Otto Wallin, who you will remember from a bloody world title challenge against Tyson Fury in 2019 and from “Dillian Whyte pulls out of a fight to protect his own chance against Fury last year,” will return to the ring on May 26 in Dearborn, Mich., facing veteran Rydell Booker.
It’s a stay-busy fight and there’s no press release quotes that can get around that. Wallin (23-1, 14 KO) is a 31-year-old southpaw from Sweden, right in what should be his prime years, and he gave Fury a much tougher test than expected thanks to bloodying the heavily favored “Gypsy King” in their bout almost three years ago.
Since then, Wallin has been floating around heavyweight relevance. Wins over Travis Kauffman and Dominic Breazeale set him up for a good fight late last year with Whyte, only for Dillian to withdraw due to injury. The move seemed transparent to most, and in most ways fair enough, as Whyte had finally gotten a clear chance to fight for the WBC title he’d been chasing for years. (Whyte did get the fight, and was knocked out on April 23.)
That left Wallin swaying in the wind. He took a stay-busy fight in Cardiff on Feb. 5 against Kamil Sokolowski, a veteran gatekeeper and good at his job, and now this fight with the 41-year-old Booker (26-5-1, 13 KO) is really about the same level, even if Booker’s record looks a lot better on paper than Sokolowski’s.
Booker is 1-4-1 in his last six fights dating back to 2019, with clear losses to Jermaine Franklin, Kubrat Pulev, and Filip Hrgovic in 2019-20, a draw with a 51-year-old Ray Austin in 2021, and then a loss on March 26 in Poland against Marcin Siwy. His only win in that stretch came over a 9-9 fighter in Detroit in 2019.
Booker is generally game and is usually durable, able to go the distance other than his TKO loss to Hrgovic, who may be a legitimate top heavyweight. If Wallin gets the win as expected, it won’t be anything of major note on his record, but it will at least keep him busy as he tries to find a bigger fight later this year. Going rusty on the sidelines doesn’t seem to interest him.
“I’ve been getting a lot of work in over the last few months. I saw Booker when he fought Franklin and I know that he’s an experienced and skilled boxer,” Wallin said. “He’s not someone I will underestimate, but this is a fight I need to win. I appreciate Salita Promotions keeping me active. This is the first time I fight twice in a year since 2019. I’m looking to put on a good performance.”
Booker, who has some skills but was inactive between 2004 and 2018, says he’s determined to pull an upset.
“He’s a southpaw that boxes well,” said Booker. “Everybody thinks they know how to fight a southpaw, but I fight them totally differently. I’ve been fighting them for years. I’m sparring with lefties every day and training is going well. It would mean a lot to beat Wallin. He’s rated in the world and it would let everybody know Rydell Booker is still here.”
Booker is also training with former boxer Kara Ro, and says she’s getting him in good shape, which has been a visible issue for Booker a few times.
“Kara is getting on my nerves,” he said with a laugh. “Not in a bad way. She’s a workhorse and it’s good because she’s always pushing.”
The card will also feature Marlon Harrington (7-0, 6 KO) in an eight-round junior middleweight bout; Joseph Hicks Jr (1-0, 1 KO) in a six-round middleweight fight; and junior middleweight Husam Al Mashhadi (3-0, 3 KO), junior welterweight Ferris Dixon Jr (2-0, 1 KO), and junior middleweight Da’Velle Smith (2-0, 2 KO) in other action.