Price is right for gold: 'Dynamite Dave' ready to make explosive impact
The 6ft 7in captain of Britain's boxing team has developed the class and clout to emulate some legendary past masters of the pugilistic arts. Alan Hubbard talked to him in Macau, China
Monday 04 August 2008
Amir Khan describes him as "a proper heavyweight, tall and athletic, not like some of those around". By that he means David Price carries more punch than paunch. At 6ft 7in the towering Scouser they call "Dynamite Dave" heads the eight-man boxing squad seeking a fistful of medals when they depart the Las Vegas-style luxury of Britain's £1m Olympic holding camp in Macau for the harsher reality of the Workers' Indoor Arena in downtown Beijing this week.
Although Frankie Gavin, the world amateur lightweight champion, who insists he has resolved his own extra poundage worries, carries the weight of expectancy into the ring as the favourite to strike gold, many believe that Price, the 25-year-old team captain, has equally as good a chance of actually going one better than Athens silver medallist Khan.
In doing so he would emulate Audley Harrison, who eight years ago in Sydney sussed the nuances of the new computerised scoring system to become Britain's first boxing gold medallist since Chris Finnegan in 1968.
Although the A Force is now more C List since cashing in his Olympic bullion for a subsequently chequered pro career, Price says: "I was a kid when I watched Audley win on TV and that inspired me to think of becoming an Olympic champion myself. I know I am as good, if not better than he was at the time. If he can do it, so can I."
The national coach, Terry Edwards, who fell out big time with the arrogant Harrison in Sydney, concurs: "Dave is more mobile than Audley, he hits harder and has more heart."
While there is an element of "well he would say that, wouldn't he?" about Edwards' valuation it could prove correct. Harrison himself spent half an hour passing on telephone tips to Price from his US base recently and says: "If he keeps his cool he can win this tournament. There's not a lot out there."
More Goliath than David, Price may not have made as big a name on Merseyside as fellow beanpole Peter Crouch, but he has a better strike rate. As a dyed-in-the-red Liverpool fan he might even have been a forerunner to Crouch at Anfield had boxing not seduced him 10 years ago when he was a useful footballer who had trials with Liverpool. Instead, he has become a leading product of the post-Khan renaissance that has seen the sport back punching its weight, following an infusion of funding which has helped keep the professional wolves from the door.
After the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England lost eight of their 12-strong team to the pros. Now the haemorrhaging has ceased. A new cash-and-kind package arranged by UK Sport can be worth up to £75,000 for the new-age elite pro-ams and Edwards, who has had the "most talented squad I have ever worked with" together for 18 months at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, argues that for some it is more attractive than becoming an undercard pro. Whether this situation prevails after Beijing is open to doubt, since the boxers are furious that the Amateur Boxing Association blazers have failed to come up with promised corporate sponsorship deals. "They have let us down badly," says Gavin, claiming the extra incentive is needed to keep them on track for London 2012 as pro promoters are knocking their doors.
Edwards, a 64-year-old former London cabbie, genuinely fancies the chances of Price winning a division limited in both ability and numbers, Price was one fight short of joining Britain's lone ring ranger Khan in Athens and a broken hand ruled him out of last year's World Championships. But he has hit a winning streak in European competitions, with six successive stoppages. "He is a much more confident, co-ordinated boxer," says Edwards. I think his time has come... He is right on top of his game."
The competition among the big men is not as severe as it once was now that former Soviet bloc countries have succumbed to professionalism and the Americans – whose own super-heavyweight candidate Michael Hunter failed to qualify – struggle to unearth another Ali, Frazier or Foreman. Even Cuba, who produced the legendary Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, have seen their elite squad hit by defections, among them the former world champion Odlanier Solis.
So the Olympic ring has opened up for someone like the 171/2st Price, a qualified heating engineer who now works in sports development thanks to a bursary from Liverpool City Council. "What appeals to me about boxing is the respect you get off people and the way it makes you feel about yourself," he observes.
Price says he was tapped up a couple of months ago to sign a pre-Games pro contract but knocked it back "because I think they were trying to get me on the cheap". If he wins the gold, nothing will be cheap at the Price. "Having the next Olympics in your own country is a big draw but I'll be 29 by then," he said. "There's obviously a pile of money to be made as a heavyweight these days and I know I have the power to adapt."
He also has the physique, and would be a welcome addition to a heavyweight world overpopulated by the lumbering midriff bulgers. Meantime, Dynamite Dave gets ready to rumble in the Workers' Arena.
"I do believe that if I get that bit of luck with the draw I can come back with a medal, ideally the gold," he says. "I'm going into that ring walking tall." Very tall.
True mettle of medallists
Audley Harrison At 2000 Sydney Games Harrison became first Briton to win boxing gold – at superheavyweight – for 32 years. Mediocre as pro.
Amir Khan As Britain's sole boxer in 2004 at Athens the 17-year-old lightweight Khan grabbed silver. Unbeaten in 18 pro fights.
Lennox Lewis Superheavyweight gold medallist at 1988 Seoul Games as a Canadian. Returned to Britain, his country of birth, to win titles of all three major governing bodies in distinguished pro career.
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