(David Price, left, Tony Thompson, right)
Lennox Lewis, a buoy for boxers who have succumbed to a one-punch knockout, represents hope for ephemeral heavyweight sensation David Price. Lewis famously overturned Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman after the American twosome had put him in the mire with startling exhibitions of stuck in the mud. It was perhaps inevitable then that Price, 15-1 (13), would quote the L-word during the post-mortem of his shock defeat to American Tony Thompson earlier in the year. “Big Pricey”, though, has reached out one step further; Lewis has been roped into his training camp for the return match this Saturday, at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Thompson, 37-3 (25), shuffled into town like a veteran bronco rider on his last visit. Aware he’d been bankrolled as a rodeo clown, the Washington DC giant saddled up with the intention of making a fist of it for as long as he still held his 10-gallon hat. Quite who was most surprised at 2:17 of the second round – after Price had been discombobulated by an innocuous looking right hand -- is anyone’s guess: Price and Thompson, along with a partisan audience, looked as though a Brahman bull had vaulted over the railings.
2008 Olympic bronze medalist Price had cut a swathe through the home ranks – a living Ole Lukøje administering pixie dust with his sledgehammer right. Tom Dallas, John McDermott, Sam Sexton, Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton, almost an entire era’s worth of domestic big men, were put to bed in an eye blink. Unfortunately for Price, his mini-rampage left him struggling for rounds – which in turn ill-prepared him for being hit himself.
Against Thompson, Price pawed with his left while his 41-year-old southpaw rival skirted outer ring, feinting with his shoulders to keep the home fighter at bay. Relaxed to the point of nonchalant, Thompson, under fire in the 2nd round, hurled an uppercut that missed and instinctively stabbed Price with a right that landed around the big fellow’s left ear and completely knocked him for six. The mortified Liverpudlian would later claim that a perforated eardrum had wrecked his equilibrium, which doesn’t quite seem to cover it.
Rumours of Price being weak-whiskered have pursued him since his amateur days. Halted by the likes of Vyacheslav Glazkov, Bermane Stiverne and Roberto Cammarelle and having been floored on numerous occasions, it is apparent that the West Derby colossus doesn’t hold a shot altogether well. Thompson has arrived into the UK early and is seemingly in better shape. The visiting team is an ebullient one, confident that “The Tiger” requires only one hard punch to facilitate an encore.
Trainer Franny Smith has overseen Price’s recuperation at “The Solly” (Salisbury ABC) in the heart of Liverpool, with Lewis flying them out to Toronto, Canada for three weeks before reconvening back on Merseyside to help finish up preparations. Lewis has spoken about the need to instill nastiness into the 29-year-old, while coaxing him to relax more and let his punches flow in combination. That isn’t going to be easy. Lewis’s approach in his first bout back after the McCall defeat, when he fiddled his way past Louisiana wild card Lionel Butler on May 13, 1995, was as painstaking to watch as matchstick modeling.
The 3-to-10 odds on Price look vastly out of sync. So flimsy did the popular Scouser’s punch resistance look last time out, it isn’t fanciful to imagine that Thompson will need to land flush only a handful of times in order to score another KO. Price will look to box; jabbing, moving and holding -- tactics that look so unbecoming in the hands of a 6-feet-8, 245 lb prizefighter -- and then strike when Thompson runs out of puff, sometime late in the contest.
In a toss-up match, Thompson, who is by no means a top quality heavyweight, looks excellent value at 9-to-2 to drop the bomb on Price again. Rehabilitation usually takes a little longer than six months. Lewis should know that better than anyone.