If there is an afterlife, one would think maybe Emanuel Steward, Johnny Bos, and Roland Fortin would be looking down Saturday night, fingers crossed, proud of their guy Joey Gamache, who will be cornering Swedish heavyweight hopeful Otto Wallin in Las Vegas.
The 20-0 hitter, promoted by Dmitriy Salita and managed by Zach Levin and David Berlin, steps up two notches when he gloves up against the pugilist-specialist Tyson Fury on a Top Rank show, which will screen on ESPN+.
”This is a great opportunity for us, a fight like this we could not pass up,” said Gamache, the former fighting pride of Lewiston, Maine, who made his training bones teaching talent in Europe and is once again stationed in America.
“I feel like Otto is in the best shape of his life, camp could not have went better. His consistency, he’s been doing really, really well. I couldn’t be happier about it!”
Gamache was himself a more than fair fighter; he fought as a pro from 1987-2000, and after being advised by Fortin and Bos, learned training tips under the wing of the king of Kronk, Steward. Back in 2013, he was training guys in Denmark, and Wallin, now 28, came to the gym.
”Such talent,” Gamache recalls, “and he had a great work ethic. I liked him from the very beginning, I knew we had good chemistry, and he paid attention really well. He followed me to New York when I came home.”
Sparring the Jarrell Millers, Adam Kownackis and Zhang Zhileis has paid off, the trainer continued, and made it so he feels the Swede is ready to perform well in this step-up battle.
”Is this a winnable fight? This is, I feel it is, though I know we’re in against the best heavyweight in the world. I know Fury has had his problems in the past, was away from the game, he’s come back, and as good as he is, he does make mistakes. We gotta capitalize on them. We have a good game plan, it makes a lot of sense, it’s just a matter of trusting in it.”
I discussed how I have been in the past frustrated by Fury foes’ intent on head hunting. He is so elusive with his noggin — I asked Gamache, has he factored that in, and will he ask the 6’5½” Wallin to aim more at the body than the head?
”You gotta target the body,” the 53-year-old answered, with that hint of a Maine accent. “I agree, no question about it, he’s elusive, unorthodox, he’s a big guy, thought not as big as he claims, he’s maybe 6’8¾”.
“He moves his head and body so well, you gotta know the targets to hit. We are thinking a lot alike. Fury is not the biggest puncher, he’s accurate with his punches, he punches in combination, he comes in great shape. But I have my guy in his best shape, he couldn’t be better than where he is right now. Mike, boxing is full of surprises, and it comes down to styles. My guy is lefty, tall himself — I told Otto, this is the time to fight your best, you can beat a guy like Fury, who so far is undefeated, but everybody has their day to be beaten.”
Gamache, a former featherweight and lightweight champion, says yes, Wallin presents as easy-going, he seems chill in this fight week. But the tutor assures me he knows the stakes, understands that this is the hurt business. He will be buoyed by the memory of his dad, Carl, his top backer, who died in May.
”This is a huge opportunity, and if someone can’t get up for this, they can’t get up for anybody! We know who we’re in there with. Otto’s demeanor, his style — (a mean game face) is not who he is. But this isn’t about playing head games, we are focusing on what is in front of us. It’s important we don’t let Fury into his head, but Otto is smart as well.”
I shared that I saw Tom Schwarz getting too friendly in Fury’s last fight, in June, and yes, Gamache saw some of that.
“Fury is a likable guy, but we’re not going that route,” he said. “This is the hurt business, they can be friends after the fight. But this is a business. We’re taking this fight to win, we’re not here to lose, we will give everything, and Otto has everything to gain. Do I predict a win? We are here to win, that’s the mentality, that’s why we made this trip!”