by Johnny Walker
It didn’t seem that long ago that British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion David Price was sitting leisurely for long interviews in his homeland, calmly explaining to the likes of Steve Bunce his expected upcoming career path, and exactly how and when he would be replacing the world champion Klitschko brothers as the sole reigning heavyweight kingpin.
Price had been easily disposing of competition like Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton in the UK with devastating alacrity, and the 6′ 8″ tall giant from Liverpool certainly seemed like a sure thing, just the man to take over from the hulking Klitschko brothers.
That certainty ended, however, when Price’s then promoter, Frank Maloney, former guru to the likes of Lennox Lewis, decided to match his charge with wily American veteran Tony “The Tiger” Thompson at home in Liverpool.
At the time, the 41-year-old Thompson had only lost in to world champ Wladimir Klitschko in recent memory: he had given the champ a test in their first battle in 2008 before being stopped in round 11; however, in their 2012 rematch, staged in Switzerland, Thompson seemed far less enthused, and rather meekly gave in to Klitschko via a sixth round TKO.
Maloney obviously thought Thompson was shot, and that he’d be perfect for Price to dispose of as a way of stepping up the heavyweight ladder. The fight almost didn’t come off, as rumors of Thompson being diagnosed with high blood pressure made the rounds, leaving Maloney was frantically searching for a replacement during the week of the fight.
Alas, Thompson finally showed up in Liverpool, looking none too fit. Price later admitted after looking at Thompson, he didn’t take his opponent as seriously as he should have, figuring the American was just looking to lay down on the canvas for a quick payday.
Something went wrong with Price and Maloney’s plans, however.
Thompson, teed off by the Liverpudlians booing of the American national anthem, decided to make a fight out of it, and after an initial flurry by Price failed to make an impact, a bang on the ear from Thompson in round two sent Price spiraling to the canvas. He was unable to regain his equilibrium: the fight was called off, the formerly raucous crowd went silent, and Frank Maloney suffered a mild heart attack in the aftermath.
That was in February 2013: five months later, Price and Maloney made the disastrous decision to take on Thompson once again, determined to prove the first fight was a fluke.
Bad idea. Very bad idea.
Price did come out like a house afire, and Thompson was deposited on the canvas hard by Price’s power punching attack in round two. Anyone familiar with the quick counts often given in the UK must have been puzzled as the referee, Marcus McDonnell, gave Thompson ample time to get up. Thompson barely beat the count, and was allowed to continue. A stunned Price, not used to seeing anyone get up from his power shots, then seemed unable to respond with any sense of composure, and ended up foolishly punching himself out, finally standing with his back to Thompson in the corner as the American turned the tables and pounded on him, with the hometown hero unable to respond.
The fight was called off in round five, with Thompson declared the winner by TKO.
Once again, the initially boisterous arena in Liverpool was dead silent. Price’s career as a serious heavyweight contender now seemed over.
However, hope springs eternal in the heavyweight division, and Price, after making numerous changes in his camp, will attempt a comeback against Konstantin Airich (19-7-2, 15 KOs) this Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany, the fight taking place on the undercard of the Marco Huck – Firat Arslan WBO cruiserweight title rematch.
Frank Maloney has now retired and is out of the picture, as is Price’s former hometown trainer, Franny Smith. David Haye’s controversial trainer Adam Booth was initially recruited for Team Price, but is now also out of the picture for the fighter, who has signed with German boxing promoters Sauerland Event. Apparently the Sauerlands were unable to come to terms with Booth, or just didn’t want him teamed with Price in the first place.
So for now, American trainer Tommy Brooks, who has worked with names like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, will be taking over in Price’s corner.
Airich isn’t a world beater by any stretch of the imagination, but he still carries enough power to make Price pay should anything go wrong this time out.
Sauerland Event, meanwhile, have big plans for “Pricey,” who hopes to fight five times this year.
“It’s obvious that I’ve got to focus on one fight at a time, but the plan is to fight [Airich on Saturday], then [fight again at] the beginning of March or sometime in March,” Price said in a recent interview.
“And again maybe before the summer break and then two times before the end of the year, but that’s in an ideal world without injuries or anything else. That’s what the plan is, five times this year.”
As Price learned the hard way in 2013, however, life has a way of making one’s ideal plans go very awry.
But at age 30, Price is still a relative youngster in the heavyweight division, so perhaps he can still realize his heavyweight dreams. In the meantime, the boxer has learned to take a philosophical view of his admittedly disastrous year in 2013.
“At the end of the day I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” says Price.
“I lost two fights last year but there’s a lot of people in life worse off than me. In life in general I’m happy. I’ve got a great family, my kids are healthy, I’ve got food on the table and a roof over my head so I can’t complain.”
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