LAS VEGAS — Perhaps on paper the unknown Otto Wallin looked like a second consecutive soft touch for lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury but it turned out nothing could have been further from the truth.
Fury had to overcome a tremendously spirited effort from Wallin and two horrendous cuts over his right eye in a memorable rumble before 8,249 in the main event o the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Fury won 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, but it was a dogfight all the way with palpable drama because it seemed as though the fight could have been stopped at any time because of the severity of the cuts. ESPN also scored the fight 116-112 for Fury.
Fury retained the lineal title for the fifth time and did his part to fight his way into a rematch with titlist Deontay Wilder, but it was not supposed to be nearly this tough against Wallin, a 30-to-1 underdog looking to pull an upset that would have been even bigger than the one Andy Ruiz Jr. authored on June 1 when he knocked out Anthony Joshua to take his three title belts.
In June, Fury blew away then-undefeated and entirely unknown and untested Tom Schwarz in the second round in his Las Vegas debut. The “Gypsy King” was expected to do the same against an equally unknown and untested Wallin, but instead Fury got perhaps the toughest fight of his career.
Wallin got Fury’s attention with a left hand midway through the first round and forced him back. He did not seem undone by the moment. Instead he was poised and moving forward, although it was hard for him to get inside Fury’s long jab.
Fury turned to a southpaw stance in the second round, and when he returned to a right-handed stance he began to land punches, including a right hand that forced Wallin back.
Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) suffered a cut over his right eye late in the third round, and referee Tony Weeks ruled it was caused by a punch.
Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs), a 6-foot-5½ southpaw, had a good fourth round against a seemingly agitated Fury, who was talking to him as blood streamed down the side of his face from what had become two cuts. Fury was clearly unnerved by the cuts and continually dabbed his eye in the fifth round, when Wallin nailed him with a right hand that shook Fury and then followed up with a left.
Weeks called timeout late in the fifth round to have the ringside doctor examine Fury’s worsening cuts. When the fight resumed there was urgency from Fury, who tried to go for a knockout and was met by a Wallin ready to brawl.
The 6-9 Fury seemed to have lost any semblance of a game plan in the seventh round. Instead, he just marched to Wallin looking to get him out of there because of the urgency over the cuts. He sent Wallin into the ropes with along right hand and then another, but Wallin fired back and tied him up.
Fury nailed Wallin with a right uppercut that forced him to the ropes in the eighth round as blood continued to stream down his face and had turned the white part of his trunks pink.
By the end of the ninth round, Wallin’s left eye was swelling and black and blue. Fury opened the 10th round with a sustained flurry that hurt Wallin repeatedly and had him sagging along the ropes. He continued to unload, landing numerous punches, especially clean right hands, that were breaking Wallin down, yet he somehow made it to the end of the round.
Fury continued to pound Wallin in the 11th round, finding time to dab at the massive amount of blood coming from his cuts between landing punches to the head and body.
Wallin landed a clean left hand to open the 12th round and put a few punches together than seemed to hurt Fury, who grabbed on. Fury backed up to stay away from the left hand and also wiped blood from his eye as they rumbled to the final bell of an outstanding fight.