By Terence Dooley
Liverpool’s recent resurgence has resulted in title fights, epic encounters, packed houses and some great nights of boxing. However there has been one missing ingredient – a heavyweight sensation. David Price stepped into that void when registering a stunning single round stoppage of John McDermott at the Olympia on Saturday night.
Sure, ‘Big Bad’ John has been stopped before. Plus the co-challenger for the vacant English title visibly unraveled between the weigh in and the first bell, with a number of boxing pundits plumping for an early night after watching both men take to the scales.
Price, though, performed with aplomb during the bout’s brief duration. Flooring John with a right uppercut after the 31-year-old ran into Price from the first bell in a move that was either ‘suicide by cop’ or ‘get him before he gets me’.
Still, the fans loved every moment of Price’s win, and the softly spoken 6’ 8’’ Liverpudlian heavyweight hope is starting to enjoy the public acclaim. “I am just trying to come down from the high now,” he enthused when speaking to Boxingscene.com.
“I was made up with the atmosphere and turn out. I’m still building a fanbase but my fights are exciting so I hope the fans will continue to come when we move to bigger venues. I’m buzzing. There’s talent across the board in this city. Most of the lads who are active have got a chance at big things so it is great just to be part of it.
“I knew it was over as soon as the uppercut landed. I didn’t go out to finish him early but I did want to get control in the first round. He came at me with uneducated pressure. I
wanted to control him so I could establish dominance. It shows future opponents that if they consider the tactic of flying out at me then they could get caught themselves.”
Pre-fight talk focused on McDermott’s nerves despite this being Price’s first shot at a pro title since turning over in March 2009. In contrast the Londoner has challenged for the British belt, taken on Matt Skelton, Danny Williams and Tyson Fury, and is vastly experienced. Despite this, the 2000 ABA titlist has frozen at crucial times in his career. His fist pumping ring entrance suggested that he was trying to gee himself up.
“In the build up I was being my usual self because I know John,” revealed Price. “I was all smiles at the press conference but when it came to the weigh in I had to get my game face on to let him know this was it. I thought I got into his head a little bit by being more moody and on edge. There was no laughing and joking.
“When I got to the venue we were in an open changing room. John was there at seven o’clock in his kit. He was shadowboxing like a madman. Everyone warms up differently but I thought he must have had a lot of nervous energy to do that.
“Tony Bellew saw John walking to the ring. Tony said he could see it (nervousness) in McDermott’s face. Tony phoned through and put a bet on me to win in the first round. We all get nervous, but I think John suffers badly with his nerves. When he got into the ring he was all hyped up and shouting. It just played into my hands. Then he walked onto a good shot. It is one thing being hit and another thing being hit by a nineteen stone man wearing ten ounce gloves while you’re falling into him.”
Seen primarily as a long-range, one-two artist, Price set the ball rolling with a quality right uppercut. The 28-year-old worked on the shot during sparring sessions with Dereck Chisora.
“It was nice because I have been working on it in the gym,” said Price. “It has been working well in sparring. I did some work with Chisora the other week and he said it would be the uppercut that does it. That one set the ball rolling. It showed that I’ve got variation in my punches, I can work with the uppercut, put them down with the right hook and I haven’t show my left hook yet but have got it. I probably could do with more rounds but I’m not complaining because I get those in sparring. I’ll probably spar Jean Marc Mormeck now to prepare him for [Wlad] Klitschko.”
McDermott bravely struggled to his feet three times despite being out-gunned. An enigmatic but gutsy character, John tried to haul himself back into the contest only for Price to maintain his cool and keep his range.
“Yeah, of course – I wouldn’t expect any less from him,” he stated when asked if he had expected to see John clamber to his feet after the third knockdown. “He’d have kept on getting up all night if he could. The referee is there to look after the boxer’s welfare and that is what Howard Foster did.
“Every punch I landed was scrambling him so he showed bravery but I’d expect someone who has had thirty odd fights to be a bit more calculating rather than just coming out the way he did. It just goes to show that people can have experience on paper but it doesn’t always work in their favour.
“I think I’ve proved a point – I can compete at that level. John’s given a lot of people a lot of problems. I expected to win the fight but not like that. It is a testament to my power. It is different in the gym when you’ve got big, heavy gloves on. Once you put those ten ounce gloves on you can feel the difference. I know if I hit someone it is going to hurt them at the very least. When I hit people they stay hit and struggle to recover.”
Still, it has not been all chitlins and gravy for the 12-0 (10) contender. Early career one round blowouts of foreign and domestic journeymen led to suggestions that promoter Frank Maloney was mollycoddling his heavyweight hope. There were also whispers that Price’s chin would let him down, especially as his Olympic run had ended in a stoppage at the hands of eventual gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle.
“I had critics early on but that is part of the game – I’ll have critics throughout my whole career,” the 2008 super-heavyweight bronze medalist’s answer to questions about his early pro opponents. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. All I can do is work hard in the gym and continue to impress people.
“It (the chin question) is more to do with my amateur career. I lost the Olympic semi-final by a count out after getting caught by a very good shot from the world amateur champion. There was no disgrace but maybe people have had that type of thing happen in their amateur careers against lesser opponents and it hasn’t been highlighted. My defeat was shown worldwide.
“It doesn’t bother me, I can live with it. I don’t want to be getting hit with big shots. But when it does happen I am confident I will answer the questions about my chin. I have been hit by big punchers in sparring. I’m more experienced now. I‘ve matured. People say sparring is different because you’ve got those big gloves but if it is different then why do I knock people over in sparring? It is all relative in a way.
“I just try my best to have a good defence. Not take many big shots. John did catch me on Saturday but that is down to the fact that he started fast and came right at me. But I won’t take anything away from myself and that performance – I’m happy with it.”
The win led to rave reviews only for Price to duck out of the limelight during the aftermath. A quiet character and self-confessed homebody, Price is grateful for the recognition and is now more accustomed to the PR treadmill.
“It is great,” his take on the public’s response to Saturday’s win. “But I haven’t been out much. I’m pretty reserved and quiet. When I do go out people come up to me for pictures and that. It is nice and a massive compliment because this is a great sporting city. Everyone loves a big heavyweight, especially if you’re knocking people out regularly so make hay while the sun shines, I suppose. I’ll have to get myself out a bit more in the next couple of weeks, get my face out there.”
The 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medalist inked a professional deal with Hayemaker in 2008 before moving to Frank Maloney’s stable after only one fight due to the demise of Setanta Sports here in the UK. Maloney has heavyweight form, he helped guide Lennox Lewis to the top and evokes Lennox’s name when outlining his credentials as the heavyweight kingmaker. Price believes that talking to Frank steered his career in the right direction. Maloney is expected to announce a March US fight date later today.
“When I signed with Frank I only had one professional fight,” he recalled. “In this game you have to set short term targets. I signed with him thinking more about his relationship with Sky and that he’d keep me busy but in the back of mind I thought about that (Maloney’s work with Lewis). I just take things one fight at a time. The longer it gets the more real it becomes as the dream becomes reality but I’m looking at the British title now and dreaming of those big fights knowing that Frank has guided people to them in the past.
“We’re working with Don Majeski [an American agent] so we’re hoping that we can do some stuff with him. What matters to me is the opponent not the venue. I want to fight an opponent who can help with my development.
“That is all I can concentrate on, fighting and improving because I’m not the finished article and probably never will be because not many boxers ever are, if any. All I can do is train hard, focus on the next fight and if it is Tyson [Fury] then that would be brilliant. If it isn’t then I have to get on with my career in another way. What is meant to be is meant to be.”
The mandatory contender for Fury’s British and Commonwealth crown, Price expects to secure the contest before the turn of the year. Fury, though, fights on Channel 5 and is promoted by Mick Hennessy; Price boxes on Sky and has Maloney behind him; fans are worried that the two camps will fail to reach an agreement.
“We are going to fight for the British and Commonwealth,” insists Price. “I’m mandatory for both so want to fight for both. The way this game works you can’t look too far ahead because there are too many outside influences that can affect anything such as the television situation you mentioned before with me and Fury. I’ll just take each fight as it comes but it would be nice to be at that European level by the end of the year.”
Price, James DeGale, Billy Joe Saunders and the other members of the 2008 Olympic pack will be stripped of the ‘Olympian’ tag once the 2012 Games are concluded. A fresh wave of prospects will hit the scene. The likes of Price will have to watch on as the new breed pick up major headlines. Price, though, was philosophical when asked about the likes of Anthony Joshua and the next wave of amateur stars turned novice pros.
“We won’t be the Olympians anymore, will we?” his take on the impending emergence of fresh blood. “But I haven’t considered myself an Olympian for the past year. I’m just another professional now so the new breed will come through. It is time to get the prospect tag off and become a proper contender. It has been timed right because by the time you get the likes of Anthony Joshua turning pro I’ll be a champion of some sort and maybe even more.”
With Price, Fury, Chisora and Richard Towers on the scene plus Joshua coming up on the rails, we may finally have a domestic heavyweight division worthy shouting about over the next few years.
Please send news and views to [email protected] or Twitter @Terryboxing.