Tony Thompson talks about career-defining fight with David Price in Liverpool
By Ian Aldous: On February 23rd, Tony Thompson (36-3) travels across the pond to take on the big heavyweight hope of Great Britain, David Price (15-0), in a career defining fight for both men. While Price is looking to progress his career towards a world title challenge, Thompson hopes to get his career back on track after a second unsuccessful shot against longtime champion, Wladimir Klitschko. Last week Tony took some time to talk with me about his career ahead of the fight.
Tony ‘The Tiger’ Thompson knows full well how important the fight on February 23rd is for not only himself, but also David Price. Price is widely regarded as the man that can give Wladimir his toughest test for quite some time and must look at the fight with Thompson as a stepping-stone to heavyweight greatness. Tony appreciates how big the fight is for both men. “Well I think it’s a great opponent for the both of us. For me, it’s an opportunity to re-establish myself and catch a line up the heavyweight division. For him, it’s a chance to prove himself against a two-time (world) heavyweight title challenger. It’s a great chance for the both of us.”
Audley Harrison was forty years old and Matt Skelton was forty-six years old when they each faced Price at the tail end of 2012. Despite their ages, they were suitable tests for his career at the time although Tony (who’ll be forty-one on fight night!) finds it quite amusing that he’s being lined up as the next ‘veteran’ opponent for the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist. “David has been beating up the geriatric crew of the heavyweight division (laughs). After dispatching (Matt) Skelton, he’s looking for his next ‘easy’ older guy but I’m not gonna be as easy as Skelton, so I’m looking to be a big surprise and shock to his system.”
To look at the career that Thompson has carved out for himself so far, is to see that only one man (except a single defeat in a four-rounder in 2000) has bettered him during that time. That man is Wladimir Klitschko. A 2008 eleventh round stoppage in Germany and more recently a sixth round stoppage in July of last year, has seen him fall just short of the world heavyweight glory he craves. Naturally, he contemplated retirement following the second loss. “Most definitely, I did. You can’t beat the heavyweight champion of the world, then what’s your reasoning for fighting? I wanted to be heavyweight champion and it didn’t seem that I was gonna accomplish that goal. Wladimir is a great champion and I wasn’t able to figure him out either time we fought and I take losses hard. I don’t like to lose, I don’t know who does!”
In his first fight with Wladimir, it was hard to tell during the first six rounds who was the champion and who was the challenger. Despite the late knockout, Thompson took many positives from the fight. “The first fight more so, not the second fight.” Unfortunately he couldn’t follow up that performance in the second date with Klitschko. “In the second fight I felt like I pretty much made it easy for him, I didn’t really offer much resistance. In the first fight I felt I came with the best I could, I wasn’t able to overcome his experience and other qualities but you know, I gave him a run for his money. I’m not so satisfied with the second fight as I am with some of the first fight.”
Having twice experienced battles with the WBO, WBA and IBF world heavyweight champion, who better to give his opinion on where he thinks Wladimir (and brother Vitali) rank as greats of the heavyweight division? “It’s kind of impossible but, they would compare favorably to me. For me, I think the only person who’d be a favorite against those guys would probably be a young Muhammad Ali with his movement and speed, and maybe a young George Foreman who was just so strong and hit so hard and was able to take a punch, whereas Wladimir might not be able to take a Foreman punch. I would say Tyson but I just think Tyson was too small for either Wladimir or Vitali.”
It’s clear that Tony highly rates the brothers and more specifically Wladimir. “He’s extremely hard. First of all, he’s amazingly quick and agile for a guy his size and weight, also amazingly strong. And what I don’t think he gets enough credit for is he’s absolutely one of the smartest fighters I’ve fought. Probably the smartest fighter I’ve fought as a matter of fact. All that played into a part and that makes up his whole and I don’t think people give him enough credit for the sum of his parts that make him who he is.”
The perennial U.S heavyweight contenders of today, Eddie Chambers, Chris Arreola and of course, Tony Thompson, have found it very difficult to secure a fan base likely due to the fact that American boxing fans have been spoilt with legendary heavyweights throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 1990’s. “Well, I think the American fans has treated us, I’m not gonna say unfairly because everybody wants a winner, so it’s hard to get behind a guy that can’t pick up the big one, so that’s a tough one. I’m good with where I’m at (right now). I’m not really tripping off anything like that.”
Tony still sees himself as the godfather of the U.S heavyweights. “Oh, I’m still top of the heap and anytime them guys wants to come out and prove me wrong, they can (laughs) but I’m still top of the American heavyweight division.” Younger, athletic guys looking to make their mark on the heavyweight scene are gradually joining the previously mentioned contenders. Guys like Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings are just two of that particular mould that have potentially very bright futures. “Guys like Deontay Wilder and a few of the other younger heavyweights we got coming up, even Seth Mitchell who’s coming off a tough loss, it bodes well for the American heavyweight division.”
What of the question that every boxing fan in North America wants answered? Will we see an American world heavyweight champion in the next ten years? “Oh, most definitely. Like I say, I think we have a couple of guys that’s able to get it. (A) tall athletic guy like Deontay Wilder, shorter, stronger guys like Seth Mitchell, those guys are very capable and I think one or both of them are gonna be champions.”
So, as Thompson arrives at the twilight of his career, it’s distinctly possible that a defeat on February 23rd would spell the end of Tony Thompson as a professional boxer. “I think so, I think if I’m not able to get past the top, I can’t get past the champion, so you’re not able to get past the challengers. I have a great life and I’m gonna continue it with my family and that’s probably what I will do.” So, retirement could be something that he’ll look forward to? “It is but I have to feel like I’ve completed my journey in boxing but it is something I look forward to and I got kids I wanna concentrate on and it’ll be a great opportunity to do that.”
David Price Vs. Tony Thompson will be broadcast live on Boxnation in the UK and WealthTV in the U.S on Saturday 23rd February.