Such has been the clamour to uncover a fresh and exciting heavyweight — one able to defibrillate a weight class in cardiac arrest — a large proportion of somnolent observers had flocked to put stock in a mark that had been untouched throughout his three years as a professional. Unfortunately for David Price, when the moment finally came to field a punch, which he caught while in the process of trying to land a fight-ending one of his own, he found himself scuttling around on the floor like an inebriated break-dancer. His flabbergasted assailant, 40-something American grifter Tony Thompson, didn’t appear to have trained for the bout — and fought accordingly through the opening 4 minutes — yet he managed to land an innocuous looking right hook behind Price’s left ear in the 2nd round that ferried the gigantic Liverpudlian high above the Mersey and then off to la la land, from whence he was unable to return quickly enough in order to continue.
Thompson, Washington D.C., U.S.A, has likely bagged boxing’s upset of the year for 2013, and we’re barely even out of Wellington boots and woolly coats. Price was taken in a major play here; a colossal sting. U.K. sports books posted Thompson in the vicinity of 66-1 to upset the big Englishman in such a manner. In fact the hottest betting action pre-fight centred on how quickly it would take Price to knock the American into a cocked hat; it was a stunning, jaw-dropping result. Not since Michael Thomas pulled off a similar hustle at Price’s beloved Anfield in 1989 has a Merseyside audience been rendered so thunderstruck.
Price, 15-1 (13), 247, claimed centre ring in the opening round and feinted with an outstretched left hand in an attempt to measure Thompson and plot a route around the visitor’s lefty stance. Thompson, 37-3 (25), 262, looking flabby but nonplussed, fenced cagily from outer ring during a lacklustre frame. The British champion moved closer in round 2 and caught Thompson with his much ballyhooed right hand. “The Tiger” covered up in Price’s corner but felt a couple of hooks downstairs as he lolled against the ropes. As the popular Scouser clicked into seek-and-destroy mode, Thompson, shuffling lazily, lurched into a counter right uppercut that missed, and as he instinctively lashed out with a stabbing right in an attempt to steady his position, Price suddenly collapsed as though he’d fallen down a pothole. Thompson looked like a witness to a hill-walking accident as he loomed over Price who was busy rolling around at the pit of an invisible well. The home fighter managed to drag himself upright, krumping in complete disharmony as the referee’s count tolled seven — his four limbs under separate instruction. Third man Steve Gray of England had little option but to draw the curtain at 2:17.
Thompson — a real gentleman throughout fight week and obviously bamboozled at the result — proceeded to antagonise a mortified Echo Arena crowd by chastening them boorishly about his “box of tricks” (or was that chips?). They could scarcely take umbrage after booing the man’s national anthem. Shelving retirement plans for the moment at least, Thompson seems likely to revisit to tackle the nation’s other heir apparent, Tyson Fury, who he labelled a “sissy” post-fight. He carried the weary air of Lethal Weapon’s Roger Murtaugh about him as he contemplated teaming up with the heavyweight division’s Martin Riggs.
Price faces a reboot, marketed no doubt behind a rhetoric that references the career of Lennox Lewis and the setbacks his compatriot managed to overcome with some distinction. Lewis, a similarly dimensioned heavyweight that was similarly connected to promoter Frank Maloney, had to navigate a snakes and ladders-type path to the division’s apex, yet that was a different board game altogether.
Concerns over Price’s punch resistance that had lingered since his amateur days, when he had his clock cleaned by the likes of Vyacheslav Glazkov, Bermane Stiverne and Roberto Cammarelle had been all but forgotten on the back of a string of destructive knockout triumphs. After Saturday’s stupefying collapse, fans are unlikely to disregard them again.