A bloodied Tyson Fury beat the previously undefeated Otto Wallin on an unanimous points decision after overcoming a significant early double-cut above his eye in Las Vegas.
The 31-year-old, who finished the fight with his white shorts stained pink, sustained a large gash above his eyebrow and a smaller one in his eyelid in the third round and a constant trickle of blood troubled him for the remainder of the bout.
It was also a concern for referee Tony Week who, on several occasions, asked the Mancunian’s corner to tend to the cut and called in the doctor towards the end of the sixth round with genuine concerns the fight could be stopped.
However, Fury battled through and – as his opponent tired – he began to take control, despite still being hampered by the injury.
This was intended as a stop-gap fight ahead of an expected rematch with Deontay Wilder in February but if Fury was hoping to make a statement this was not it.
With the eye causing him a problem and no idea how long he would be allowed to continue, he tried to step up the attack after the doctor’s inspection and landed two big right-handers in the seventh round, one which rocked Wallin back onto the ropes, and a few more punches found their target in the eighth and ninth.
Although the Swede, unbeaten in his first 20 fights but stepping up a level here, looked to be tiring he managed to grind it out to the final round where, sensing his one final opportunity, landed a big left early and Fury was more than happy to cling onto his opponent in an attempt to avoid further trouble.
But despite Wallin thinking he had done enough the win was a unanimous one for Fury, 116-112, 117-111, 118-110.
Fury said: “I know Otto’s father (who died earlier this year) would be very proud of his son.
“It was a great fight, I got caught on the eye and that changed the fight. For the majority I could not see out of the eye. Then there was a clash of heads and I got cut again.
“I hit him with some good shots, some big body shots.
“A good 12 rounds, he was tough. Deontay Wilder, I want you next, bum. That’s my fourth fight, it has put me in good stead for the big dosser, February 22nd. Let the cut heal, have some time to relax with the family.
“I haven’t seen the cut, it feels quite bad, but I’m the Gypsy Warrior. It’s all heart and determination. If I can keep going, I will keep going. He was 20-0 didn’t know how to lose but he does now.”
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Tyson Fury admits he gets “turned on” by facing the unknown and that is why he will not underestimate Otto Wallin in their heavyweight fight in Las Vegas.
The Swede has a 20-bout unbeaten record, which includes 13 knockouts, but none have been anywhere near this level and Fury’s trainer Ben Davis said even he struggled to find footage of the unheard of 28-year-old.
Fury has taken the fight as stop-gap before an expected rematch against Deontay Wilder in February and while he knows little about his opponent that merely adds to the excitement for the Mancunian.
“I don’t know much about Otto at all and sometimes that’s a good thing as when you know everything about an opponent it doesn’t turn me on like it should do,” said the 31-year-old self-styled ‘Gypsy King’.
“But when you have the unknown that is more exciting.”
Comparisons have been drawn from Wallin’s compatriot Ingemar Johansson who 60 years ago shocked the world by upsetting dominant world champion Floyd Patterson in New York.
🇲🇽 TYSON MYSTERIO! 🇲🇽@Tyson_Fury wore a Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling mask to his public pre-fight workout in Las Vegas ahead of his bout with Otto Wallin.— Sky Sports WWE (@SkySportsWWE) September 12, 2019
Would you like to see Fury make the switch from a boxing ring to a WWE ring? pic.twitter.com/XhlRvKxth0
However, Fury insists that will not happen on Saturday.
“I’ve not overlooked him, I’ve been in America for five weeks training,” he added.
“No-one is under any illusions. Ingemar Johansson came and knocked out Floyd Patterson. Is Otto Wallin going to knock out el rey de los gitanos (Fury has adopted the Spanish translation of the Gypsy King for his fight on Mexican Independence weekend)? Definitely not.
“The fact is I don’t under-estimate anyone. I give everyone the ultimate respect.
“Even if I am fighting a guy who has had 20 fights and lost 20 I will train for him like he has had 20 knockouts in a row because I never fail to prepare.
“I’ve trained hard for this fight. As hard as I trained for Wilder, as hard as I trained for anyone.
“The tallness, a southpaw, and a defensive fighter is always a challenge but I’ve never met a challenge I couldn’t defeat.
“I’ve never met a mountain I couldn’t climb, I’ve never met a man I couldn’t beat so he’s going to be no exception.”
Fury may well be the overwhelming favourite against a comparative minnow but the 31-year-old does not feel the expectation to put in a performance.
“I don’t feel any pressure because they are only men with gloves on. I don’t feel pressure from any fight,” he told PA.
“It is going to be another Tyson Fury roadshow. It is going to be an entertaining fight, an exciting fight.
“I feel good, I feel fit, I’ve trained really hard. I’m in great shape and the weight is perfect. I feel sharp and rejuvenated and ready for a good fight.”
Wallin knows no-one gives him a chance but is determined to not only make a point but embarrass Fury.
“They (the crowd) can expect a good boxer. I am well-schooled, I had a good background and I think I have what it takes to cause an upset,” he said.
“I haven’t been on this big stage in fights before but I feel like I am on this level and I am ready to prove it.”
Fury weighed in at 254.4 lbs (18st 1oz), the lightest he had been since he beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 (247lbs, just over 17-and-a-half stone).
It was nine pounds lighter than when he fought Tom Schwarz on his first appearance in Las Vegas in June, and just under the 256.5lbs he was against Wilder last December. Swede Wallin tipped the scales at 236 (16st 8oz).
Fury has embraced a Mexican theme since his arrival in the city as he fights on the country’s Independence Day weekend and for the second time this week appeared in a lucha libre wrestling mask.
Having stepped off the scales Fury then grabbed the microphone to say, in an faux American accent: “In less than 24 hours from now Otto Wallin will feel the fury.
“Bob, get the steel cage out Bob (veteran American promoter Bob Arun) so this bum doesn’t run away.”
Tyson Fury intends to remain healthy and stay out of trouble as he plots his way back to the top of the heavyweight division.
The 31-year-old Mancunian relinquished the belts he won against Wladimir Klitschko after much-publicised mental health problems and a ban for a failed drugs test.
Fury has one eye on a February rematch with WBC champion Deontay Wilder after their meeting last December finished in a controversial draw but for now he has to focus on Saturday’s Las Vegas bout against relative unknown Otto Wallin.
And Fury, who has had previous weight problems and once ballooned to 28 stone, insists he is now in peak condition.
Fury’s new fitness regime meant he was able to bring forward a fight date by a month in order to top the bill at the T-Mobile Arena on Mexican Independence weekend.
Fury has embraced the Mexican theme since securing this date, this week rebranding himself ‘El rey de los gitanos’ (king of the gypsies) and appearing at his public workout in a lucha libre wrestling mask and wearing a headband in the country’s colours.
Wallin has a 20-fight unbeaten record, including 13 knockouts, but has never fought at this level.
But the Swede, whose father died of a heart attack in May, is relishing the prospect of fighting the former heavyweight champion.