Known for its successful, talent-laden boxing history, Philadelphia breeds its fighters tough. The International Boxing Hall of Fame currently includes Philly legends such as Joe Frazier and Matthew Saad Muhammad. But those weren’t the names that echoed through the phone, they were too big, too heavy and too obvious.
“Jeff Chandler, now he was a great champion out of Philadelphia,” stated Philly-raised promoter, manager and trainer, David Price (not to be confused with our beloved Scouse heavyweight). Of course, Price is balancing various boxing-related roles, but the one of highest importance is his role as a father to unbeaten, professional son, Dylan Price (10-0, 7 KOs, 1NC).
Chandler, a veteran of 37 professional fights, became the first American in 30 years to capture a world title at bantamweight at the start of the Eighties. He halted Julian Solis (TKO14) in Miami, winning the WBA 118lbs title to reign from 1980 to 1984.
After being diagnosed with cataracts a year earlier, Chandler retired after losing to Richie Sandoval in 1984 (LTKO15), deciding his eyesight was more valuable than prolonging his career. His achievements at 118lbs mean a lot to the Price family, fully aware that the smaller divisions don’t offer lucrative paydays for its fringe prospects. But super-flyweight Price isn’t your average Philly scrapper.
“I finished 112-12 as an amateur. I was No.1 in the country [from 2013 to 2016] and No.3 in the world,” Price tells Boxing Social before another gruelling day in the gym. “I enjoyed fighting in the amateurs, travelling all over the country and all over the world. It was a great experience and I feel like a lot of people my age didn’t get to experience that. I took it all in and I loved my amateur journey. I had a lot of good memories.”
The Price men come as a pair. But refreshingly, not in the ‘pushy parent’ fashion, with David explaining his cautious approach to furthering his son’s career. His experience mingling with fighters such as Jesse Hart, dealing with contracts and slipping between the ropes himself, positions him as a valuable asset. He recalled Dylan’s first visit to the gym, spotting something “special” almost immediately.
“Six months after Dylan entered the gym, we recognised he had a different talent level,” said David. “There were two kids in the gym who were in there for several years and they were like the gym’s kings. And he kept saying he wanted to spar them. We thought Dylan might not be ready for them, but he went in there and sparred them and handled them. The top guy never came back to the gym afterwards.”
The proud father continued, “Originally, I wanted him to stay amateur a little longer. I thought we had a chance of competing at the Olympics. Now look at it, he would have been pushed back another year anyway [due to the delayed 2020 Olympic Games]. When we go to spar the US team, the guys who are number one are no match for Dylan. He just didn’t want to get burnt out and I didn’t want to leave his career in the amateurs. Now it’s about concentrating on what’s in front of us.”
The focus required to excel in the national amateur squad almost tiptoed away, briefly escaping Dylan, fresh from winning his first national title. The cause of his distraction and slight dip in form? You guessed it – attention from the fairer sex. Since receiving an assertive reality check from his father, the Slicklerville, New Jersey, resident has had his blinkers on. Dylan reclaimed his spot as America’s best amateur 115lbs fighter and only vacated it when turning professional.
Turning over with his father as his manager was risky, but the pair knew after a handful of fights it could pay dividends. The younger Price had his debut in February 2017 and would go on to stop five opponents in the space of nine months.
His impressive introduction to professional boxing didn’t go unnoticed, and Dylan signed with Floyd Mayweather’s TMT Promotions on a deal which ran its course just before America’s lockdown. It’s back to the drawing board, and back to D&D Management with his father and business partner, Doc Nowicki.
“I seen a lot of people turning professional and I just wanted to get that exposure. I wanted the fame. I was chasing that fame,” revealed Dylan, currently ticking over and waiting for his next bout to be finalised.
“When we come back from the quarantine, the boxing public will see a version of me they’ve never seen before. Getting a knockout is the best feeling ever. You’ve got to knock somebody out to know the feeling. I loved it. But I fell in love with it too much, now me and my dad look at my whole career as a learning experience. From when we first turned professional until now, you’ll see a totally different Dylan Price. It’s a good thing [this break], but like my dad said, it’s a gift and a curse. You get to heal your body, but some fighters that don’t have gyms are getting fat or losing focus.”
The young stylist laughs when adding, “Even the journalists are getting rusty.”
Everything had gone to plan for the father-son duo until bumping into Mexican journeyman Pedro Antonio Rodriguez in January last year. Rodriguez, known for snatching the unbeaten records of home corner fighters on occasion, once again lived up to his reputation. The away fighter’s hand was raised unexpectedly and, for a period of around a month, Dylan Price was mourning the loss of his ‘0’ – something he now understands is drastically overvalued in modern day boxing.
“The only thing I remember was my punches bouncing off of him. That’s the only thing I could really say that seemed off,” he said. “He was strong, of course, but anything I threw, anything I hit him with, he just ate the punch. Looking back, I’m glad I was able to learn from that experience and still keep my undefeated record. That fight helped me a lot, it helped me get focus and stay grounded. It was a tough time in my life, but I’m glad that it happened. I never want to feel like that again, ever.
Dylan continued, “For a little while, it was one of the lowest points in my life, but my dad was there every step of the way and he definitely helped make it easier. I was down for like a week and a half, then I had to pick myself back up. I said to myself, ‘It’s not over’. I definitely want to thank my heavenly father Yahuah [God’s Hebrew title, Price educates Boxing Social] for allowing me to get out of the ring safely.”
Strangely – or maybe not so in our sport – neither Dylan nor his father David found out about Rodriguez’s failed drug test. The fight’s result was changed from a loss to a no contest, and the journey continues. They found out via BoxRec – not from the Nevada State Athletic Comission or from then-promoters, TMT. Nevertheless, justice was served.
“Listen, nobody said we were going to do this whole thing undefeated,” David Price states, reflecting on Dylan’s temporarily stained record and the need to readjust. “We might finish [with a loss or two], I mean Floyd finished undefeated. Andre Ward and Joe Calzaghe finished undefeated, and Marciano finished undefeated. But there aren’t many fighters in this sport that have. You look at the Sugar Rays, Muhammad Ali, Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis, they’ve all lost. We just said, ‘Alright, you just took yours early, we’ll run with it from here’. We had to grab that lemon, put some sugar in it, and make some lemonade.”
With their lemonade on ice and ready to pour, Dylan Price and his father march on towards bigger fights. Fighting at 115lbs with their eyes on a move to 118lbs, they are grateful for Jeff Chandler’s achievements and for the profile of one of today’s finest super-flyweights in particular, Nicaragua’s Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. Those divisions that were often scoffed at, or ignored, are now heading up televised cards – it’s their time.
Though an excellent, accomplished champion, Chandler isn’t the first name that pops into the heads of Philly’s boxing enthusiasts. Forty years after Joltin’ Jeff’s crowning achievement, Dylan believes he can eclipse Chandler and topple Chocolatito even now, feeling more confident than ever.
David explains that he wants Dylan to be the “benchmark” for professionals to come, even 20 years down the line. The Price name, forever tied to Philadelphia, will be the measuring stick for smaller boxers. ‘Was he as good as Dylan Price? Could he have beaten a prime Dylan?’ are the questions this father expects to hear of his son. After all, he is unusually gifted.
Dylan finished determinedly, “I want my name to be talked about when my career is long gone. I want to be recognised with the best and there’s just something about me now, I don’t want anybody to be better than me. I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to achieve that goal. I’m going to get it done. I made my bones in boxing.”
Main photo: Sean Michael Ham/Mayweather Promotions.