British heavyweight David Price returns to the ring this Saturday on the undercard of the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin world heavyweight title fight to face rising Russian prospect Sergey Kuzmin. Price had originally been scheduled to face Irish heavyweight Sean Turner next month in a crossroads fight in Belfast, only for the fight to be cancelled, reportedly due to a Turner injury. It did not take long for Price to be booked onto the Wembley show where he will face undoubtedly a more dangerous foe.
At thirty one years of age, Kuzmin is old for a prospect, but enjoyed an extensive amateur career as a member of the Russian national boxing team. His highlights included winning the 2010 European Championship at super heavyweight and stopping another now-heavily-touted heavyweight prospect, the UK’s Joe Joyce, in one round in the 2013 edition of the same tournament. As a professional, he is undefeated with a record of 12-1-0 (9 KOs), his sole career blemish being a technical draw last year against Amir Mansour, who is also the best opponent he has faced in the paid ranks.
That fight ended after only three rounds due to a head-clash, but the American veteran was holding his own up until its premature conclusion, giving Kuzmin, the younger man by fifteen years, problems with his superior hand speed and movement. By way of contrast, fellow heavyweight prospect Filip Hrgovic smashed Mansour in the same number of rounds. Kuzmin has a tendency to look slow and ponderous in the ring, but he is a well-schooled boxer, as one would expect with his background, with decent power to boot.
It’s a dangerous combination for Price, himself once a decorated amateur and former Olympic Bronze medallist. The Liverpudlian has been stopped in every one of his career defeats, most recently in his last fight against Povetkin in which a vicious left hook left him flat on his back on the canvas in need of medical attention. Yet despite demonstrating the defensive lapses and questionable punch resistance that have plagued his career, Price still managed to exceed expectations with his performance as he had Povetkin badly hurt near the end of the third round, with the Russian arguably being saved by the bell from what would have been a sensational upset. It served as a reminder that Price has the power to put any heavyweight in trouble if he connects clean, and it is perhaps what has convinced him to accept such a risky fight on paper.
Confidence is king, as the saying goes, and that brief, but dramatic moment in the dying seconds of the third round of the Povetkin fight seems to have galvanised Price, whose mental fortitude in the ring has been questioned based on the manner of previous defeats. In the rematch with Tony Thompson and the Christian Hammer fight, he had his opponents down and hurt early on, but could not finish the job and seemed to fall apart at the seams, gassing out and being stopped on his feet in both. For his part, Price has rejected the notion that the issue he was facing in the ring was a mental one, although his former trainer and close friend Dave Coldwell has openly claimed it to be the case.
Whether or not it is, in this instance one has to admire his courage in stepping straight back into the ring with a fighter of Kuzmin’s calibre. The Russian may not be the bluest of blue chippers, but he is still a legitimate prospect and a serious physical threat for Price. Raise your eyebrows at the matchmaking on his behalf if you will, with some justification, but for Price, who has been written off so many times in the past, this really does represent his last real chance to make an impact on the global heavyweight scene.
People thought he was done after back-to-back stoppage defeats to an aged Thompson. They thought the same when Erkan Teper, a man shaped like a bar-room bouncer, laid him out cold in a German ring. Or when the unheralded Hammer left him staggering around the ring like a drunkard, prompting the referee’s intervention. Yet here he is, coming off the back of yet another devastating stoppage defeat, still seeking relevance on the big stage.
On Saturday night, David Price will roll the dice once again. If it goes against him, this should be the end as far as any ambitions of an assault on world-class-level boxing are concerned. Considering however what he has gone through to get to this point, one would not begrudge the genial Liverpool giant a bit of good fortune come fight night.
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam