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Price v Skelton: How good of a match-up is this? A look at the facts

by Mark Turley: Much vaunted British Heavyweight David Price (14-0) takes the next step on his pro Heavyweight journey tomorrow night with a match-up that has met with a great deal of criticism. After his one round demolition of Audley Harrison, two months ago, there were many who groaned when his next opponent was announced as the veteran, Matt Skelton (28-6) known as ‘The Bear’, another fading name of recent years. Comparisons have been unfairly drawn with Price’s great domestic rival, Tyson Fury, Britain’s other great-white-hope, who is facing off against seasoned American Kevin Johnson, in a WBC eliminator on Saturday.

The accusation is that Price’s promoter, Frank Maloney, is guilty of soft matchmaking, continuing to pad out his man’s record in pursuit of an eventual crack at the Klitschkos.

The first thing detractors point out is Skelton’s age. The man is 45 and therefore at least ten years past his athletic prime. How important is this though? Heavyweights tend to last well into their forties these days and it needs to be borne in mind that ‘the Bear’ did not turn pro until the age of 35. In the ten year period since, he has had only 34 fights, hardly the record of an aged and battered journeyman. Clearly, as fighters get older, certain abilities are diminished, but anyone who has watched Matt Skelton before knows how the man operates. If he were a light-footed technician, dependent on reflexes and snappy timing, then advanced years would definitely be a factor. But nothing could be further from the truth. Skelton barely boxes at all and never has. He bores in at opponents, square-on, sticks his forehead in their face, leans on them and mauls them. He has never relied on speed or technique and his brute strength remains at the same level as always.

Others point to his previous domestic defeats to men like Danny Williams, Michael Sprott and Martin Rogan, but again, it needs to remembered that these fights were competitive contests against some of Britain’s top domestic level operators and there was much give and take – there are wins against Sprott and Williams on his record too. Skelton was never really world class, but is a former World Title Challenger, (and WBU champion) who took Ruslan Chagaev the distance in a rough-and-tumble brawl 4 years ago. As a challenger for Price’s British and Commonwealth titles, he has more than enough credentials.

Most important to remember, however, is the fact that this is only Price’s 15th pro fight. Some people seem to forget that. Price is undeniably one of the most exciting prospects in Heavyweight boxing but few promoters would risk him above domestic level at this stage of his career. Rushing him is pointless. Instead, Maloney wants to see him stretched and tested in different ways, developing his experience and skill-set, with each opponent. In this way, the Skelton fight makes a lot of sense. Price is yet to come up against a man like Matt. A man who will give him no space, headbutt him, throw elbows, possibly cut him. It will be very interesting to see how Price handles it. If he comes through, it would be good to see him moved up in class within his next 3 fights – by his 20th contest he should be looking at a World Title shot. The fight all of Britain would like to see is a match-up with Fury, a contest I think Price would win comfortably. However with Fury potentially in a World Title fight soon, that looks a remote possibility, for now.

On Friday night, I expect the younger man to win by stoppage, probably around rounds 4 and 5. But for as long as it lasts, Matt Skelton will give Price an uncomfortable night.

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