Swedish stars edge closer to super showdown
Luke G. Williams
Swedish heavyweight prospects Otto Wallin and Adrian Granat both fight in December, as a showdown between the domestic rivals apparently edges closer. Boxing Monthly's Luke G. Williams caught up with both pugilists...
A potential all-Swedish heavyweight showdown between Sundsvall's Otto Wallin (18-0, 12 KOs) and Malmo's Adrian Granat has been talked about for a couple of years now.
If the duo win their upcoming engagements against Gabriel Enguema and Irakli Gvenetadze respectively, then the biggest domestic bout in Swedish boxing since Armand Krajnc faced Paolo Roberto in 2001 will inch closer to reality. Positively, both Granat and Wallin have expressed their enthusiasm in recent weeks for the match-up.
Granat's 22 December contest against 9-5 Georgian Gvenetadze is a particularly crucial moment for the big man from Malmo - it being the first time he has taken to the ring since March, when he lost his unbeaten record after an opening-round KO reverse against hard-hitting Russian Alexander Dimitrenko.
After spending several months regrouping and regathering, 'The Pike' insists that this unexpected loss will not derail his ambitious plans for the future.
"A lot of things were going in the wrong direction and that's why it [the Dimitrenko fight] went the way it did," the 26-year-old told Boxing Monthly. "But I have taken this experience positively and I now feel strengthened by it."
After the loss, Granat, who was previously based in Germany, made the decision to return to Sweden and enlist the services of one of the country's most iconic boxers as his new trainer. "I now train with [former WBO middleweight champion] Armand Krajnc and it is going very good," Granat said. "I know I have to improve many aspects of my game and that is what I am working on. I'm always trying to get better.
"[On 22 December] I am hoping to showcase many of my improvements. It is going to be nice to shake the loss off me a little bit. I'm looking forward to just getting in the ring and performing.
"Right now focus is on the comeback, but I feel like 2018 is going to be my year. Regardless of who I fight. I hope, though, to be fighting good opponents."
Wallin has also experienced some frustrations in 2017, having only fought once to date this calendar year - an April TKO of Gianluca Mandras in front of an adoring home crowd in Sundsvall.
"I've had more fights scheduled but had to withdraw because of an injury I picked up in training," the 27-year-old explained to Boxing Monthly when asked about his lack of activity lately.
"I definitely want to be more busy and I would like to fight at least four times next year. [But] it was amazing to finally get my homecoming [against Mandras], it was a great show and I really felt the support from my hometown crowd. I was really happy to win my first title [the WBA continental strap] in front of my hometown fans as well.
"In 2018 I want to be busy first and foremost, who I fight and not is up to my trainer and my team. I've got a coach that's been a world champion himself and I trust his instincts on how to develop me. I'll just focus on getting better every day so when the big fights come I'll be ready!"
Like Granat, Wallin has also been adjusting to a change of scenery - his trainer Joey Gamache relocated to New York after several years based in Denmark and Wallin has been enjoying the experience of the 'Big Apple'.
"I've been with Joey for four years now," he explained. "First we were training in Denmark but this spring he decided to go back to New York and I had the chance to follow him. It's been an amazing experience to be in New York, it's such a beautiful city with so much energy and great people. We've been training at Mendez gym in Manhattan in the core of the city, I really like it because of all the people that are in the gym the good atmosphere.
"The best thing with New York has been that I've been getting a lot of great sparring from top guys. I've been sparring with the likes of Adam Kownacki, Zhang Zhilei and Jarrell Miller just to name a few. I've always had problems finding good sparring in the past and to have that consistently in New York is gonna develop me a lot."
I asked both of these promising heavyweights about the prospect of finally meeting in the ring.
Granat's response was direct and to the point. "Well I hope it [a contest against Wallin] happens and I believe I will win that fight," he said simply.
As for Wallin, he began his response by giving his thoughts on Granat's recent reverse.
"I know Dimitrenko is a decent fighter and he's a big guy so I knew that anything could happen," he explained. "Adrian got caught in the first round and that was it. It can happen to anyone, but I think Adrian's problem is that he believes his own hype and wants to rush things.
"[Granat's loss] didn't give me any satisfaction, this is business and I wanted to be the first to beat Adrian but Dimitrenko beat me on that one.
"I've been wanting to fight Adrian since day one, he's been doing a lot of talking but wouldn't do much to make the fight. I hope we can get it on next year even though he hurt that fight a lot with his loss to Dimitrenko. I believe in my own ability, we have been around each other since we were amateurs - I was better than him then and I'm better than him now. I'm looking forward showing the Swedish people that talk is cheap."
With the EBU having proposed a Wallin vs Granat match for the vacant EU heavyweight title, we could finally discover which of Sweden's two leading heavyweights is the nation's true top dog early next year.