HERE it is, the secret, the reason for the defeats: David Price’s problem is mental rather than physical.
It’s the easy thing to say. The obvious, lazy thing to say. It’s also, however, far from the truth, insists Joe McNally, Price’s latest trainer and a former 8-0 professional in his own right. McNally, in fact, is very clear on this point.
“It’s a load of s**t,” he told Boxing News.
“I couldn’t believe how confident he is in himself. He’s a very confident man – and a man’s man, too.
“We’ve had a tremendous camp. He’s sparred 80-plus rounds – really hard sparring. We spent two weeks in Germany. He’s taken his lumps and bruises and done 12 rounds no problem. His workrate has been fantastic. He’s mentally strong. Only time will tell if he carries that into the ring on Saturday night; only David Price can control that. But I’m more than confident.”
Saturday night (March 31), one suspects, is all about confidence. Price, after all, fights Alexander Povetkin, undoubtedly the toughest opponent of his career to date, and does so as a heavy underdog – a career first for the Liverpudlian. If he doesn’t believe, if indeed he shows signs of mental weakness, the contest is as good as over. But if Price is somehow able to put it all together and produce what he is capable of when it matters most, well, things could get interesting.
If nothing else, there must be hope. After all, why else would McNally, a young trainer making his way in the game, bother?
Rest assured, the key questions have been asked – questions pertaining to Price’s hunger, his ambition, and, yes, his mentality – and McNally liked the answers he received.
“We’re roughly the same age and were together as amateurs all through the amateur system,” said McNally. “In the pros, he was with different coaches and stuff, but I kept an eye on his career and always supported him. We were both signed to Hayemaker at one point.
“Once I got into the coaching side of things he was more or less retired. But I always believed he had a lot left to offer the sport. In hindsight, it’s a bit of bad luck he’s had. Let’s give it another go, I said to him.
“I was coaching for a few years at Rotunda ABC as head coach and then transitioned into the pro ranks with my old coach Georgie Vaughn. I took to it a lot better than I thought. I coached a few fighters like Sam Maxwell, JJ Metcalf and Craig Glover and it was my work with Craig Glover that led David to identify me as someone who could have a crack with him.
“We were then away on a friend’s stag do and I asked David a simple few questions: ‘Why have you retired? What do you want to achieve?’ He had the bad luck with opponents on performance-enhancing drugs (Tony Thompson and Erkan Teper) and this and that and I said it would be a shame if he walked away from the sport when he was so close (to fighting for a major title). I told him he shouldn’t throw it in. He had only had six months out after his defeat to Christian Hammer.
“At the time I was working out of Derry Mathews’ gym in Liverpool and one day got a phone call saying David was in and was looking for me. We had a few weeks trial period after that and that’s where it began.”
If actions speak louder than words, then it’s fair to say Price, 22-4 (18), has been every bit as convincing in the gym as he was on the aforementioned stag do. He has apparently put the work in, pushed himself to the limit, and sparred over 80 rounds both in the UK and Germany. Physically, he’s seemingly done all he can.
“It’s been fantastic,” said McNally. “He’s left no stone unturned and ticked every box in camp. He’s been injury-free, put the rounds in and is ready to go. He’s in fantastic shape, mentally and physically.
“I haven’t had to get into his head. I haven’t worked a miracle. I’ve just got David Price to believe in himself.”