that way too as they were slow to manufacture a betting line. The early money was on Wallin who, at last glance, was a 5/2 favorite.

    Bad Judging

    For the second time in four months, the scorecards on a fight in England raised a stink. This time the venom was directed at judges Steve Gray and Bob Williams who both scored the 12-round super featherweight contest between Zelfa Barrett and Kiko Martinez 118-111 (9-2-1 in rounds) in favor of Barrett who spent most of the bout fighting off his back foot.

    Barrett’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, fanned the flames of discontent. Those two scores, said Hearn, were “absolutely disgusting…how are we gonna’ bring foreign fighters to this country to take on opponents when they get absolutely zero credit for their performance?”

    The previous brouhaha occurred on Oct. 17 of last year when Lewis Ritson won a 12-round split decision over Miguel Vazquez. The verdict was assailed as a highway robbery and the chorus of outrage became louder when a photo emerged of 67-year-old ringside judge Terry O’Connor apparently looking at his cell phone as the fight was in progress. O’Connor awarded Ritson nine of the 12 rounds.

    Looking at their respective careers, Miguel Vazquez and Kiko Martinez, born 10 months apart, are virtual clones. One would be hard-pressed to find two active fighters in their age group who have had such similarly strong careers. And both of them, but especially Vazquez, can now claim that they got a raw deal against a younger British opponent in a British ring.


    Since February is the shortest month of the year, it would be reasonable to expect that the Grim Reaper wouldn’t be quite as active as in other months. Sadly, however, this is shaping up as one of the busiest months in years for obituary writers. A slew of notable boxing personalities left us in just the last two weeks. The list includes former Olympic teammates Leon Spinks and Davey Armstrong and a boxer who was a big name in France, Jean Josselin, who passed away at age 81 on Feb. 7 in his small apartment in Besancon, the city of his birth.

    Josselin participated in the 1960 Rome Olympics where he was defeated by Rome’s eventual gold medal winner Nino Benvenuti. He turned pro the following year at the Palais des Sports in Paris where he won domestic and European welterweight titles during a career that lasted until 1972. He finished 66-16-7 with 41 knockouts while answering the bell for a ridiculous 715 rounds. (To put this in perspective, Evander Holyfield answered the bell for “only” 443 rounds during a pro career that touched parts of four decades.)

    Josselin was 1-2 in U.S. rings. In 1966, in the first world championship fight in Dallas in 30 years, he lost a 15-round decision to welterweight champ Curtis Cokes who was fighting in his hometown. The fight was televised live in France, the TV rights having been purchased by the French government. Although Josselin was widely outpointed, 5,000 people reportedly turned out to welcome him when he arrived back in Besancon.

    Five years later, as his career was winding down, he opposed Jose “Mantiquilla” Napoles at the LA Forum. A murderous puncher, Napoles knocked him out in the fifth. Between these engagements, Josselin won a 10-round decision over Irish Danny McAloon at Madison Square Garden.


    The death of light heavyweight Roy King Jr. at a health care facility in New York on Feb. 9 warrants an asterisk. King died from injuries suffered in a fight 13 months ago in Nashville, a fight that he ironically co-promoted. The news that we made it through the entire year of 2020 without a single ring fatality now unfortunately commands a reconsideration.

    A Brooklyn native, King was a popular figure in his adopted hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee, where he operated a boxing and fitness studio. He was 41 years old and sporting a 12-4-1 record when he entered the ring for his ill-fated, 8-round contest with Sena Agbeko, a man 15 years his junior. King made it to the final bell before collapsing. Agbeko, who won a unanimous decision, advancing his record to 23-1, will be back in action tomorrow night – Wednesday, Feb. 17 – opposing Russia’s undefeated Vladimir Shishkin on “ShoBox.”

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel