British power puncher David Price was regarded by many, particularly in Britain, as the future of the heavyweight division until American veteran Tony Thompson brought the 6-foot-8 colossus crashing back down to earth with a pair of shattering back to back stoppage defeats last year.
For Price the comedown was traumatic but after a period of convalescing he has made some camp alterations and is eager to show a new and improved version of himself when he takes on very late replacement Istvan Ruzsinszky, on Saturday night.
“I’ve missed boxing but initially I didn’t,” said Price, who hasn’t fought since July. “First I needed to get my head around all the shit that happened in 2013. In boxing terms that was an awful year for me and I needed some time away from the sport.
“I lost two fights, split from my long term trainer Franny Smith and then my promoter/ manager, Frank Maloney, retired. On the upside I signed with Sauerland Promotions and now I feel the timing is right.
“I’m itching to get back in there.”
Towards the end of last year Price decided to switch trainers. He initially worked with London based coach Adam Booth before settling on American tactician Tommy Brooks, who has overseen the preparation of a plethora of world title talent, most notably Evander Holyfield.
“We’ve only been together for four weeks,” said Price, who will arrive in Germany on Friday. “In the long term there will be real changes in my game but I’m responsible for the defeats I suffered. I had real professionals around me, who were telling me what to do – I just didn’t respond.
“Tommy is a great trainer and he has loads of experience. There’s no fooling around and he tells me when I’ve make a mistake, or if I look like s__t. That’s what I need. I’m a big lad, who can take constructive criticism and I look forward to the future.”
So Price will have his style streamlined by Brook and his career monitored by Sauerland Promotions and there is a clear plan of attack, providing he prevails on Saturday night.
“Hopefully I can go to work on Ruzsinszky and get some ring time. I’ll leave everything else to the Sauerland brothers, who have shown time and again that they know how to map out a fighter’s career.
“I have vacated the British and Commonwealth titles because they want me to focus on moving forward. At the end of the day I’ve been at the top domestically, so it’s world level that we’re aiming for.”
Two other fighters from the UK, Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury, are closing in on world title opportunities themselves. If Price can make up lost ground then an all British showdown with either of his countrymen would sell out the largest arenas in Britain.
“These are big fights without a doubt,” said Price, who turns 31 years old in July. “For the moment a lot of people will base their opinions of me on the losses to Thompson and that is to be expected. That’s why I must convince the detractors that I belong in that class over the next few fights.
“Chisora and Fury are ahead of me at the moment, but boxing is a funny sport and I’m capable of turning that around. Just look at what Chisora has achieved, in terms of climbing the rankings, after losing to David Haye.”
This will be Price’s first paid assignment away from home and one sensed the decision to travel suited everyone involved. The former Olympic bronze medalist would be under intense pressure to perform in the UK, whereas a position on the Marco Huck vs. Firat Arslan undercard allows him to concentrate on business.
“It’s a different type of feeling being away from home,” said Price. “I’ve been working with a sports psychologist, since my last fight, and he’ll help alleviate the pressure that builds up during fight week. At the moment I’m very calm and relaxed and I’ll stay that way.
“Remember I was topping shows in Liverpool before my tenth fight and, although the pressure was increasing, that was never a problem. The issues only developed prior to the rematch with Thompson and I think one or two fights abroad will do me some good.”
Regardless of Price’s affiliation with a German based promoter, and this weekend’s show, he is still determined to punch for pay in Britain. The Liverpool star retains a large and loyal fan base and is keen to have more great nights in the future.
“My goal is to get back to the UK,” said Price. “The pressure and expectations I had previously are welcomed because it means you’re doing something right. I want that excitement back and I’m looking forward to the future.
“In an ideal world I’d have one fight and come back to the UK, but my promoters want me to campaign abroad for a while and I’m happy to follow their lead. Hopefully I’m back in the UK before the end of the year.”
So what do we know about Istvan Ruzsinszky?
Well, he replaced Konstantin Airich, who replaced Evgeny Orlov, in circumstances that have been far from ideal. On the plus side the 25-year-old Hungarian was training for a fight on the Stuttgart show, but he has a modest record (12-9-1 record) and at 5-foot-11, will give away 9 inches in height.
“This is heavyweight boxing and I know as well as anyone what can happen if you get caught,” said Price. “It doesn’t even have to be a perfect shot in this division, because it’s big men hitting each other on the chin with 10 oz. gloves. I’ll be boxing smart, switched on at all times and I’ll be looking to win in style.”
With the exception of 2013 that is exactly what David Price has always done. At his best he is a devastating performer and he carries enough power to end a fight in a flash. At 30 years of age he also has plenty of time to regroup and his return can only be beneficial to the division.
“In my opinion people have only seen 40 percent of what I’m capable of,” said Price. “I actually broached the subject of getting rounds in with Tommy and he made it clear that if I get the chance to finish then I shouldn’t waste time.
“I would benefit from getting some rounds, but whether that happens this weekend remains to be seen.”
Photo / Scott Heavey-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing