Tony Thompson executed one of the biggest upsets inside a British ring in recent memory when he silenced Liverpool’s Echo Arena and levelled David Price inside two rounds last February.
And the 41 year old ‘Tiger’ has landed back in Blighty in ominously rude health ahead of Saturday’s ‘can’t miss’ rematch at the same venue, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
A former two-time world title challenger who has lost just three times in 40 pro gigs, the 6ft 5in southpaw was threatening to break Scouse hearts again this weekend, when boxing writer Glynn Evans spoke with him this morning.
What can you tell us about your early life growing up on the mean streets of Washington DC? Were you a scrapper as a child and young adult?
I had in very hard, man. My parents weren’t always there and I had to move around a lot but thankfully I made it through.
I didn’t so much like to fight but I sure as hell hated getting beat up! I didn’t have an over abundance (of street fights). I was always pretty big for my age and I was pretty good at defusing a lot of potentially volatile situations.
At 27, you were a late starter to the fight game. What other sports did you play beforehand?
To be truthful, I didn’t. I played in little basketball in the neighbourhood to stay in shape but I wasn’t really involved in any sports at school because, regrettably, I didn’t turn up to school as often as I should’ve.
What prompted you to finally become involved in boxing?
Riddick Bowe. I saw him working out in Washington and it dawned on me that I was physically bigger than the champ!
It had always been my dream to be a police officer but unfortunately that idea got smashed one day when I was arrested for fighting with the police! I’d always thought of myself as a pretty decent (street) fighter. At the time I already had three kids and needed to do something to take care of them.
It’s true I started late but I always had the work ethic to get better very quickly. I also had the right coach, a fantastic guy called Tom Browner. We were made for each other but sadly he passed away a few years back.
With negligible amateur experience, the big promoters weren’t barging down any doors to sign you when you joined the pros at 28. You were forced to come through the ranks the hard route, fighting on small local shows.
That’s right. I never had it easy but no regrets. It shaped me into the man and the fighter that I am today.
Several fighters from the newer generation, both in Europe and the US, have it way too easy. They get ahead of themselves and start believing that they’re better than they actually are. They’re coddled into title fights before they’re truly ready. They haven’t met the level of competition to properly prepare them and they get whupped.
In my time, you had to fight your way to the top. I knew I must be good because I fought a lot of good guys, fringe contenders like Yanqui Diaz, Vaughn Bean, Dominick Guinn, Timur Ibragimov, Luan Krasniqi... who were all supposed to beat me but couldn’t.
Twice you’ve challenged Wladimir Klitschko for major versions of the world heavyweight title but both ended in stoppage defeat. How does he rate?
Wladimir is truly one of the all-time greats who doesn’t get the credit that his dominance merits. People put him down due to the supposed inferior competition he’s beaten but that’s unfair. He’s ruled with an iron fist for a long time and beaten ‘em all.
Wladimir’s incredibly smart and intelligent in the ring. He’s exceptionally fit and takes incredible care of his body and also - something which is too often overlooked because of his size and power - he’s a very talented athlete; very quick and co-ordinated. It’s the combination of all those attributes that determines him as a truly great champion.
With two good legs, I’ve no doubt that I should’ve beat him when we fought in Hamburg back in ’08. I hit him more than anybody else ever has. Normally, I’m able to get out the way myself but because of the knee, I tired in the later rounds.
Now I’m getting my health back, I look forward to doing it a third time further down the line.
After two failed efforts why are you confident that you could still beat him?
I’ve already showed the way to defeat him; stay busy and hit him with a lot of punches but because I was carrying a knee injury that I’ve had three surgeries on I was unable to transfer full power into my punches.
America craves a new heavyweight star and, in addition to David Price, England has several promising contenders emerging. How do you assess them?
In the US there’s really only Deontay Wilder and Seth Mitchell. You have to give Wilder a slight edge. He’s so physically imposing and has such power in that big right hand.
Over here, I really like (Dereck) Chisora. He’s all heart, comes to fight, leaves everything in the ring. He’s really good for the fans. I’m also an admirer of David Haye. He’s very mobile and athletic yet deceptively strong and powerful for a comparatively small heavyweight.
But that Tyson Fury is a complete f****** joke, man; a sideshow. I don’t believe he’s serious about the sport. He just wants to see how far it can raise his profile before trying to branch off into other things.
Entering the first fight with David Price, you didn’t seem in the greatest shape physically, scaling a career heaviest 18st 10lbs. Were you aware of Price? Did you take him lightly?
Regardless of how I might have looked, trust me, I was still in great shape. People should remember I’m 41 and certain things catch up with you. I really had been sick at the time but nobody believed me.
I was certainly aware of David Price. I’m a big fan of boxing and especially the heavyweight division so I knew plenty about him. I was very confident but certainly didn’t take him lightly. I just looked forward to the challenge.
What was your assessment of Price during the short time you were in the ring together?
David was everything that I anticipated he’d be; big, strong, fast and powerful. However, he was not knowledgeable and all the quick victories had given him a false sense of his worth at that point in time.
Was the finishing blow pre-meditated or instinctive?
Oh, it was definitely something that we’d worked on the whole camp, something we were still planning in the dressing room immediately before the fight.
You’ve been knocked out yourself twice by Wlad Klitschko. How did it affect you psychologically when you returned to the ring? Apprehensive?
No, not at all. If anything I think that it made me more aggressive, eager to land on the other guy and put him away before he could do any serious damage to me. (Between the two Klitschko fights Tony scored five successive stoppage wins).
I’m not sure if David will react similarly because I don’t know his temperament. We’ll find out on Saturday night.
What have you been up to in the interim? How was your upset victory received back in the States?
My win was most definitely well received. Most were very happy to see me back on track.
Other than that, I’ve just been being a father to all my kids, plus working hard on getting my body and health right. Wait till you see my body at the weigh-in. Everyone is going to be shocked.
What type of fight do you envisage on Saturday night and why are you confident that you can manufacture a repeat upset?
It’ll be another war but it’ll probably last a little longer. I see another great fight for the fans but I’m always confident in my ability to be victorious in every fight I’ve entered.
David lacks knowledge and can’t have changed much in four months. I’ve been the complete package for a long time.
He still has many weaknesses and it might be a different one which I choose to expose on Saturday night.
Thereafter? Wladimir III?
I doubt it’ll be Wladimir after he’s already destroyed me twice but perhaps Vitali or (Alex) Povetkin who’s been nursing the WBA belt for a long while without doing a whole lot. I’d certainly fancy either of those. Victory might then entice Wlad again.