Both Otto Wallin (21-1, 14 KOs) of Sweden and American Dominic Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs) came into Saturday night with something to prove. Their three combined losses came against the top three Heavyweights in the world – at least at the time they occurred.
The difference, of course, is that Wallin has been active, while Breazeale hasn’t fought since his first round starching at the hands of Wilder. The winner would put himself in position to once again challenge for a world title.
Breazeale stated in the buildup that he would be looking to reverse the trend of his slow starts. For him, the feeling out process has often been protracted, allowing for his opponents to build up leads. This has especially been a problem in his recent and biggest fights.
Whether it was something he failed to do, or the timing of his opponent Otto Wallin, Breazeale failed to deliver on that promise. Rounds one and two saw the lighter southpaw landing jabs and straight lefts almost at will to Breazeale’s face and jawline. Every time Dominic would close the distance, Otto either held, or circled away to his right. Textbook boxing.
In the third stanza, Wallin looked to accomplish what every southpaw hopes to against an orthodox fighter: take away his opponent’s jab. He upped the volume and, when Breazeale managed to get off first, was able to counter over his lead hand. He continued this into the fourth and, while Breazeale managed to close the distance a few times, it amounted to little. Wallin covered up and wisely smothered to take away the snap on the bigger man’s shots.
40-36, Wallin after four rounds.
In the fifth, Breazeale began to show that he definitely had the will and constitution, but may be simply lacking in the ability department. The American gave the illusion of being more competitive without doing any damage. In some cases, simply moving one’s hands can help, but not here. Wallin’s vision and stamina were beginning to prove to be a level above on this night.
A similar trend continued into the sixth. Breazeale had his most active round of the fight so far, but his hands had slowed even more. The shots that Wallin didn’t manage to slip, were taken on his gloves. He then returned fire with sharp counter shots. Breazeale’s right eye, which has had a tendency to swell in past bouts, was beginning to puff up noticeably. A development that made Wallin’s sniper-like left hand even more effective.
The seventh round was more of the same, ever-worsening trend for Breazeale. Fans and media alike should credit his heart in continuing to doggedly pursue Wallin. However, Breazeale could not win at this point without landing a miraculous knockout shot. With his weakening legs, that may be too tall an order. But, you never say never in this sport.
At the start of the eighth, the ringside physician ordered a timeout to inspect Breazeale’s eye. After being approved to continue, the American pursued Wallin with renewed vigor, as if to say, “Don’t you dare stop this fight.” He lost the round in much the same fashion as the last, but his opponent, who had fought off the back foot all night long, looked for a couple of seconds like he may have wanted a break.
80-72, Wallin after eight rounds.
Any fans of Dominic Breazeale who may have been looking all night for a round to give him, had their chance in the ninth. Breazeale got hit plenty of times, but walked through most of it. After pressing Wallin to the ropes, he was able to clip his man with a few solid shots. Wallin hid it as best he could, but could not totally conceal that he was hurt. A not-so-gentle reminder that Heavyweight fights can turn on a dime.
Whether he was taking the first half of the round off to clear his head, or to get his wind back matters little. It gave Breazeale time to work, even if he accomplished little. Wallin came alive in the final minute and landed more than enough in the way of jabs and left hands to win the round.
The eleventh saw Wallin build even more off the solid closing of round ten. Peppering the pursuer Breazeale, he won the round boxing in retreat. He picked his spots to plant and counter, and either pivoted away to his right or covered up when the American got too close. Wallin punctuated a strong eleventh with a pinpoint left hand to the chin. Breazeale’s full 260 pound frame was coming into the punch, only adding to the sizable impact.
In the twelfth, Breazeale began to finally follow the advice of Abel Sanchez and his corner. Though it proved to be too late, Breazeale had his most productive round of the fight. Through a swollen eye and who-knows-how-many shots to the jaw, the former two-time title challenger showed just how he made it to this level. While he couldn’t hurt Wallin, he was able to out-work him. A small consolation for a fighter who could be heading into retirement.
After the final bell, my card read 118-110. 10 rounds to two, with Breazeale winning the ninth and final round. The judges viewed it similarly, with the official cards being 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110.
Wallin clearly wanted the stoppage, but the one world class attribute Breazeale still possesses is his heart. Certain guys just won’t go away, no matter what they get hit with. In an entertaining Heavyweight scrap, Wallin decisively beat a man whose only previous losses have been against champions. This could lead to the man from Sweden getting a shot at a champion or top-five contender next.