by Johnny Walker
It’s difficult to overstate just what a disastrous year it’s been for British heavyweight hopeful David Price from Liverpool.
It really wasn’t too long ago when “Pricey” (15-2, 13 KOs) was sitting for long video interviews with the likes of Steve Bunce and discussing with an air of utter certainty the issue of just when he would be replacing the long reigning world champion duo of the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, as sole heavyweight world champion.
It was a matter of when, not if.
Then the giant, 6′ 8″ Price decided to take a step up from the domestic competition he’d been destroying easily to face American veteran Tony “The Tiger” Thompson.
Price’s now ex-manager, the often nasty Frank Maloney (who once said Wladimir Klitschko would be glad his former trainer Emanuel Steward had died so he wouldn’t have to pay him), thought that Thompson, who’d really only lost to Wladimir in his career, both in title fights, was just a shot fighter looking for one last payday.
There were even rumors as the fight approached that Thompson would be replaced, that he was out of shape and sufffering from hypertension. And though the fight went on, Thompson did show up in Price’s home town of Liverpool with a spare tire, not looking nearly as toned as he had against Klitschko.
So the fight took place on February 23, 2013, and, spurred on after hearing his national anthem booed, Thompson went out, withstood a few patented Price flurries — the kind that had been knocking out the likes of Audley Harrison — and then banged Pricey on the ear, sending him spinning to the mat.
Suddenly, David Price’s assured succession to the Klitschkos was in doubt. He got up, but was still dizzy and unable to continue. A freaked-out Maloney then had a minor heart attack.
After recovering, Maloney then made the catastrophic error of allowing Price back into the ring with Thompson for his next bout, to prove it had all been a big misunderstanding. The two men fought again on July 6, 2013, again in Price’s back yard, at the Echo arena in Liverpool.
The result? Price did better, coming within a hair of stopping Thompson (in fact a quicker count by the referee, as is usual in the UK, and Price would have won), but then panicked when the floored American just beat the count and was allowed to continue.
Like Wlad Klitschko himself did years ago against Lamon Brewster, Price then punched himself out, and Thompson stopped him again, leaving Price standing but spent and finished in the corner of the ring.
Price, from being the next big thing at heavyweight, was now humiliated, as UK foe and fellow giant Tyson Fury, who had accurately predicted what would happen to the “plumber from Liverpool” all over social media, rolled on the proverbial cyber-floor in a fit of laughter.
So fast forward to this week: Price has taken stock of his career, ditched his promoter Maloney and local trainer Franny Smith, and taken up with none other than Adam Booth, the impish Cockney manager of David Haye, the extroverted UK heavyweight contender.
There has always been a symmetry to the team of Haye and Booth: they seem to be like-minded souls, often full of themselves even when it isn’t warranted.
Booth’s guidance of Haye in two of his biggest fights at heavyweight–with WBA world champ Nikolai Valuev and world champion Wlad Klitschko–was certainly questionable. Haye should have lost the Valuev fight (“I didn’t know I was going to a track meet,” said a sardonic, perplexed Valuev following the loss, after Haye ran all night and threw a meager 10 or so punches a round) and did lose the Wladimir fight using much the same strategy.
When Haye looked to Booth for guidance in the corners of those fights, there seemed little of value coming back. Being a smart-ass isn’t much of a help in defeating giants like Valuev and Wladimir Klitschko.
How the genial, reserved Price, who is temperamentally miles from the Haye style of bait and switch, and the sardonic egoist Booth will do as a team will be interesting to watch.
“It’s a fresh start,” Price said in a statement.
“I can leave behind what has happened but know that I’ve learnt from it. I’ve got the passion back now and am looking forward to getting in shape and putting a few things right.
“To begin with I contacted a handful of world-class trainers and asked Adam if I could have a chat and perhaps get some advice. When I first turned pro I was signed by Hayemaker and only left because of the television situation at the time. Adam pointed me in the right direction after that – and advised me to go with Frank Maloney – and I’ve always valued his opinion. So, after a brief chat, I brought up the idea of him possibly training me and we decided to have a meeting. I assumed he wanted to see what kind of frame of mind I was in.
“We did a few sessions together just to see how it would work, and he then agreed to train me. I was made up about that because I know Adam is very selective when it comes to choosing fighters to work with.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this move, and truly believe Adam is the man to bring out my true potential.”
Let’s hope so, for both the sake of heavyweight boxing and the sake of Price–who really seems a genuinely nice guy–himself.
It would still be a kick to see Price and Tyson Fury get together to settle their differences, though first, Fury is supposed to meet Price’s new stablemate: David Haye himself, in a bout delayed once already due to a Haye injury.