When David Price hit the canvas in February you could have heard a pin drop and all that changed tonight was there was more noise, as American Tony Thompson repeated the dose to score an emphatic fifth-round stoppage of the fallen British idol at the Liverpool Echo Arena.
The official time was 1:55.
It was a quality heavyweight duel which featured serious ebb and flow but the more experienced, battle-hardened warrior prevailed after absorbing his opponent’s best attacks. The end came when a fatigued Price (250 pounds) was caught repeatedly with combinations to the head, before being pinned in the corner and pounded mercilessly with huge single shots.
Referee Marcus McDonald bizarrely implemented a standing eight count after a massive right hand but the fight was over and the official smartly halted the action.
“I don’t know what to say,” said a devastated Price. “I’m just trying to come to terms with what happened but I’ll have to look at the fight and take things from there.”
Following the preliminaries, which included an absurd saxophone rendition of “Born in the USA,” there was the compensation of some entertaining ring entrances. During Price’s arrival the entire Thompson camp began jamming to “Payback” by James Brown, which drew charitable applause from the capacity crowd, and the night was only going to get better for the U.S. visitors.
One expected Price to be cautious in Round 1 but that was an understatement. An endless amount of time seemed to pass before he began releasing shots and when he did they came in singles. Thompson (259 pounds) seemed to edge a slow opener on work rate and an educated southpaw jab.
The action took a dramatic turn in Round 2 when Price opened up with force. He backed Thompson up effectively but fell into retreat mode as the former world title challenger fired back bravely with solid bursts of his own. Again Price retaliated and hurt the American with a three-punch combination before throwing him heavily to the floor.
When Thompson got to his feet he was tagged again and this time hit the floor officially after taking a huge right hand to the head. This reporter thought the fight was over but Thompson, who has both world-class ability and world-class bravery, was just getting started and rose at nine.
The drama continued in Round 3 and the noise was deafening as the home support rallied behind their man. Price attacked relentlessly with big combinations to head and body but he could not break his man and seemed to be slowing down as his shots lost snap.
Where was the new cautious approach from the 6-foot-8 Brit? Where was the jab? Where was the Lennox Lewis chess game? It was simply balls to the wall and, yet again, that proved to be his undoing.
Price simply could not locate the finisher and Thompson relied on his vast experience to survive another session and responded with some sharp inside shots of his own. At this stage the Thompson right uppercut was working wonders and it stood Price straight up more than once.
The American’s chin and recuperative powers were incredible and once again he took Price’s best shots throughout Round 4 to close the session with a sustained assault to head and body. This time Price wilted and he seemed to think twice about remaining on his feet but the bell saved him from further punishment.
Thomson remained on the ascendancy in Round 5 and punished Price heavily. The writing was on the wall and as the damage mounted Price’s ambition and energy declined. There was nothing coming back and the stoppage was a blessing for Price, who celebrated his 30th birthday on the same day of his second-straight professional defeat.
“Everyone was surprised when I got up from the right hand,” said Thompson at the post-fight press conference. “When he hurt me he hesitated and when I hurt him I closed. The referee shouldn’t have enforced a standing eight count but he made up for it by making the right decision.”
“Price only has a championship body. He isn’t on my level.”
“We’ll sit down and review everything,” said Price’s promoter, Frank Maloney. “My advice is for David to take a long rest and we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
A third world title shot may beckon for Tony Thompson, who is forty-one years of age. This was a victory for experience, bravery and workmanship.
Photos: Scott Heavey-Gettyimages
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing