TO the random observer, Otto Wallin probably cuts the profile of a certain male urban-dweller. You know the type: tall, rugged, and handsome, in his late twenties, blonde with pale blue eyes. The kind who was undoubtedly once recruited to play lacrosse at an Ivy League university and who now holds down a nine-to-five in finance. He joins his co-workers for pick-up basketball on every other Wednesday and lifts weights at least four times a week. On weekends, he bar-crawls the Lower East Side with his old collegiate buddies. He is proudly single, lives in a midtown apartment with tubs of whey protein powder stacked in a corner, and has his meals delivered from Seamless with frightening regularity. His summers are a blur of rooftop parties and weekend getaways to Montauk and Cabo. In the winters, he goes up to Vermont, bouncing from one ski resort to the next. Yes, walking past Wallin along 8th Avenue, you would think he is very much the ideal metrosexual Manhattanite.
Well, sort of. It is true that the 28-year-old Wallin, a native of Sundsvall, Sweden, is a tall, young blonde bachelor living in the thick of the bustling Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of Manhattan’s west side, where greats crowds gather daily to patronise the famous theaters and adjacent restaurants. But any similarities to his supposed stereotypes end there. Wallin operates as a professional heavyweight boxer — undefeated at 20 wins against 13 knockouts — and spends his days in solitary, regimented preparation for the most improbable fight of his life. On September 14 in Las Vegas, Wallin will challenge Tyson Fury for the latter’s (dubious) lineal heavyweight title distinction.
In another era, such an occasion would have meant reporters of all stripes converging at Wallins’ scaffolding-covered doorsteps. But these days being a heavyweight contender involves a degree of anonymity. Even so, you would think that at the very least his next-door neighbors would be aware that one of their own was gearing up to face perhaps the most skilled heavyweight boxer of this era. Not a chance, it turns out. “Around here?” Wallin responded, when asked if his neighbours were aware of his occupation. “Nobody [knows] — Well, my roommate.” Indeed, as Wallin opens the door to take out the trash, a fellow resident of the first floor zips by obliviously, with not so much as a nod.