By John J. Raspanti:
When last seen in the ring, six-foot-eight-inch giant David Price stood in his corner with a dazed expression on his face, tears rolling down his cheeks.
For the third time in his career, Price, 32, had been knocked out in a professional boxing match.
His fall from grace had been swift and dramatic.
Only three and a half years ago, Price, of Liverpool, England, appeared to be on his way to a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world. ESPN named him "Prospect of the Year."
He had a solid amateur background—winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and a bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Price could box a little, but more importantly, he could punch. Price knocked out 13 of his first 15 opponents. The excitement around him was building. But how much of it was hype? Some saw him as the second coming of former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. See what I mean?
In 2013, Price faced 41-year-old warhorse Tony Thompson, who had been knocked out in his previous fight. A win and a title shot seemed inevitable. Price did well in the opening round. He looked confident in the second, until Thompson caught him with sneaky right behind the ear, which sent Price crashing to the canvas. Up at the count of seven, he wobbled sideways. His legs had turned to Jello. The referee wasted no time waving off the fight.
Price’s supporters called his loss a fluke. The gentle giant bought into this scenario, demanding an immediate rematch with Thompson.
It was time to right a wrong, he said.
Five months later, he faced Thompson for the second time. Price boxed cautiously in the early going. Thompson, a cagey veteran, looked to counter. Price staggered Thompson with a big right hand in Round two. Seconds later, another powerful blow put Thompson on his back. This was more like it. But somehow the gutsy Thompson got up.
Then the dynamics changed. Price went for the knockout in the next stanza, but Thompson wasn’t going anywhere. He fought back. Price was tired. His hometown towns sensed the worse.
It didn’t help when Thompson landed a thudding body shot in Round four. Price looked sick while Thompson’s confidence grew.
Thompson worked Price over in the next heat. The Liverpool fighter had nothing to offer as Thompson unloaded a salvo of punches. The fight was stopped near the two minute mark of Round five.
Instead of salvation, Price had suffered another humiliating defeat.
His handicap is the boxer’s bane--a fragile chin.
He may punch like a mule, but his jaw seems made of glass. He came back six months after the Thompson debacle to score a knockout victory, going on to win two more bouts against carefully considered competition. That is until 10 months ago when he encountered undefeated German powerhouse, Erkan Teper.
Price started the fight by boxing, but Teper stalked him. Price landed a few rights, but the blows did nothing to persuade Teper to back off. Although the shorter man landed a clubbing right, Price’s chin held together.
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 staggered to his corner with a blank look on his face.
Price was advised to retire. However, a few weeks after his devastating loss to Teper, word trickled out that Thompson, his conqueror in two fights, had failed a couple of drug tests.
Five months later, another story circulated that Teper had also tested positive for a banned substance. Price felt empowered.
"There’s opportunities awaiting against ranked fighters and I won’t be denied because I’ve been cheated," Price told BBC Sport a few weeks ago.
This Sunday, at the Goodison Park Stadium in Liverpool, England, Price (19-3,16 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time since his brutal knockout loss to Teper. The soft-spoken giant will face little known Vaclav Pejsar (9-2, 8 KOs) who will bring with him Price’s personal kryptonite, punching power.
Price is right in believing he’s been victimized. His losses are tainted, but facts indicate that his chin is a piece of china. Will it hold up against Pejsar?
That’s hard to say.
One can only hope for the best.