On Saturday night David Price 15-1 (13kos) and Tony Thompson 37-3 (25kos) will square up again at The Echo Arena in Liverpool, England for a clash which is very much a must win fight for both men. Although it is a cliché, the truth is that in many ways, each fight is a must-win situation for every fighter, unless he has settled into the role of ’journeyman’, where losing is accepted as part of the deal, rather than a short cut to a dead end. But for fighters who aspire to win titles, especially world titles, every loss is a derailment from which their career may never fully recover.
This is the situation which both Price and Thompson face on Saturday night. For the winner, there will be further big matches in the future, the loser; however will be looking at a far more limited pugilistic future.
Southpaw Thompson comes into this rematch in something of a unique position, being judged the underdog once more, despite having won the pairs first fight in the 2nd round. The fact is that Thompson’s shock victory over Price in February, is seen in some quarters as an aberration, a boxing fluke. The consensus for many is that Price went into the Thompson fight complacent after travelling only 11 rounds in his previous six fights, and with talk growing about him being an heir to the Klitschko’s, Price had began looking too far ahead. This is something, which clearly rankles deeply with Thompson. The Washington DC Heavyweight is a proud man, but conscious of the fact that he is an unfashionable fighter, in an era where good looks, and gimmicks are often put before dedication and ability.
Thompson is the kind of fighter, who struggles to gain credit no matter how well he fights. In the run up to his first meeting with Price, much was made of Thompsons 41 years of age and the fact that he was carrying some surplus weight around the middle. At the same time, ’The Tigers’ record of just three defeats in thirty-nine fights, with two of them being at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko, in world heavyweight title bouts was overlooked. Despite the thinning hair and thickened midriff, ’The Tiger’ is a cagey and awkwardly effective boxer, with a dangerous punch, as Price was to find out, much to his cost. Those who had believed that Thompson was over the hill and just looking for one more pay day, greatly underestimated the man.
Yet despite his victory in February, Thompson knows that he needs to win again on Saturday just as much as Price. Defeat for Thompson in this rematch would almost certainly put to an end any further aspirations he may have of challenging again for a worlds title. Furthermore, it would lend credence to the doubters who say that the first result was simply a fluke.
Hardly surprising then that ’The Tiger’ seems even more motivated than he was in February, and has arrived in England looking much fitter and sharper than he did in the first fight.
Price’s defeat in February was a set back of cataclysmic proportions. At a time when he had run up a string of impressive early victories, and was being built up as perhaps the future of the division, the result against Thompson could not have been worse. In addition to derailing the momentum which he had gained, after a quiet start to his professional career, Thompson’s sudden 2nd round stoppage of Price awakened old doubts about the Liverpool Heavyweights durability. Doubts, which had first surfaced during his amateuer days.
It is a credit to Price that he has chosen an instant rematch with Thompson, as his path to bounce back on, rather than take an easier route against lower level opposition and hope that in time everyone will forget about the Thompson loss. In his preparations for his return, Price has been helped by Lennox Lewis, and has said that the former World heavyweight champion’s advice and encouragement has been a huge boost. Lewis himself came back from two knockout defeats during his time at the top of the heavyweight world, and so will have had some invaluable advise and insights for Price.
In the end however, Price will be by himself in the ring when he faces Tony Thompson for the second time, in what is certainly a huge gamble for the Liverpool heavyweight. Another loss to Thompson, while not necessarily signalling the end of his professional career, would certainly put a huge dent into any world aspirations that Price may have in the foreseeable future. Price has already seen prospective big fights with domestic rivals David Haye and Tyson Fury disappear in the wake of his defeat to Thompson, and knows that a further setback this Saturday may put such big fights out of reach for good.
The biggest question going into this rematch is how much has Price improved since February. One of the main failings which led to his defeat by ’The Tiger’ was a leaky defense and pawing jab, as he came forward looking to get Thompson out of there with his big right hand. Whether Price can change his naturally aggressive style is open to question. He may find it hard to resist trying to take Thompson out early and in doing so, leave himself open once more to ’The Tigers’ dangerous counters.
Thompson himself has said that he expects Price to approach their second encounter in a very different frame of mind, and to be using the full range of his boxing skills, rather than simply expecting to win with one big punch. Thompson has also stated that he is in much better condition for this fight, than he was for their first match and is ready for a long or a short fight, depending upon Prices tactics.
One aspect of his fighting makeup, which Price will not be able to change significantly, especially in just a few months, is his durability. No matter how well he tightens up his defense, it is inevitable that at some point Thompson will land one of his rights upon Price, and how the Liverpool heavyweight reacts to that blow will probably decide the eventual outcome of the fight.
February’s match was the first time as a professional that David Price had taken a punch of significance from an opponent with world-class power, and on that occasion, the result was disastrous. In their rematch on Saturday, Price has the chance to show whether February’s knockout loss was merely a setback from which he has learnt and grown from, or else an indication that he does not have the durability to go much further within the professional ranks.