One of the few things that can eclipse a modern heavyweight’s actual physical stature is the hype surrounding a big man with legitimate skills and pedigree. Because boxing’s glamour division has fallen on hard times, fans and pundits are eager to anoint a future savior—and often prematurely.
Of course, the reason for this desperation has much to do with the stranglehold the Klitschko brothers have had over the heavyweight division since roughly 2006. Eschewed by North American audiences, the Klitschkos have made a lucrative living off of defending all the major belts in front of adoring crowds in Europe.
Recently, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Price seemed to have somewhat separated himself from a pack of intriguing contenders. Price, the 2012 ESPN prospect of the year, obliterated his domestic opposition, scoring violent knockouts over the likes of Tom Dallas, John McDermott, Sam Sexton, Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton.
But then, in what was supposed to be springboard fight that was going to propel him to the world-level, Price (15-1, 13 KO) was shockingly knocked out in the second round by recycled two-time title challenger Tony Thompson.
So, given the hype and promise Price has shown, how can he keep this stunning knockout loss from derailing his career?
Firstly, to be clear, Price’s loss to Thompson (37-3, 25 KO) has already derailed his career in the sense that it stunts his progress towards a championship. This reality is undeniable, but the fact remains that Price losing once should not be a death sentence.
Fans and pundits often place too much stock in a single defeat, and indeed boxing disproportionately punishes prospects for losing the glossy “0” on their record. In Price’s case, those following his career should first avoid panic. Considering boxing’s many unknown variables, any fighter can succumb to a single, well-placed punch.
For Price to rebound, all he needs is a concrete plan of action moving forward and the opportunity to execute it.
Price is still the fighter who has emphatically scored 13 knockouts in his 15 wins. He is a natural athlete with an excellent amateur background and punching power that cannot be taught. Furthermore, Price was not out-boxed or brutally punished against Thompson; in fact, before the stoppage, things seemed to be unfolding according to the script.
The first round of Price vs. Thompson was largely uneventful. That said, Price showed good patience and responded well after Thompson unleashed a combination that forced him to cover up. In Round 2, he cornered Thompson and effectively landed his right hand; Price also remained disciplined and threw well to the body before Thompson was able to clinch.
Thompson still deserves credit for landing the fight-ending, sharp right hook to Price’s ear/neck after shuffling around him to secure an opening. However, Price was not tagged on the chin or knocked out cold. In fact, Price beat the count, but the punch, which landed in the most unfortunate of spots, had short-circuited his legs and left him in no position to continue.
What Price has working for him is that he is still an exciting heavyweight with a loyal fanbase. His marketability and drawing power ensure that he will land another significant fight in the near future. And it is for this reason that there is no need to desperately call Thompson out for an immediate rematch.
Price is naturally humble, and it would be wise for him to simply get back to winning fights and focusing on training and honing his craft. At 29, Price is young by heavyweight standards, and it would not be a waste of time for him to return against domestic level opposition and honestly work his way back to the European and world-level.
If Thompson still happens to be relevant by then—towards the end of 2013/beginning of 2014—then a rematch can be discussed.
Consider Wladimir Klitschko’s first career loss to Ross Puritty, who was 24-13-1 at the time he upset Klitschko via late TKO. Over his next four fights, Klitschko fought opponents with a combined record of 83-48-1. Furthermore, the lone undefeated fighter Klitschko faced during that run—14-0 Zoran Vujecic—had defeated only one opponent with a winning record.
This is to say that Price does not need to rush his comeback. Two or three fights against somewhat durable but limited opposition might end up being the right prescription. After Klitschko had beaten the aforementioned four opponents, he knocked out Alex Schulz to capture the European (EBU) and WBA Inter-Continental titles.
If Price proves his definitive worth at the continental level, interest will only grow to see him fight an American contender. The fact that Price is such a draw in the UK means that he can take these kinds of fights, make money and learn from them before crossing over.
Ultimately, boxing is the most fickle of sports, and Price stands as good a chance as any fighter to secure redemption. Much stranger things have happened. After all, on the same day that Price lost to Thompson, Audley Harrison won Prizefighter for the second time.