By Terence Dooley
Liverpool’s David Price has had a tumultuous 2012, during which he picked up the English, British and Commonwealth titles, registered impressive stoppage wins over John McDermott and Sam Sexton, and motored up the British and European heavyweight rankings.
However, Price’s rise had a brief downturn when promoter Frank Maloney lost his Sky TV dates and faced a scramble to find a suitable network for his 6’ 8’’ heavyweight contender. This body blow was eased by a move to BoxNation and a deal to fight former Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on October 13 in a crossover fight that could see the 29-year-old close out 2012 with a trio of solid wins under his belt.
Price, though, is not home and hosed just yet. Although Harrison, 40, has been widely written off by the boxing press and general public, the 28-5 (21) southpaw can still slip home sneaky counter left hands and is full of confidence — or phony bravado, it depends on your perspective — ahead of his belated British title challenge, which comes over 11-years after his pro debut and Harrison’s early career boast that he would “Win the British title within five fights”.
Ironically, Harrison was a hero back in 2000 as he brought boxing back to the BBC. Now he is a cautionary tale for budding heavyweights, widely used as an example of how not to do things and yet still an intriguing face on the domestic scene.
Many, this writer included, feared that “A-Force” would be pushed out to on an ice float following his tepid third-round stoppage loss to then-WBA heavyweight titlist David Haye in November 2010 only for Harrison to bounce back with a fourth-round TKO of Ali Adams in May of this year. Now back on the domestic scene, and with that old twinkle in his eyes, Harrison is itching to torpedo Price’s plans — and the Liverpudlian knows it.
“I knew he wouldn’t want to go out on the Haye performance and would try to come back,” said Price when speaking to BoxingScene over the phone. “Audley won his last fight, and as far as we were concerned the option of defending it (the British title) against Audley seemed like a natural choice because he’s as good as anyone we can get.
“The Echo is where I want to be and is a big arena. I made my debut there (in 2009) and now I’m back topping the bill in a massive fight. It is brilliant and the city’s thriving, especially professional boxing. We had (Thomas) Stalker and (Nicola) Jones doing us proud (in the Olympics), we have good lads in the city, guys like myself, Paul Edwards, (Joe) Tonks, (Tony) Quigley’s lads, little (James) “Jazza” (Dickens), the Smiths (Paul, Stephen, Liam and Callum), (Tony) Bellew and a few others. All the other lads have got each other for sparring, but I’m on my own because I’m a big heavyweight. It is great to be a part of this.
“This one was a fight that we knew we would have to book the Arena for, and Frank got it. We’ve taken three steps forward in that capacity. At the beginning of the year, I was fighting at the Olympia (for the single stanza icing of McDermott) then at Aintree (a fourth-round KO of Sam Sexton) and know this step forward to the Echo, which is where I want to be. I want to be topping big bills in my own city. It is a great thing for me to be able to do that and Audley’s one of the reasons why it’s sold well. As you said before, he has crossover appeal, everyone knows who he is and he has a bit of a name, but people want to see him fail, unfortunately for him, and want to come to watch me beat him.”
Indeed, Price’s advantages in size, youth and derring-do have made him a prohibitive favorite for the win, and a huge KO win to boot, yet Price rebuked the idea that is a case of ‘Damned if you win, damned if you lose’ before pointing out that Harrison still has a sizeable boxing brain and the ability to spot an opening, whether or not he takes advantage of it is another matter.
“To be honest, when we weighed up the fight a while back — Audley was a potential opponent a while ago — we’d talked about just that,” he said. “People expect me to win the fight, and it has got a lot of publicity, but the cons were obviously that no-win situation.
“The more I look at it, and as far as I’m concerned, I just have to perform and get the win regardless then forget about that fight, just like I’ve forgot about me last few fights. I’ve already moved on from them, forgot about them, and just focused on the next task. I don’t worry about the reaction to the fight — all I can do is concentrate on winning and doing it in the best fashion possible.”
He added: “On the other hand, with Audley Harrison, people have to understand that going into my fourteenth fight and fighting someone who has won Olympic gold, the European title (as a professional), is a Prizefighter champion and has fought for a world title is not really a bad opponent compared to other prospects coming through in their fourteenth fights. You won’t see a lot of guys like this on their records.”
Audley has found the step from amateur to sustained pro success as difficult to negotiate as the rope bridge from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Brief glimpses of sure footing, such as 2010’s win over Michael Sprott for the vacant EBU title, were followed by plummets into the abyss. Harrison’s fans have held on to that 2000 gold medal success as tightly as an Italian gigolo holds his balls. For Price, however, Harrison’s amateur exploits are a world away and he has instead focused his attention on the man who battered Adams in May.
“Yeah, but amateur is different,” said Price when reminded that Harrison has a stellar pedigree. “That’s the thing, people judge you on your last fight, and no one really saw his last fight against Ali Adams (an off-air outing on a Goodwin show), but if you judge him on that performance then you prepare for the best Audley Harrison possible.
“I’ve been watching him lately. He’s a clever fighter defensively, which is his problem, really, because people don’t give him credit and say he’s too negative. He’s got the skills, we all know that, and deep down most fans probably do, but he just hasn’t been able to make the crossover from the amateurs to the pros.”
As mentioned above, Harrison’s checkered career leaves Price, 13-0 (11) in a quandary, anything other than a spectacular early rounds win will raise questions. A huge, early knockout could prompt comparisons between Price’s and Haye’s respective performances. For Price, it is all about getting it right on the night, and he intends to do just that.
He said: “All I’m going to do is focus on what I bring to the table. I’ll set a pace that I don’t think Audley will like. It will be high-paced, exciting and if I see an opening then I’m going to take it. I believe I’m going to win, obviously, and everyone in boxing thinks I’m going to win, but I’m going to make a statement in this fight.”
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