According to Sky Sports, scouse heavyweight David price was ‘on song’ in Germany at the weekend. Meanwhile, with an editorial line that is not altogether unconnected, Boxing News have written that the massive scouser is “gunning for Anthony Joshua.” That both outlets can peddle this view with straight faces is a measure of how gullible they perceive boxing fans to be.
It is understandable that promoters, in particular Matchroom sport, who hold the trump card in AJ, should want to talk up Price’s re-emergence. They long for marquee, domestic dust-ups to hype and sell. However, it’s a worrying sign of the times when media outlets do it too. In the internet age the line between journalism and branded content is increasingly blurred and the number of truly independent analysts, prepared to provide honest opinions can probably be counted on one hand.
Above anything else, it is a shame to see the amiable giant reduced to being used in this way. How easy now to forget the real excitement that accompanied the first stages of his pro journey. With that Olympic bronze medal (shared with Deontay Wilder) swinging around his neck, Price turned in some impressive performances. Most notable was probably his destruction of ‘Big Bad’ John McDermott inside a round, a man who had given Tyson Fury kittens twice and even put him on the floor in their first fight.
Right up until his demolitions of Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton in 2012 he was perceived by many, on both sides of the Atlantic, to be the heir apparent to Wladimir Klitschko. At 6ft 8, with an 82 inch reach, he certainly possesses the physical tools, but all that talk, the real talk, ended after his 2013 double defeat to Tony Thompson.
Many have criticised the match-up since, saying Price was thrown in too deep, too soon, but Thompson was already 41 and arrived looking untrained and out-of-shape. Price’s promoter, Frank Maloney (now Kellie) was more than justified in thinking Tony the tiger would provide a perfect outing – a credible name, happy to lose for a payday.
In the first round of that bout in Feb 2013, that was exactly how it looked. Price got straight onto the front foot, as he usually did in those days of soaring confidence and proceeded to knock Thompson around the ring. The old man covered up, retreated to the ropes and took most of them on his arms, but the whole thing had a matter-of-time look about it, just like all of Price’s other fights to that point.
Yet the curious thing about David was that although he had looked so destructive in the pros, there were those who closely followed amateur boxing who whispered that he was chinny. He had picked up a win over Tyson Fury in the unpaid ranks but had suffered some bad stoppages. Those faded memories were revived in round two.
With the action moving into the centre of the ring and Price still all over his man, Thompson threw a punch in desperation. As that right hook flew the short distance from Thompson’s shoulder to Price’s head, it looked like the last lunge of a loser, a tranquilised bear pawing before inevitable sleep.
But Price was down and then up, long legs like cooked spaghetti. The fight was stopped. Hype, over.
There was always scope with that first one to claim a fluke. The punch had perforated Price’s eardrum, apparently, destroying his equilibrium. He would set things straight in the rematch.
But as we all know, he didn’t. If anything the rematch that July was far worse. Price looked psychologically shot and despite putting Thompson down in the second succumbed to demons and nerves and literally wilted. It was crushing to watch and a horrible, horrible defeat, the sort that stays with you. The sort that ends careers.
For fight fans to believe in David Price again, we need to see that he has conquered his inner-doubts, that he can get on the front foot and dominate, use his reach and power as he used to do. Most importantly we need to see that he can do that against someone who is coming to win.
His fights post Thompson, with the exception of one, do not fit that category. And that one, of course, he lost. Being laid out in a round and a half by Euro-level Erkan Teper, drugs or no drugs, does not bode well. Some fans have used the line “never defeated, only cheated” in reference to Price, referring to allegations that Thompson also misused banned substances. This is wishful thinking of an extreme kind.
The bottom line is that Price’s pro career has been one in which he has proven to be a dominant domestic force, but whenever he has stepped beyond that, against an opponent with ambition, he has been stopped. Defeating slabs of meat like Ivica Perkovic changes nothing.
The temptation exists for everyone to try to build Price into world contention. They can all make money, including David who seems a nice guy and can’t be begrudged a decent payday. But before those conversations can even begin, he needs to box someone with a pulse.
My last book ‘Journeymen, the other side of the boxing business’ has been longlisted for the William Hill Sports book of the year award and named one of the sports books of the year by The Guardian. It is still available from all usual outlets.
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