The David Price conundrum

It has been almost a fortnight since David Price was surprisingly stopped by fellow heavyweight Christian Hammer on the undercard of Chris Eubank Jr’s card on ITV Box Office.

Since then, the British boxing community has gone back and forth on two opposing viewpoints: that he’s a waste of time who will never amount to anything as a pro fighter; and that the Liverpudlian giant still has all the potential in the world if he can put it all together and overcome his latest setback.

To be honest, I tend to agree more with the former than the latter. While I understand Price’s peers such as Curtis Woodhouse leaping to his defence and criticising those who have used particularly-harsh words in writing off big Dave, the cold hard facts of the situation are pretty bleak for even those of us who’d love to see Price succeed.

Having spent 2012 being compared with fellow gargantuan Brit Tyson Fury, many fight fans on these shores sided with Price over Fury after the future heavyweight champion of the world vacated the British and Commonwealth belts when David was next in line for a mouth-watering domestic slugfest.

Less than a year later, the intrigue factor of a Fury vs Price showdown began its freefall. In a complete surprise result, Price was caught cold in the second round by former world title challenger Tony Thompson and then had claims of a ‘one-punch fluke’ silenced in a second defeat to the American.

In the second fight in particular, Price – who was trained for the rematch by former undisputed heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis – looked dazed, winded and frail after Thompson withstood Price’s early onslaught and began to land shots of his own. By the time the referee called the bout off, the Englishman resembled a baby giraffe, staggering away from his tormentor.

Price’s first rebuilding attempt was cut short by Erkan Teper in the summer of 2015, following four straight wins for David against low-key opposition in Germany and Denmark. His second attempt, which ended this month against Hammer, was filled with some rather optimistic false hope.

Both Thompson and Teper failed drug tests after their wins, leading some to state that Price’s only professional defeats were very much disputable. A fair point, but for one key detail: such boxers who were caught using PEDs nonetheless loss soundly to the likes of the Klitschkos and even to some second-tier heavyweights. Price, meanwhile, has looked on the verge of defeat as soon as an opponent lands any significant blow.

As a result, it was hard to believe that anything would change this time. When some media sources actually suggested Price could be lined up to face IBF champion Anthony Joshua, it was impossible to imagine David would fare any better than he did against Thompson.

Even then, the failed drug tests of Tony and Erkan made Price’s biggest fans seriously believe it would take someone the calibre of AJ – who so far has looked every bit the destroyer many hoped Price would become – to defeat him ‘for real’.

Instead, it was Christian Hammer. A decent enough heavy who himself personifies ‘B-Level’, losing to Tyson Fury and lesser names than Fury such as Taras Bidenko and Mariusz Wach.

Price’s trainer Dave Coldwell attempted to explain away the loss to Hammer after the fight, as is par for the course these days for each Price disappointment.

“David just tensed right up, and when you are not mentally relaxed, you burn out,” said Coldwell to Sky Sports. “Some people don’t realize that and think you just haven’t trained.

“No, he sparred 12 rounds for the fight and in the gym he was faster, sharper. He had sparred with some big men, 6ft 6in, 18 and a half stone fighters who are quick.”

Nobody is accusing Price of failing to train adequately for the fight. Nobody is, as has been suggested by those defending the heavyweight, accusing him of not working hard, or being a great person.

It’s just soberingly obvious that David Price will never be the British sporting hero many hoped he would be.

With Price falling short of expectations and Fury on a personal hiatus after his world championship reign unravelled without a single defence, the path is clear for Joshua to finally give Britain its dominant heavyweight sensation, five years after David and Tyson gave us all hope of a new Lennox. Of course, all that stands between AJ and immortality is a certain Mr. Klitschko, who’ll be waiting for his former sparring partner at Wembley Stadium on April 29.