David Price has added his name to the list of fighters who have seen their hopes, dreams and senses destroyed by a single punch that left their careers in turmoil.
Price was coasting to victory against America's Tony Thompson on Saturday night in front of a sell-out crowd at the Echo Arena in his hometown of Liverpool before walking into one punch in round two. Price dropped like a man struck with a Taser; he somehow beat the count but could not stand straight, look straight or even talk sensibly when the fight was waved off.
Thompson, who had been as big as 80-1 to win in the second, celebrated the stunning surprise with speed, enthusiasm and the type of raw emotion that he has seldom displayed during a fight. In another corner of the unforgiving ring Price was slowly gaining control of his scrambled head against a backdrop of silence. There is nothing a fallen heavyweight can possibly hear that will reduce the pain he feels after a knockout defeat; Price's stunned face was a brutal reminder of the sport's dangers.
In the immediate aftermath Price was eloquent and sickened in equal measure and Frank Maloney, his manager, was numb at first but swiftly rushed off to hospital, where he remained under observation until 10am yesterday. Maloney suffered a heart attack after a fight three years ago and is on strict medication to control his blood pressure; Thompson's short right ruined the formula for him as savagely as it had for Price.
"In two or three fights this will all be ancient history," offered Price, who lost for the first time in 16 fights. "It is what happens in heavyweight boxing; I have been on the other end, tonight it was my turn. It happens and it has happened to a lot of good fighters."
Price is not a broken fighter and this loss, this early in his career, should not be compared to the knockout defeats of Lennox Lewis or other men who lost once they had won world titles. Price was a work in steep progress, a man with physical attributes and a lot of unanswered questions hovering in the distance as his career hurtled forward. Thompson is 41, overweight and was nearly denied access to the UK because of his own high blood pressure, and was not showing any ambition before catching Price on the ear.
The journey back for Price will need to be harsh if he wants to regain his position as a contender and that could mean an immediate rematch. In the 1970s or 80s a massive ticket cash cow like Price would have been fed a fat bum or two and recycled without a complaint. Lewis went off to Dublin after his first knockout loss and fought an Australian chef who was about six inches shorter.
However, the boxing business has changed in some ways – and, as Thompson showed with the one-punch finish, it is the same as it has always been.