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Paying the ultimate Price

price676By T. Charles: Hindsight in boxing, just as in any aspect of life is a great thing. After the second David Price v Tony Thompson fight several observers were quick to comment on the fact that they felt Price should have had a warm up fight before jumping straight back in with Thompson, likewise the relationship forged between Lennox Lewis and Price was criticized because of the effect it might have had on the equilibrium of the Price Team.

However before the first bell rang of Price v Thompson 2 the general consensus was that Price was unlucky in the first fight, as Thompson had caught him in a spot whereby a ‘lucky punch’ would drop anybody, iron or glass chin – when a fighter gets hit around the ear it ‘scrambles the senses’ etc etc, – insert whatever boxing cliché you prefer.

Price was still considered a devastating puncher who could take out Thompson if he landed properly and most onlookers believed that this was going to happen at some point in the 2nd fight. Lennox Lewis had been bought in to add some craft to, at times Price’s amateurish style and suspect defence, whilst also imparting his wealth of knowledge onto Price to ensure that there would be no repeat of the first fight. Television footage of the two training had shown Lewis getting hands on with Price in Canada to the surprise of some who thought the relationship was more cosmetic that practical. To others the match up was fantastic not only from a publicity point of view but also made sense in terms of what Lewis could offer Price, not just in boxing technique and skill but also the mental challenge of facing a man who had beaten you by KO only to face them again, as Lewis had twice avenged KO losses during his stellar career.

On the surface the partnership looked perfect, but as some suggested in hushed tones how would Lewis fit it with Price’s actual trainer Franny Smith and the rest of the team? Would Lewis be in charge? Who would give instructions? What would happen if Lewis and Smith disagreed either during training or on the night itself – in the heat of battle who would Price take notice of if both gave countering advice in-between rounds? – Without a license Lewis could not actually be in Price’s corner but could give instruction from the edge of the ring.

As fight night arrived in Liverpool and the main event loomed, Lewis was paraded in the ring to give the home crowd a view of the man who had supposedly improved Price, the former undisputed heavyweight champion – surely this endeavor could not fail to produce results.

All of the build-up came to head as the first bell rang it was assumed that Price would be a different fighter under the tutelage of Lennox Lewis, maybe even a carbon copy of the style that was so successful for Lewis in the paid ranks.

Price came out looking tentative and understandably so after what had taken place in the first fight, but what followed was noticeable only because it was clear that very little, if anything had changed for Price – it begged the question that had Lewis and Price spent any real time together away from the media? Or was Price so uncomfortable with what Lewis had taught him that he felt it wasn’t suitable for him to apply on fight night?, but If Lewis however had taught Price one thing in what little time was spent together it must have been the application of the jab?, such a successful weapon for Lewis and a fundamental boxing skill surely would have been drilled into Price? – alas no, Price did nothing other than paw at Thompson with his lead hand. Pundits had thought the Price game-plan would be caution – box behind the jab and take on Thompson from long (i.e. out of) range. Many were expecting a shut-out victory from Price.

As it turned out Price looked as though he had no idea how to handle Thompson – he choose to fight toe-to-toe and although it did nearly pay off in the second round when he dropped Thompson it was clear that this was not a sustainable tactic as Thompson is a more resilient boxer than the fighters Price had faced before at domestic level who crumbled after tasting his power – Price and his team even had an indication of this in the 1st fight as Price attempted to lay into Thompson who simply covered up, shrugged it off and boxed on. After being put down Thompson got up and carried on and quickly returned fire – Price looked exhausted and when Thompson caught him with a heavy body shot in a later round he clearly struggled from that point onwards. In the 5th and final round Thompson was teeing off on Price and threw several unanswered punches before Price slumped over the ropes, dropped his head and slightly turned his back which meant the referee had to intervene with a standing eight count (it could be argued that the referee should have stopped the fight during the Thompson barrage)
Evidently Price wanted no-more and didn’t complain when the referee waved it off, cue wild Thompson celebrations, whilst for the second time in less than a few months the result dumbfounded ringside observers and fans alike. Price made a swift exit whilst Thompson gave an interesting (yet un-repeatable) interview to the host broadcaster.

What now for Price? Only a year ago he was seemingly invincible with power that would trouble anyone, yet fast forward to the present and he has failed to twice beat a man that has struggled in his own biggest fights – Thompson is not a gatekeeper, he is better than that but he isn’t a champion and is unlikely to strike fear into seasoned fighters such as Povetkin or Haye, even other up and coming fighters such as Wilder or Fury would still be favourites against him.

All of the immediate post-fight attention was on Price, but Thompson should not be forgotten in the aftermath of this – he has twice come into the backyard of supposedly the ‘future of heavyweight boxing’ and exposed him on both occasions. Maybe another world title shot beckons, but it is more likely he will be used as a barometer for the heavyweight division – but whoever he fights next he deserves the payday and he shouldn’t be labelled with the ‘lucky punch’ tag anymore.

Price has said he will carry on, however, he will need to answer some serious questions before anyone other than his hard core fans accept him as being a serious heavyweight contender. Stamina, chin, heart, desire and technical- ability are all under serious scrutiny. Will he carry on with Lennox Lewis and Franny Smith, or only one of them, perhaps neither? When Amir Khan was brutally exposed at a similar point in his career he left everything he had known to join up with Freddie Roach in the Wildcard Gym – this approach worked for Khan, it could be a route to redemption for Price – perhaps Price believed the hype and being in a Wildcard type gym would be a healthy change of environment. What the boxing public will not accept however is Price knocking over five domestic level fighters (the likes of Harrison, Skelton etc) again and stepping back into a Thompson type fight – he needs to show he has improved in those critical areas that have been exposed and he can only do this by being built up against the right type of opposition and being in fights that will potentially trouble him – not immediately but at some point down the line.

Maybe hindsight is a wonderful thing and Price and his team shouldn’t have taken this route after the first encounter, however it is clear that Price has some serious flaws and they would have been brutally exposed by someone else, better to find this out now than in with a Klitschko fighting for a world title.

Can Price rebuild?, the answer is yes but he will need to seriously come to terms with this loss and the flaws that Tony Thompson exposed before moving on and trying to get into the upper echelons of heavyweight boxing, he also needs to make a serious decision about his team – clearly the Lewis effect had well, no effect – maybe it caused more problems than solutions and in future a clear voice from one trainer could be better than two, but until he corrects some basic yet essential fundamentals he will never again be considered as a future heavyweight champion but as yet another under achieving fighter hyped on the back of Olympic success.

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