Thursday, July 11, 2013

Too Soon And Too Fast For David Price

The outcome of the first fight between then undefeated Heavyweight prospect David Price and longtime Heavyweight contender and former world title challenger Tony Thompson could be best summed up as sudden and yet inconclusive.  There was no disputing that Tony Thompson won the fight by knockout. The way the fight ended however actually provided more questions than it answered.
Questions regarding just how good David Price who entered the fight with a record of 15-0, with 13 Knockouts was. Obvious questions of whether he was ready for a significant step up in quality of opposition at that stage of his career and, some even questioned Price’s ability to take a punch. 
The sudden one punch second round knockout did indeed turn heads and has been a topic of discussion in the Boxing World amongst fans, fighters, and, experts alike.  Although the first two questions were valid in this observer’s eyes regarding just how good was Price and whether or not he was ready to face a fighter in Thompson who had just fought for the Heavyweight championship of the world, I wondered why some were quick to question Price’s ability to take a punch or, more specifically his chin.
The basis of my curiosity lies in how the fight ended. Although it is clear that there was an appropriate stoppage of that fight by Referee Steve Gray and that a legitimate knockout did indeed take place, it is important to remember exactly where the punch that derailed Price actually landed.
The right hand that dropped Price did not land on the chin but rather landed just below the ear of Price. As this observer stated following the first fight in February of this year  a punch absorbed in this area can affect a fighter’s equilibrium and could certainly explain the awkward way Price went down and subsequent getting up from the knockdown on very unsteady legs. 
This fact called for what amounted to an immediate rematch on July 6th once again in Price’s hometown of Liverpool, England. Although it was logical of most experts, this one included to question the possibility of a rematch between Thompson and Price following the first fight, this observer was a bit surprised to see the rematch come only five months later.
After all there was no controversy attached to the first encounter and it could be argued that in some ways circumstances did not warrant an immediate rematch. By the same token it was understandable seeing as more questions than answers emerged following the first fight that everyone involved the fighters, the promoters, the fans and, those of us who cover the sport in varying capacities would want to see those questions answered in a reasonable period of time. 
Even though this was in essence  in some ways a “Do Over” of the first fight there was one question that I had been pondering in the weeks leading up to the rematch. Would David Price be gun shy and reluctant to let his hands go once the fight got underway?  It was also worth questioning whether or not Thompson’s gamesmanship prior to the fight would somehow influence how Price would fight.
When the fight got underway Thompson seemed to start a bit more quickly than in recent fights in what was a typical feeling out first round where neither fighter did much to stand out from the other.  In round two Price nearly brought the fight to a sudden conclusion when he dropped Thompson with a flush right hand in the final seconds of the round. Thompson gamely made it to his feet by the count of nine and the fight moved into round three. 
In round three Price staggered Thompson again with a right hand knocking the forty-one year old into the ropes. Price continued to follow up landing shots to the head and the body throughout the round but one thing that was noticeable as this fight progressed was the absence of a consistent jab from Price. The lack of use of the jab by Price allowed Thompson to get on the inside and have success landing to the body and the head in his own right.
After three rounds the seeds of an entertaining slugfest were firmly planted. It became a question of attrition as to who would walk away victorious,  Although Price got the better of the action in rounds two and three, an argument could be made that after the knockdown of Thompson in round two that Price threw everything he had in those two rounds and neglected to establish a more deliberate pace. One may argue that the quicker pace actually benefited the forty-one year old Thompson who is eleven years Price’s senior. 
Thompson took control of the fight late in the fourth round throwing punches in combinations and landing uppercuts to the head and hooks to the body. Price seemed to back up slightly and may have been a little wary at the end of the round.   It seemed clear in the eyes of this observer that fatigue was becoming an issue for Price as the fight entered the fifth round.  
In round five Thompson stepped it up and continued to be the aggressor as Price seemed to be in retreat.  A barrage of punches sent an exhausted Price back along the ropes and eventually in Thompson’s corner. Price being unable to throw anything back forced Referee Marcus McDonnell to step in and issue a standing eight count.  McDonnell determined that Price was in no condition to continue stopping the fight at 1:55 of round five.
