By Hamza Ahmed
One of the most famous Biblical tales told in Christianity involves the underdog tale of David slaying Goliath. Despite being at a height and size disadvantage, David armed himself with a slingshot to take Goliath out and free the children of Israel from being constantly terrorised by the 9 foot Philistine giant. He was cheered and revered in the land, hailed as a hero and has become an integral part of Christianity. It only happened once in the Bible yet in the sport of boxing, there have been many Davids’ slaying Goliaths’ throughout history. But until this past week, it was one of the rare times where we, as fight fans, had witnessed the beating of a Goliath not once but TWICE by the same, smaller David in a calendar year.
On February 2nd 2013, David fought Goliath in Liverpool Echo Arena which saw David majestically slay Goliath in 2 rounds to score a shock upset win. But he wasn’t cheered for his remarkable win nor was he celebrated. Instead, jeers, boos and taunts echoed around the Echo Arena for winning in such an expressive fashion. He couldn’t capitalise on his win with a title shot or a big payday so was thristed into an immediate rematch with Goliath.
Fast forward to 6th July 2013 where David is facing Goliath again and once again in hostile territory and once again, it was the larger Goliath tabbed the favourite to win. Having to recover from a knockdown and blow caution to the wind by initiating a brawl to unsettle the larger man (as opposed to maintaining distance and boxing akin to the first fight), the smaller David once again beat the helpless Goliath into submission to hand successive stoppage losses, prompting the bigger man to look in the mirror and question what went array and whether he even had a future in the sport anymore. And once again, just like in February, there were no cheers of joy. There were no celebratory applauses. What followed was a long sheet of stunned silence spread around the Echo Arena as their hero was beat by the smaller and older heavyweight, who instead paraded around the ring yelling ‘WHAT’? to the hostile crowd and media in attendance.
Boxing has long been called the ‘theatre of the unexpected’ and this fight, along with its predecessor, lived up to that moniker. The roles were strangely reversed. David didn’t adopt the role of hero – he was pushed into the role of a villain. He was supposed to lose. He was supposed to be the latter part of the young lion VS aging veteran equation which transpires every time a prospect steps up and was seen as nothing but an experienced yet aged veteran who would offer not much of a fight. Goliath was tipped to win via brutal KO and was seen as the hero. Goliath was supposed to evolve from a promising prospect into a future boxing heavyweight champion. Instead of terrorising his fellow Liverpudlians, he was cheered, loved and constantly stacked out the Echo Arena.
The theatre of the unexpected continued to deliver unexpected performances and Tony Thompsons’ consecutive slashings of David Price was another story added under the section labelled ‘Upsets’. In the first fight, Thompson’s 2nd round KO shocked everyone. Nobody expected the 41 year old underdog to beat, never mind stop Price in Price’s own backyard. Thompson was seen as an aging fossil, a fighter whose past days were long and away far behind him, a claim further asserted when he challenged heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko to a rematch and was routinely dispatched in 6 rounds. Thompsons’ only 2 losses at the highest level were to Klitchsko. Despite this, David Price was expected to go through Thompson like a hot knife through butter. Widely regarded as the most promising heavyweight at domestic level, Price had amassed an undefeated 15-0 record albeit being untested. He was sensationally dropped in the 2nd round after a counter right hook from the southpaw Thompson and couldn’t recover.
Prices’ request to go through with an immediate rematch was seen as bold and gutsy move. He promised to bounce back and right the wrong which caused his downfall. Fans advised him to take a tune up first after a devastating setback. Thompson, who couldn’t secure a big fight or payday, readily accepted and proclaimed he would KO Price with less effort than the first go-round. Price made some drastic changes in his camp, beginning early and seeking Lennox Lewis’ help. But despite an improvement of his chin and a better performance in the rematch, there wasn’t much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Like a mole hill, where one mole is stomped out only to see another pop up, Price’s problems extended further than his perceived lack of chin. Thompsons’ body shots brutally exposed another hidden flaw in Price – his stamina and inability to take hits downstairs. Thompson saw this early in the fight and jumped on Price with uppercuts in the inside and body shots with enough force to fold a deckchair. Those same body shots which Thompson heavily invested in set up the callous finish of the fight, where a helpless 6 ft. 8 giant lay stranded in the corner alone, buckled over and unanswerable as the smaller, older and arguably wiser man piled on the pain relentlessly until the referee issued a mandatory 8 count and stopped proceedings.
David Price needs to hire a world class trainer. He may not like to hear it but based on the evidence of his last 2 fights, it’s quite clear now that his current team, alongside the introduction of Lewis, isn’t working. There’s only so far a fighter can go with their original teams before needing to switch for the next level e.g. Amir Khan had to drastically switch his original team for Freddie Roach when needing to advance to America. Sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t and here, it’s quite clear that Price must be rebuilt. His lack of smarts is also a concern. He didn’t clinch when hurt on the inside. He didn’t maintain height and distance with the smaller Thompson. He clearly froze and wore the look of a lost fighter when forced to fight on the inside. He abandoned his jab in the 4th and 5th rounds and eagerly engaged in a frivolous brawl, allowing Thompson to get up, close and personal with uppercuts and body shots. He won’t learn how to iron out these defects by himself unless someone shows him what and where did things go so awry. 2 losses in a row can set back a fighter but Price must learn from this, pick himself back up and move forward in a new direction with a fresh team and fresh ideas. If he sticks to what he knows without improving, his future in the sport looks increasingly dim.
As for Thompson, he must be a happy man right now. He can choose to challenge Wladimir for a 3rd fight, opt to fight Vitali for the WBC strap, fight another up and coming heavyweight or cash out for big money fights. His options are limitless and at 41, there’s no doubt that Thompson will be either looking for legacy fights or money fights. 2 big wins and now Thompson has put himself in a position he so desperately craved to be in for a long, long time. He needs to make the most of where he’s in right now and make smart decisions otherwise another loss especially at such an advanced age may mean Thompsons’ time is up in the sport
Funny how things work out in this sport. The big, powerful machine was supposed to bulldoze the smaller, older yet smarter man. Instead, he was rebooted in a cumulative 7 rounds across 2 fights and is left wondering what does he do in the sport and what adjustments are needed to succeed. At least Price has the luxury of deciding his options. Goliath didn’t and after being beaten by David, was never seen again. What a shame it would be if that were to happen here.