It’s do or die in Liverpool tonight for UK heavyweight hope David Price as he tries to reverse the first defeat of his professional career against ageing American Tony Thompson, but is five months enough time to right his wrongs from the first fight?
Just five months ago David Price looked like the future star heavyweight boxing craved. With size, strength, scary one punch power, and a fan friendly style to boot, the likable Liverpudlian had all the qualities of a potential breakout star. He steamrolled through the British domestic scene stalwarts, raking up 13 of his 15 wins inside the distance. He knocked out John McDermott in the first, Sam Sexton was stopped in four, he laid waste to Audley Harrison in just over a minute, and then the normally durable Matt Skelton fell in two.
Four years after his debut, Price found himself already on the radar of the brothers Klitschko. A step up against Thompson seemed like shrewd matchmaking. Thompson, at 41, was coming off a one sided beating in his second failed attempt to dethrone Wladimir Klitschko. He was to be a name for the record of a rising star, and another step up the heavyweight ladder for Price. Somebody didn’t read the script.
Price, despite his impressive performance as a pro, still hadn’t convinced everyone. There was a box left unticked. Doubters remained, hooked on a fear of the big man’s ability to take a shot. A hang over from his amateur days, where a handful of stoppage defeats left questions over his durability. In Price’s most high profile match up in the unpaid ranks, a semi final at the Beijing Olympics, he was brutally halted by eventual gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle. For many, those doubts became actualized when an old looking and out of shape Thompson, on the verge of defeat, found the one punch to shatter Price. Price never recovered and the referee made the right decision to call it in just the second round.
The win has given The Tiger a second lease of life. When you’re 41 years old and you start losing to prospects on the ascendancy, that can very quickly become your role in the sport. Thompson jammed on the breaks on that slide fast. This time around he comes in knowing he can hurt Price. That will give him confidence, and sometimes that’s all you need. He knows he has that shot in him because he’s found it before. That will give him the belief to go looking for it. When a boxer gets dropped in a fight he was otherwise dominating, sound reasoning suggests that next time around he should be able to correct the error and see out the victory, but that’s often not the case. Sometimes, over the course of 12 rounds, that mistake is unavoidable.
So this is what it all boils down to: is five months enough time to make those required changes? This is a must win for Price – not for him as a boxer, but as an attraction. At 30, he can still lose this, rebound, go a different route and carve out a notable career. But this is an unforgiving sport. The hype train behind the bronze medalist was well and truly derailed as soon as he hit the canvas back in February. It’s going to take a slow and steady build to get it back up and running again. Another loss tonight could leave the David Price brand beyond repair.
Price has brought in Lennox Lewis as part of his team for this one. That’s a man who knows a thing or two about bouncing back from a KO defeat. Lewis learned to use his strengths to protect his weakness. Wladimir Klitschko has done the same thing. The best chin in boxing is the one that doesn’t get hit. However, Price, caught fire initially as an action fighter. A guy who would chase finishes with reckless disregard for what his opponent was sending back his way. Can Lewis instill the safety first approach in him? And if so, will he be as marketable as a less exciting, but more effective fighter? Both boxer and coach have made it clear that the result is what matters here first and foremost, indicating a willingness to win ugly if needs be.
I’m picking Price to pick apart the older man and force a TKO. Thompson is again long odds, and is probably could value for them. He has the experience and craft to do it again. My feeling though is that the hunger is all in Price’s corner. If he doesn’t win tonight, it’s goodnight to his hopes of becoming a top star in the sport. For Thompson, he’s nearing the end of the road anyway, his story is already written. After a few rounds of Price wearing him down, I think his hunger may wear away as well.
Prediction: David Price TKO 6