Boxing: He's a Liverpool fan and he's even taller than Peter Crouch - but he's far more dangerous

Things are looking up for David Price, a rising heavyweight used to looking down at his opponents
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The Independent Online

More Goliath than David, Price is among those amateur boxers now proving that there is life after Amir Khan. Like him, the sport is very much alive and punching its weight following a timely reorganisation of its governing body and a sensible embrace of those long-time pariahs, the professionals.

Next month, the super-heavyweight Price heads England's team of five (light-fly Darren Langley, flyweight Don Broadhurst, welter Neil Perkins and heavy David Dolan are the others) in the world amateur championships in Mianying, China, deep in Sichuan province a couple of hours' flying time from Beijing, host city for the next Olympics.

It is a mission that will act as a barometer for boxing's prospects in 2008 - and potentially the London Games in 2012. Hopes are high, though no British boxer has ever won world gold, just one silver and a bronze.

Price, who has succeeded Audley Harrison as the big man of amateur boxing, is ranked three in Europe, and has won Multi-Nations gold. He is also in form. "I'm bigger, stronger and mentally tougher than I've ever been," he says. "I don't fear anyone."

In his case, size does matter. Until the advent of Vitali Klitschko, skyscraper scrappers have not had the happiest of histories, from the "Ambling Alp" Primo Carnera through to Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Gerry Cooney and Henry Akinwande. But Price seems to have rather more than height and hype going for him.

A dyed-in-the red Liverpool supporter, he might even have been a forerunner to Crouch at Anfield had boxing not seduced him seven years ago when he was 14. A useful footballer, he had trials for Liverpool Schoolboys, but going to a boxing gym with his mates resulted in him putting on the gloves and winning the Junior ABAs in his ninth bout. He won his first ABA senior title at his second attempt and has hardly looked back, though much of his time is spent looking down - at opponents. "People seem to have this misconception that it is easy fighting shorter fellas when you are tall because you have the reach, but it is not always that way," he says. "But I do like being taller than my opponents. I've never fought anyone who is actually bigger, though a couple have been the same size." Of his 37 senior bouts (31 of them for England) he has lost 10, but all against top-quality opposition and most on points.

Price, from Liverpool's Salisbury club, has put on a stone recently, weighing in at just over 17st, but is still lean enough to keep his speed and mobility, though critics say he could do with punching a bit harder.

"What appeals to me about boxing is the respect you get off people and the way it makes you feel about yourself. Getting your hand raised when you win is the best feeling in the world. And there's always the hope at the back of your mind that one day you'll be a world champion."

He admits to eventual pro ambitions, but is still only 21, a babe in an era when most heavyweights beef up on Phyllosan. "Ideally I'd like to go to the Olympics in Beijing, but there's never any guarantee you'll qualify. I was one bout away from Athens but lost to an Italian in the European quarter-finals. It was the hardest bout I've ever had, and he went on to win the Olympic bronze. But if I meet him in the Worlds he'll find I'm more ringwise and mature."

A qualified central-heating engineer, Price is a full-time fighter, a scholarship enabling him to work developing the sport with Liverpool City Council. The inevitable defection of Amir Khan was a blow to the amateurs but, paradoxically, the publicity his Olympic exploits brought to the sport has give it fresh impetus. A reconstituted ABA board, comprising boxing people and businessmen, with Liverpool's Paul King as chief executive, and continuing liaison with the pro body, has enabled Sport England to release a £3 million grant which had been dependent on such modernisation.

International medals are now accruing fast for England's young guns, and in the Cadet World Championships (for under-17s) last week two, Khalid Saeed and Anthony Agogo, won gold, Michael Hadfield silver and Obed Mkwakongo bronze. The world championship squad are now in training camp in Poland. "We're excited about the future, especially the incentive of 2012," says the national performance director, Terry Edwards. "The good thing is that some of the group who should be part of a major assault on the London Games are in place already."

Price is one of them - if he can wait that long. "He's got good movement, fast hands and is developing power," says Edwards. "He should be on top of his game in Beijing, and we hope London."

But first things first. "I do believe if I just get that little bit of luck with the draw I can come back from China next month with a medal," Price says. "I'm going out there with high hopes." Walking tall, in fact. Very tall.