By Terence Dooley
Manchester-based trainer Bob Shannon feared he had seen the last of Audley Harrison when working as a cutsman for “A-Force” during Harrison’s fight with Liverpool’s David Price in October of last year. Harrison was stopped in a single round, his nose was badly damaged and his career seemed over yet Harrison, 31-6 (23), roared back on Saturday night when winning Prizefighter: The International Heavyweights.
On the same night as Audley’s comeback from his mauling at the fists of Price, and in the same Echo Arena venue where he stopped Harrison and Matt Skelton, Price learned the pain of professional defeat when losing in two-rounds to America’s Tony Thompson. A counter to the ear floored the 29-year-old and robbed him of his equilibrium; he beat the count, but was stopped on his feet and now drops to 15-1 (13).
Shannon, though, believes that Price can recover from the defeat. “Price can come back from this,” he said when speaking to BoxingScene. “People only have to look at Audley, he lost a bad KO to David and has come back. David got hit hard with a shot from another heavyweight and he went down. That’s what can happen in the heavyweights, but lots of fighters have come back — I know that David will be one of them.
“David just needs to get back into the gym, work more on slipping his way inside and sliding along the canvas when he wants to close the range, and he also needs to remember to tighten his defence up when fighting experienced guys who will try to draw you in and land a big shot. Some of these American and International heavyweights are used to soaking up pressure and trying to sneak single shots in. David and his trainer will be confident that he can come again, and they’ve every reason to be because he is a real talent.
“People seemed surprised by Audley coming back so strong on Saturday night, but the Prizefighter format does suit him — he looked good physically and always says the right things to get people going. Saturday night has put him right back in the mix, so David can look at that and see how quickly things change in boxing. A defeat isn’t the end, but he needs to get out there again as soon as he can to get it out of his system. Boxing’s about skill, talent and many other things, but it sometimes comes down to having that ‘Eye of the tiger’ mentality. That’s what Dave’s got to have now — he can use this bad experience to push him to bigger things in the future.”
Shannon takes David Barnes, 25-2-2 (11), into a make-or-break showdown with local rival Rick Godding, 18-0-1(3), at Manchester’s Bowler’s Arena on March 8. Barnes, a two-time British champion at welterweight and light-welterweight, has been firing in training. Shannon also expects him to shine come fight night, but admits that it is a tough night’s work for both boxers, not to mention their trainers. Karl Ince trains Godding, he also used to train Barnes and Shannon has worked many corners with Ince. It makes for an incestuous local derby and one that is underpinned by a lot of mutual respect.
“David’s looking really sharp,” said Shannon. “David Coldwell of Coldwell Boxing has given these two lads a chance to fight a British welterweight title eliminator. Both of them will want to win it and move on. It is a really good fight, Richard’s a smashing lad, a fantastic unbeaten fighter, and I know Karl well, so it will be a weird one, but it is all part of the business. It will be hard for us all because we all know each other, but the fans won’t mind and it is a great fight for them.
“It is extra nice for me and David because we were together the last time he won a British [title]. He has had problems with injuries in the past, but you won’t find many fighters with an ounce of his natural talent. They’re a rare breed so you just try to nurture them the best you can when a kid like that asks you to look after them.
“I’ve always held a soft spot for him because of what I know he can do, he’s also a lovely kid who has had real bad luck, so it would be a huge thing for us both if we can get him to a British title. Richard’s young, he can come again, but Dave’s got to take this opportunity with both hands — I believe he will.
“We’re also waiting to hear about an opponent for Denton Vassell [the 20-0 (10) Commonwealth welterweight titlist]. Denton’s still buzzing about his win over Ronnie [Heffron, a sixth-round TKO last November] and can’t wait to fight again. Denton’s a supremely fit lad; he’ll be ready whenever that call comes, don’t worry about that.
“People still talk to me about Denton’s performance against Ronnie. It is one I’ve watched a few times. The most special thing about it is that I always knew that Denton has the natural ability to do that type of thing. Watching Ricky Hatton in training lit a fire in Denton, we all saw the result of that new focus. Ronnie’s not fought since, but I’m sure him and [his trainer] Anthony Farnell are planning their next move and have no doubt that Ronnie will be back even stronger, just like David Price.”
Shannon holds the distinction of having trained both Ricky and Matthew Hatton. Indeed, he still feels a few pangs of regret over Ricky’s ninth-round KO loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko in November and admits to missing Matthew, who is now trained by Lee Beard and challenges Chris van Heerden for the IBO welterweight title in South Africa on Saturday night. Shannon, though, feels a sense of pride over his time with the Hattons and believes that, despite his comeback loss, Ricky, 45-3 (32), is in a better place than was the case this time last year.
“It still hurts,” he said. “I’d love to have seen Ricky raising his hands in victory again, but you know what, it is an even better feeling to know he got his answers and can now relax and enjoy boxing as a trainer. Ricky popped into my gym recently for a chat. It was lovely to see him looking so good and to know that he’s still a part of boxing. Because he trained at my gym, I get people popping in to train in the same place that Ricky trained — it gives people an extra boost just knowing he’s been there.
“Now he’s retired, people are only just starting to realise just how much he did for boxing in this country. We’ve got young lads coming through who want try and do what he did, but when you think to those nights Ricky was packing out the MEN time and again and his trips abroad, you have to marvel at his mix of talent and charisma. If only we had a few more like him in the sport right now.”
He added: “Matthew’s fighting for a world title as well, so we might have a Hatton world champion again by this time next week. I’ve got such a strong belief in him — I know he’ll be wearing that world title belt when he comes back home. Matt’s one of the loveliest lads you could meet in boxing. Everyone should tune into the TV [BoxNation will televise here in the U.K.] on Saturday to support him. No one deserves this more than Matt. The time I spent with him was very special because he won the European [welterweight title] and fought a potential legend in Saul Alvarez [a decision loss in March 2011]. Not many people would be able to step up in weight and go the distance with Alvarez, which took some doing.
“You’ve also got Matt’s former opponent Kell Brook in the mix for a world title. Kell may have beaten Matt on points, but it was a fight where the build-up and interviews afterwards showed that both lads have got class. I wish Kell all the best for when his date comes through [Brook will meet Alexander on May 18 at Atlantic’s Boardwalk Hall venue]. Devon Alexander’s a special fighter with very good skills, but I have seen Kell from the up-close and believe that he’s got the winning of that world title in him.”
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