David Price has moved too fast in a business where there were once no short cuts and has found himself on the very edge of title contention a year earlier than expected.
Price is unbeaten in 15 fights, the British heavyweight champion, has an Olympic bronze medal and fights American Tony Thompson tonight at the Echo Arena, Liverpool, in what could be a title eliminator.
It is unlikely that Price and the men in charge of him, who include Frank Maloney, would let him fight any of the world champions next but there is always the possibility of a phone call, a big offer and the reduction of sense once the sweet patter starts.
There is a considerable amount of height, flesh and skill to overcome tonight in the form of Thompson, a gun-toting guard at a secret government facility somewhere in Washington DC, once the first bell sounds in front of an anticipated sell-out crowd. Thompson can fight if he is allowed space and twice Wladimir Klitschko has been made to swipe angrily and in frustration at him in world-title fights; the younger Klitschko has won both fights but never looked good, which is why Price has such an opportunity to shine.
It is a brilliant piece of matchmaking by Maloney, one of the few combatants left from the old school of boxing management, and if Price can, as the bookies have suddenly realised, finish the job quickly he puts a lot of pressure on the champions. The film of Klitschko slashing out and charging after a reluctant Thompson for six rounds last July was unimpressive and Price, whose last six fights have lasted just 11 rounds, has the chance of looking better and taking out Thompson quicker.
“He is a master of defence and I have to be careful not to follow him all over the ring,” said Price, who weighed 17.9st compared to Thompson’s 18.10st at the weigh-in. “This is an opportunity for me, but I’m not going to charge out like a lunatic because that would be exactly what he wants.”
So far Price has not been beyond seven rounds and was only extended that far because of his opponents’ ability to survive with a negative display, rather than his ability to make it a decent fight. There are those that believe competitive rounds are essential, especially for a heavyweight, and there are those that think the crucial experience can be gained through a mixture of gym session and the prize-fight ring: I favour proper rounds in proper fights, Price is satisfied with his sparring and we are probably both half right.
He has been on the road several times as a pro, sharing the ring with a variety of quality fighters and gauging exactly what he is up against. The sparring road trips have been an invaluable addition to his development and are certainly one of the main reasons that after just 15 fights he is poised for bigger things. He would beat a 15-fight version of most heavyweight champions, especially the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, who were vulnerable and robotic at the same stage but have transformed into two of the finest heavyweights in any era.
Price is an exceptional talent and his professional life has benefited from the genuine trials he had as a world-class amateur, which he was for a number of years. He met the very best in forgotten tournaments at two in the afternoon and all of those rounds have certainly combined to make him the fighter he is today. It would be nice to get 10 rounds from Thompson, but it is likely to be very quick indeed.
Tale of the tape: how they match-up
David Price Name Tony Thompson
6 July 1983 Born 18 Oct 1971
Liverpool, England Birthplace Maryland, US
Big Nickname The Tiger
2009 Turned pro 2000
6ft 8in Height 6ft 5in
Orthodox Stance Southpaw
82in Reach 81½in
15 Fights 39
15 Wins 36
13 KOs 24
0 Losses 3