Otto Wallin Looking to Usher Anthony Joshua to the Off Ramp
Anthony “AJ” Joshua is on a quest to become a three-time unified heavyweight champion. But at age 34, is that goal attainable? Is Joshua a fighter on the decline?
AJ returns to the ring to face Otto Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs) on December 23 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During a press event for the boxing media, Wallin said he was eager for the opportunity but also believed his upcoming opponent is not the fighter he once was.
“I’m so ready for it. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time . . . I pretty much feel like he had his peak, maybe around 2018. He deserves a lot of respect.
He’s done a lot for himself. He comes from humble beginnings to really conquer the division for some time. But now I feel like he’s on his way down, on his way out, and I’m gonna help with that, and I’m going to win this fight.”
ON THE DECLINE?
If there’s a fighter who would know if AJ has slipped, it would be Wallin. They fought twice in the amateurs, with Joshua winning on both occasions. Wallin was also a sparring partner for AJ for Joshua’s world title-winning battle against Charles Martin in April 2016.
But the Swede is not the only one with this opinion about the former world champion. It’s also shared by some within the boxing community. The belief is that, mentally, Joshua has not been the same since a split-decision loss in his rematch to reigning unified champion Oleksandr Usyk in August 2022.
The reality is that in his last two outings, Joshua appeared hesitant and gun-shy. In a unanimous decision victory over Jermaine Franklin in April 2023, Joshua looked like someone fighting in second, if not third gear.
Joshua’s most recent fight was a seventh-round knockout of Robert Helenius in August 2023. While AJ ended the fight spectacularly, his performance leading up to the ending was largely disappointing. During large segments of that contest, he was content to jab, and wouldn’t let the combinations go or punch with mean intentions.
Ranked second by the IBF, Wallin is out to score the biggest win of his career. Scoffing at those who claim that he’s no longer an elite fighter, Joshua believes he’s still in his prime and intends to show it in Saudi Arabia.