DEPENDING on your point of view, the career trajectory of heavyweight David Price has been influenced either by mismanagement – taking the wrong fights at the wrong time – or an inherent fragility that was always going to be the Liverpudlian’s Achilles’ heel regardless of the opposition.
Certainly, there’s a case to be made that his first career loss, against Tony Thompson in 2013, was an inevitable outcome to a bad bit of matchmaking. That said, few were screaming mismatch or too-much-too-soon before Thompson pulled off the upset and stopped Price in the second round.
The same goes for the rematch. Now, looking back, it seems an awful idea to throw Price back in with the awkward southpaw who had just stopped him in fairly emphatic fashion. But again, at the time, most considered it a risk worth taking; a chance for Price to quickly right a perceived wrong.
Since then, Price, 23-6 (19), has lost to Erkan Teper in Germany, Christian Hammer in England and Alexander Povetkin in Wales, while his latest defeat, against Sergey Kuzmin, can be attributed to a torn bicep but will have still felt like a defeat.
All in all, Price, whether due to his own failings or gung-ho matchmaking, has had to do things the hard way and is now an expert in the ups and downs of his sport. He also believes it could have been different – his record, his fortunes – if guided in another direction.
“Realistically, I’ve just got to keep winning and hope that something comes my way,” Price told Sky Sports. “For too long I was looking too far ahead and hoping for a big fight with one of the champions, but the time has come where I can’t do that.
“I’ve lost six times and no promoter is going to sit down with me and give me a long-term plan where I can be guided to such an opportunity. I’ve just got to take it one fight at a time, keep on winning, and then see where that takes me.”
Price takes inspiration from the emergence of Dominic Breazeale as a contender for Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title. Breazeale, after all, came up short in an early title shot against Anthony Joshua but has rebounded with three victories to earn a second chance. Crucially, he has, Price believes, been guided the right way.
“I look at Breazeale and when I watch him I don’t see anything that’s worth worrying about in the slightest,” said Price. “The difference between me and him is the way he’s been guided to such a position, as he’s on the verge of challenging for another heavyweight title.
“That’s what you call brilliant management. He’s someone who’s never really impressed me, but you look at his record and he’s only lost once and he’s about to go into a fight with Wilder, after already fighting Joshua.
“He’s someone I’d be confident of beating if we ever fought, but I’m not in any sort of position to be asking for that fight at this moment.”
Nobody would describe David Price’s fighting style as resilient, robust or designed for the long haul. But, to his credit, his mindset, in the 10 years he has been a pro, has become all of those things.
He was once a WBO world middleweight champion, then he was a former WBO world middleweight champion, and then he seemed all set to become a WBO super-middleweight title challenger.
Now, however, Billy Joe Saunders must settle for a WBO interim super-middleweight title being on the line when he fights the unknown Shefat Isufi at The Lamex Stadium, home of Stevenage Football Club, on May 18
It’s not the belt he wanted, nor the one initially advertised (when the fight was first scheduled for April 13), but it’s a belt all the same. More importantly, Saunders, in appearing as a super-middleweight for the first time, seems to have waved goodbye to his days as a middleweight and effectively allowed Demetrius Andrade, the American he was due to fight late last year, to ride off into the sunset with his old WBO belt at 160 pounds.
The confusion surrounding Saunders vs. Isufi and the status of the WBO super-middleweight title stems from Gilberto Ramirez’s apparent unwillingness to fully let go of his WBO world title. He notified the WBO of his desire to leave the division for a fight at light-heavyweight on April 12 in Los Angeles but has since confirmed his intention to stick around at 168 pounds if the right kind of fight comes up. Not exactly helpful, no.
This means the Mexican would both like to explore the terrain at light-heavyweight yet keep one foot in the water at super-middleweight. It also means Saunders and Isufi, neither of whom really deserve a world title shot at super-middleweight, will for now have to make do with this interim version of Ramirez’s belt.
“It is what it is and it’s not a problem,” Saunders, 27-0 (13), said. “I shall fight this number one-ranked opponent and I will be taking his spot and then I will fight Ramirez after. Let’s get that fight going on. If he moves up, I would become world champion, but I don’t want to win it that way because I want to beat the champion.
“It is all good vibes from me. I am willing to fight anybody in the super-middleweight or middleweight category and put on a masterful display.”
Although Saunders’ move to super-middleweight seems a strange one on the face of it, a potential fight against Ramirez would be most welcome.