Saturday night, Liverpool’s Echo Arena, the crowd is eerily silent.
In one corner stands a triumphant veteran, one who before February had been in effect regarded as a sacrificial lamb, his name: Tony Thompson.
In the other slumps a broken giant of a man, one who has fallen from being a genuine title contender to a tamed domestic professional in the course of two fights, his name: David Price.
Despite the furore and the publicised acclaim for Price’s ‘retribution’, the fight followed the predicted script about as far as though it had been written by a four-year-old.
The stage was set for a colossal comeback for Price and had all the makings of a Hollywood epic: prodigal fighter is abruptly knockout out by veteran opposition. Said fighter enlists the assistance of a legend (in this case Lennox Lewis), and sets out to not only find himself but to exact his revenge before continuing on his previously undisturbed path. Prodigal fighter defeats veteran opponent before a rambunctious home-crowd and order is restored.
Anyone who followed the build-up to the Price vs. Thompson II fight will be aware that the first three points of the above paragraph were acted out perfectly. The last point could not have been further from the truth. On a night where Price was scheduled to claim back his pride, Thompson once again proved to be the ultimate party-pooper.
The fight began as many fans of boxing had envisaged, and for Price it appeared to be back to business as usual. His Klitschko-esque shuddering jab and thundering right hand were controlling the pace of the bout and, perhaps more crucially, doing what needed to be done in keeping the fight at a comfortable distance for him.
The results of this pre-developed battle plan were plain for all to see as Thompson was sent to the canvas late on in the second-round. Price smelled victory and, under instructions from Lennox Lewis in his corner, threw everything he had at Thompson in an attempt to deliver a quick-death to a suffering animal. In theory that’s all well and good, but I’ve yet to witness a boxing match settled conclusively ‘in theory’.
Thompson used the break between the second and third rounds to regain his composure before rallying strongly. At this point the fight erupted and though it will go down on record as being finished in the fifth, this is where the fight was decided.
Price, still clinging onto the notion that Thompson was wounded, threw the kitchen sink at his opponent searching for the shot that would bring an end to proceedings. Thompson was far from finished however and simply weathered the storm before returning his own barrage. Price, exhausted from his offensive endeavours was given a standing count in round-five, suffering the second loss in his career, to the same man.
Some have since blamed his trainer, Lennox Lewis, for not instructing Price to settle back into his rhythm, some have put the onus on Price himself for being dragged into a fire fight.
I, for one, am of the opinion that it was simply a lack of experience. Instead of the braying mule many had expected Price to slaughter untroubled, Thompson was a lion in the ring, as unforgiving and venomous as the most clinical of fighters. Price got too excited when he had his foe down in the second and lost track of his game-plan.
The truth of the matter is that Price, though unquestionably skilled, was just not experienced enough to deal with a man of Thompson’s ability. Much like Amir Kahn when he suffered his defeat to Breidis Prescott, Price should have held when he was hurt, instead he offered his trust wholeheartedly in his instincts to move forward, dominate and oppress his opponent into submission. What he achieved was self-destruction.
So what now for David Price?
According to numerous sources he has stated his intent to fight on, but at what level can he hope to continue?
Though once within reach of a world-title fight, Price’s back-to-back defeats have left him with little to bargain with. On the domestic level he is now considered an ‘undesirable’ by men who at one point would have regarded him as a realistic threat.
Fighters such as Tyson Fury, David Haye and even to some extent Derek Chisora, will no longer look at Price as an obstacle needed to be cleared on the way to the Klitscho’s, nor is his record half as pristine as it was before the name Thompson was ever mentioned.
For me there is only one route left viably open to Price. He must now lower his expectations, ambitions and opponents, for the meantime anyway. Price still holds the English and Commonwealth titles and should look to partake in a few defences before thinking of entering negotiations for a large-scale fight again.
One thing that should definitely not be in his timetable for the foreseeable future is a third bout against Thompson. Though Price will be cut up like never before, a third loss in a row to a man the wrong side of 40 could effectively leave his reputation in unrecoverable tatters.
Whatever his decision, Price is going to have to fight and win for a long-time before people begin to look at him once again as a true prospect of potential.
Returning to the drawing board he needs to develop one thing that no amount of money can buy and no legendary mentor can teach: experience.
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