April 17, 2018
April 17, 2018
boxing

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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DAVID Price is doing the school run.

It’s a reality check he would have received whether he’d beaten Alexander Povetkin on March 31 or not. But in these quiet moments, as he sits in his car at three o’clock in the afternoon and anticipates the screams of excited children descending on exhausted parents, David Price thinks not of what’s for dinner that evening, or of what tales he might be told, but of a right cross and left hook that silenced a stadium crowd in Cardiff two weeks ago and took away all he was building towards.

He might glance in the mirror, recalling the damage Povetkin’s punches did to his eye, or he might, for the same reason, run his tongue along the inside of his cheek. Yet the emotion he feels when exploring this familiar terrain isn’t disappointment. It isn’t even pain. It’s something else altogether; something he hasn’t felt before.

“I’m in good spirits,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like I’ve lost a fight the way I’ve lost fights in the past. I did lose, and the initial disappointment was there, but once the dust settled I was proud of how I performed and how the fight went – except getting knocked out.

“It was a good, exciting fight and I put it all on the line and went out on my shield. I’m proud of that. But every now and then I’ll find myself riding along in the car, as I was the other morning, and I’ll be like, ‘F**king hell, why couldn’t he have just fell a little differently when I caught him?’

“There’s still a little bit of regret there but I’ve got to let that go now and take the positives. I really, really can’t wait to get back in the ring with this newfound mentality. You wouldn’t believe the confidence I have taken from that fight. I’m feeling really good.”

Price didn’t feel “really good” following any of his previous defeats. Not after the two against Tony Thompson in 2013, nor the ones against Erkan Teper and Christian Hammer in 2015 and 2017 respectively. There were reasons for not feeling really good – reasons spanning from a first loss to being knocked out to running out of gas – and there was insult added to injury in the form of failed drug tests (on the part or Thompson and Teper). But, ultimately, David Price hasn’t felt really good for some time now; even some of his wins haven’t left him feeling really good.

David Price

So what was so special about a fifth round knockout defeat to Alexander Povetkin? Well, for starters, it was a fight very few encouraged Price to take in the first place, so sure were they he’d end up outclassed and out cold in the opening couple of rounds. That Price persevered, therefore, in spite of this negativity, was a victory in itself.

Not only that, he somehow got to the ring, held it together, and boxed well before a crowd of around 80,000 people, stunning Povetkin in round one and then badly hurting him – so badly the Russian was counted when kept upright by the ropes – in round three. Along the way, Price showed improved defence, blocking a lot of Povetkin’s wild swings, and, more importantly, a composure and confidence he has often been accused of lacking.

But then, of course, it happened. Price was caught in round five, first by an overhand right and then, with his hands by his sides, a left hook, and viciously knocked out. It was ugly, it was dramatic, it was horrible to witness; it was every bit as demoralising as the previous four rounds had been encouraging.

Price, though, refused to look away. Even when confronted by the knockout half an hour later, when sat in his changing room being stitched up, he wouldn’t turn his head.

“I watched it (the knockout) straight after when I was in the room getting stitched up,” Price says. “The knockout was being shown on the television and I watched it.

“When I got knocked out by Erkan Teper, I didn’t watch it back for about 18 months. I didn’t want to see myself in that light. But I watched this straight after and watched it in full the next day and a few times after that.”

Price presumably revisits his defeat to Povetkin because there was much to be admired and because, in flashes, he threatened to become the heavyweight contender his potential and punch power always suggested he’d become. He looked comfortable at that kind of level, under that kind of pressure. For once, it seemed like he belonged.

“I was enjoying it,” he says. “When I went down in that third round, I kept telling myself, ‘All you have to do is land.’ I had this belief I could hurt him every time I landed something.

“What he did do well was take away my right hand. He didn’t allow me the chance to land it. He’s a good fighter; that’s what good fighters do. He had better defence against the right hand than I expected.

“But I landed a left hook at the end of the first round and I just knew I could really hurt this fella. It only scuffed the top of his head but I could see the impact.

“I enjoyed it more than I’ve ever enjoyed a fight. That’s why I can’t retire. I enjoyed it too much. Everything about it was great: the build-up, the fight itself, the crowd. I could feel the energy and all that positivity.

“It’s small margins, though, when you’re fighting someone at that level. You make a mistake, you pay the price. I made the mistake of trying to punch while he was punching and he beat me to the punch because he is the smaller and quicker man. That’s the frustrating thing about it.

“But I can’t dwell on it or be too frustrated, otherwise I won’t sleep. I just need to look forward to carrying on with this new attitude I’ve got. I can’t be disillusioned about it.”

MRN POVETKIN0-PRICE 03

Despite the positivity, there was damage. More physical than psychological, which again is unusual for Price, but damage nonetheless. A cut, for instance, inside his mouth, the result of that final left hook, required approximately 30 stitches in hospital, while his nose and eye were also badly injured in the carnage. He brushes it off now, of course. “I felt fine,” he says.

The knockout, however, remains a very real thing. It was real on the night, when Price was consoled and encouraged by those around him, and it is real now, a fortnight on. Which is why the rejuvenated Liverpudlian, and those closest to him, must not allow an enthusiasm to build on good work override a greater need to take some time off, ease back into things gently, and let all that was damaged – the stuff that can’t necessarily be seen – properly heal.

“I’m a little bit different to others,” says Price. “I make sure I have more than one brain scan a year. I’ll go and get a brain scan before every fight. Once a year, for me, is not enough. I’d rather be sure everything is okay. That’s not me being scared or anything. I’m just being sensible.

“I’m not going to rush back into sparring or anything like that. It was a knockout, I understand that, but people get knocked out in the gym while training for a fight and they still go ahead with the fight. I’ve got a clean bill of health and that’s important.

“The main reason a lot of people get knocked out is the mental side of it. They come back a little gun-shy. But that isn’t an issue for me.

“Also, the reality is I’m not going to be getting back into the ring to face Alexander Povetkin or a fighter of that calibre in my next fight.

“I’m hoping to fight again before the end of the summer. I think that’s enough time.”

The plan now is to maintain this mentality, remain in good spirits, and for these feelings to follow victory, not defeat. Thirty-four-year-old Price wants a couple of them, in fact, a couple of wins, and then wants to start looking at titles. The bigger, the better.

“I’ve always wanted to at least fight for a world title and still believe I can – more now than ever, if anything,” he says. “But a short-term goal would be to have a couple of fights and then box for the European title. I think that’s a good goal to set myself. Once you’re European champion, you’re not too far away from getting a world title shot.”

Watching Price fight on an even keel with Povetkin for a handful of rounds, it was difficult not to imagine how that version might have fared against the likes of Thompson, Teper and Hammer. Would he have turned up and turned it on? Would he have made mincemeat of men who, in reality, were the cause of his downfall? Or would those performances and results have stuck regardless of subsequent improvements?

Without any way of knowing, Price can only speculate. Yet the confidence in his voice, something previously hard to detect, reveals a lot.

“They would have been easy fights for me,” Price, 22-5 (18), claims. “That’s why I have to carry on. That’s the biggest positive I can take from this. Imagine me fighting Christian Hammer now. I believe that would be an easy fight the way I’m feeling right now.

“But boxing doesn’t work like that. I had to go through all of that to get where I am today. It’s a long process. Everyone has now seen a difference in me before, during and after the fight, especially those closest to me, and that is all that matters at this point.”

It’s then he hears his children approach and David Price realises he is wrong and that it’s the voices in his car, not the ones in his head, nor the ones in the gym, that matter most.