Although it is rare to see a standing eight count issued in Professional Boxing today this observer’s applauds Marcus McDonnell’s decision to issue a standing eight count and thus allowing himself to give an adequate examination of Price and his condition. Prior to McDonnell stepping in Price was almost defenseless and could not throw anything back. No one wants to see a boxer get hurt and like Steve Gray’s stoppage of the first fight in February, McDonnell’s stoppage of this fight was appropriate. 
Although there is likely to be some criticism of Price’s stamina coming out of this fight it should be noted that this fight was fought at a considerably high pace. Rather than focusing on the issue of stamina and endurance, I believe if there is to be any criticism it should be in how Price fought this fight.
Price does have a good jab but the neglect to use it I believe played a factor not only in the fight becoming a brawl but more specifically in how Price was unable to dictate or control the pace of the fight.  There was seemingly nothing preventing Thompson from coming in on the inside and landing uppercuts to the head, and hooks to the body.  In the opinion of this observer Price needed to box more from the outside and be methodical in his attack on Thompson.  These factors I believe all contributed to Price’s exhaustion and eventual demise in this fight.
Although some may write David Price off after this fight however, this observer will not be one of them.  In reference to my comments both before and following the first fight in February I stated that David Price could be one of the fighters if not the fighter who may take over the Heavyweight division in the post-Klitschko era.  I did however also state that I did question whether it was too much, too soon for David Price to be facing a legitimate top contender. One should remember Price did only have fifteen professional fights prior to these two encounters with Tony Thompson. 
It can truly be a delicate task in determining when a fighter should step up in quality of opposition. One example that I have been thinking of in the days since the rematch was how Mike Tyson was brought up thru the Heavyweight ranks prior to winning the Heavyweight championship in November 1986 by knocking out Trevor Berbick. Tyson who turned pro in March of 1985 compiled a record of 27-0, with 25 Knockouts. An argument could be made however that despite criticism of Tyson’s managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton in regard to how often Tyson was fighting, with twenty-seven fights over an eighteen month period, that it actually benefited Tyson in terms of actual experience. Tyson was able to gradually work his way up the Heavyweight division defeating fighters who ranged from overmatched, prospects, and, contenders. Although Tyson won the Heavyweight championship just a year a year and a half after turning professional, there was no doubt that when the time came to face the champions of the division he was ready.  Despite some criticism of Jacobs and Cayton their strategic management of Tyson was brilliant.
Although it is not my intention whatsoever to compare Price to Tyson, I believe that Price’s experiences against Tony Thompson could be called a misstep. Price tried to reach too far and too fast.  Despite suffering two losses to Tony Thompson, if he is given the proper time Price not only can rebound but could likely become one of the top fighters in the Heavyweight division. 
As for Tony Thompson he has now firmly reestablished himself as part of the Heavyweight championship mix by scoring two knockout victories over David Price.  Although it may not be viable for Thompson to seek a third fight with IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Thompson could still position himself to face WBC Vitali Klitschko or could be in position to be part of some sort of elimination tournament to determine a new WBC world champion if and when Vitali Klitschko who has been nearing the end of his career decides to retire.
In the near future however the best option for Thompson may just be facing the winner of the recently signed clash between two-division world champion David Haye and undefeated contender Tyson Fury.  If a fight with the winner of that fight is not made then Thompson could opt to possibly fighting the other top contenders of the Heavyweight division. Contenders such as Bryant Jennings,  Bermane Stiverne, Tomasz Adamek, Fres Oquendo, and Chris Arreola all would pose an interesting fight for Thompson at this stage of his career and would keep him in the discussion of potential challengers should he continue to win.
One thing that is clear is that David Price was completely exhausted entering round five.  It is obvious that he needs more seasoning and training in stamina if he is to rise to the top of the Heavyweight division. 
Another comparison and similarity to David Price is current champion Wladimir Klitschko. Earlier in his career, Klitschko had problems with stamina as well did not make use of the jab to keep opponents at bay. The handlers of Price should take notes out of Emanuel Steward’s book. 
David Price is far from done as a fighter and he does have the talent to become a world champion in the future. It’s just time to go back to the drawing board.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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