By John J. Raspanti
He epitomizes the gentle giant--soft-spoken, with an easy smile, and a heavy accent from the working-class city of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
David Price is a professional fighter. He stands six-foot-eight, and weights over 250 pounds, but he’s not particularity intimidating, especially to other fighters. Why is that? Because they know his weakness, his Achilles heel, his kryptonite.
Price’s chin is fragile. He can punch like a mule, but his chin is made of glass. Price,34, has been knocked out four times in his career. Last year, he was stopped in seven rounds by Christian Hammer. A few of those knockouts were brutal.
On March 31, as part of the undercard of the Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker heavyweight championship main event, Price will face Alexander Povetkin, a winner in 33 of 34 fights, scoring 23 knockouts.
Price leaped at the chance to fight Povetkin.
“It is a massive, massive chance for me and it has come from nowhere,” Price said in an article on www.fighthype.com. “I wasn’t expecting an opportunity like this to appear so it was a no-brainer.”
A no-brainer. In boxing, yes. In life? To his credit, Price is a realist.
“It is a big ask for me to go out and win this fight but upsets do happen in sport. I have been on the wrong end of upsets in boxing and I think I am due a bit of luck. I have a belief that this fight has come at the right time for me and I have a belief that I am going to win the fight.”
Five years ago, many were picking Price to be the next heavyweight champion of the world. ESPN named him prospect of the year. His amateur background was solid—winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and a Bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games.
He could box a little, but more importantly, he could punch. Price knocked out 13 of his first 15 opponents. The excitement was building. If Price could defeat a flabby 41-year-old warhorse named Tony Thompson a title shot seemed inevitable.
Price did well in the opening round. He looked confident in the second, until Thompson caught him with a sneaky right behind the ear, which sent Price crashing to the canvas. He pulled himself up at seven and wobbled sideways. His legs had turned to Jello. The referee wasted no time waving off the fight.
The loss was called a fluke by Price’s supporters. Price seemed to buy into this scenario. He demanded a rematch with Thompson. It was time to right a wrong, he said.
Price started the rematch cautiously. Thompson, a cagey veteran, looked to counter. Price landed a big right in round two that staggered Thompson. A few seconds later, another shot put Thompson on his back.
Somehow Thompson got up.
And then, the fight changed. Price connected with a number of big punches in round three, but Thompson wasn’t going anywhere. He was fighting back. Price was breathing heavily. It didn’t help when Thompson landed a thudding body shot in round four.
Price had a sour look on his face. Thompson worked him over in round five. He unloaded a salvo of punches from which Price couldn’t recover.
The fight was stopped.
In a span of six months, Price had gone from the next best thing to an embarrassment. The big man hid out for a while. He finally returned and won two fights against careful competition.
He then faced Erkan Teper.
Price wanted to box, but Teper stalked him in the first round. Price landed a few rights, but the blows did nothing to persuade Teper to back off. The shorter man landed a clubbing right, but Price’s chin stayed together—at least for a few more minutes.
In round two, a right followed by a left hook deposited Price flat on his back.
He didn’t move for what seemed like an eternity. When he did get up, he stood in his corner, staring at nothing. It should be noted that it was later revealed that Teper had tested positive (same goes for Tony Thompson after his first bout with Price) for performance enhancing drugs. More drugs were found in Teper’s car. Teper should have been suspended for life. Price was left to ponder what to do next. Many, including this writer, suggested retirement.
He layed off for a year and returned to beat two fighters with a combined record of 31 wins and 32 losses. The wins weren’t impressive. Price was slower than a turtle stuck in mud. I’m talking really slow. He was then matched up against Hammer.
Price did pretty well in the opening rounds.
He used his long jab and fired a few combinations. He landed a number of shots to the body, but he also made the mistake of allowing the smaller Hammer to force him to the ropes. Once there, Hammer was able to touch his suspect chin with looping punches.
Hammer found more success in round three, jolting Price with an uppercut.
Price battled back, but left gasping for air like a fish out of water by the end of the stanza.
Stamina is the other big problem for Price. He fought back in round four, scored a knockdown in round five,but time was running out. Hammer stared at the referee with a shocked look on his face. Price gulped air in the neutral corner. He was likely praying that Hammer wouldn’t beat the count, but he did by two seconds. Price tried to end things but ran out of time. Hammer did more damage in round six. Price was fighting like a man underwater.
But nobody can question his courage. He punched back whenever he had the energy.
By round seven, Price had nothing left. Hammer connected with an uppercut. Price bent forward and staggered away. Referee Phil Edwards glanced at Price and waved off the contest.
He had to retire now, right? Four losses by knockout in four years. Jim Morrison was singing, “This is the End” but Price didn’t hear the song. He was back in the ring 10 months later, winning a lackluster decision over one Kamil Sokolowski, winner of four of 16 contests.
Now he’ll face Povetkin next week. It can’t help but end badly, unless Price lands a Hail Mary shot.
Price has dreamed of a chance at the heavyweight crown. He got close, but dreams can die hard.