Prospect is a term that is thrown around continually within boxing circles. Many carry the label and they either thrive under it or the pressure gets too much. One prospect who appears destined to thrive is Hopey Price.
The 20-year-old super-bantam debuted at the end of 2019 before he was handed a spot on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia; a big show of faith for the then teenager. Not that he displayed even the slightest glimpse of being fazed.
Price picked up his first stoppage win over Swedi Juma (WTKO3) and was ready to be showcased as one of the sport’s bright new prospects to watch. Then the world shut down. Price, however, kept working and was rewarded with a place on the second week of Matchroom’s Fight Camp.
He demonstrated his class and potential as he breezed past Jonny Phillips, who had fought up as high as welterweight, and the size difference was clearly evident. Now Price is looking to prove that there is much more to come.
“I took the fight with Phillips probably a bit earlier than I would have done, but that is just how it is going to be now for younger fighters now in the current climate,” Price (3-0, 1 KO) told Boxing Social. “There is less of a chance to build up a record and you have to make the chances you are handed count.
“Like any other fighter, I’m just waiting for the call and ticking over in the gym. You can’t go 100mph because you don’t want to burn out and these foreign opponents aren’t going to be coming over for some fighters to pick up those easy wins. You know now that every fight you go into is going to be a proper test and there is nowhere to hide.
“The Phillips win was one I was really happy with. You can look at his record and pick holes in it, but he wasn’t coming to make up the numbers. He came to have a real go and it brought out the best in me because I didn’t have to go looking for him.
“Now I’ve got that experience to add to going to Saudi, where [I was] flooded with media requests and bumping into famous people. I’m not one to let an occasion get to me and it does sound cliché, but a ring is a ring to me. It fills me with confidence that I’m able to perform exactly the same with a massive crowd or with no one there at all.”
Price appears well suited to the pros. However, he has an exceptional amateur pedigree and in those circles he was already earmarked by many as a certainty to compete for Team GB at the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. Hopes for Hopey were high to say the least.
But the Leeds lad had different plans. He had had a stellar youth career and winning tournaments was just part of the process. He had been wearing the England vest and, although the Olympics was an original goal, it was pushed to the wayside as he treaded water waiting for others to plot his path.
In the end, he took the decision making into his own hands and Price, to the surprise of those in the unpaid code, turned over. A decision that he remains very happy with as he explained.
“I’ve been boxing for England since I was 14. I only had three club bouts and then the next 50 or so were all for national titles or internationally,” said Price. “I was cleaning up in this country and then I started doing the same for England. I won it all, except the World’s where I got a bad decision, which is part and parcel of the amateurs.
“I won the Youth Olympics and was ranked number one for my age, so the plan was to go into the Team GB set-up. I’d beaten some of the guys that were already there and I was ready for that step up to senior level. Then my trial kept getting pushed back and it had been five months since I’d fought.
“I’d missed out on tournaments like the under-22 European’s and I couldn’t get a fight, so I knew it would be the end of 2019 before I even got anywhere, when the focus would be on qualifying for Tokyo. It was a tough decision and I had a long think, before concluding that the wait for 2024 was too long.
“It would have been incredible to go to the Olympics. But I weighed it all up and thought where could I be at 24 or 25 in the pros? I believe I’m capable of being a world champion, so why wait four more years when I could be on the path immediately as a professional.”
For Price, the next decision was who would be the man in the corner? His father who had served as his amateur coach and, unsurprisingly, is a knowledgeable man in all aspects of the sport agreed that his son would be best served staying up north.
The first option was Dave Coldwell. A friend of his had a contact for the Rotherham trainer and the two spoke over the phone. Price readily admits that Coldwell was unsure but he agreed to the young Leeds star coming to the gym for a session. The pair haven’t looked back.
Price recalled: “I came for my session and sort of never left. I didn’t want to go to London and, let’s be honest, the best trainer in the UK is almost right on my doorstep. Dave doesn’t just work with anyone, he has to be sure and I’m so happy that he is working with me and is in my corner.
“The gym is like a family. The bond between us all is so strong. I trust him and he has delivered on everything. He’s said to me that with the current situation with Covid-19, you might be fortunate to only get a couple of fights a year and it will always be a step up. There is no such thing as progressing slowly anymore.
“So I’ve altered my ambitions and I’m looking to have a couple more fights then I want to be fighting for titles. I’ve got my eye on becoming British and Commonwealth champion at super-bantamweight very soon but the end goal has always been the same. I’m going to become a world champion.
“To reach that goal, I have to pass all the tests that are put in front of me and they are going to be tougher than they would have been before Covid. I think I’m ready to step up and my team thinks the same. As soon as I have the date, I’m looking forward to continuing to impress.”
Coldwell was also glowing in his praise of his young charge. The Rotherham-based trainer has experienced everything in the sport and believes Price is destined to go a long way in boxing. It appears that Coldwell has unearthed another gem.
“Ideally you want a prospect like Hopey Price to be out around seven times, so to get three in his first year during the pandemic was fortunate,” said Coldwell. “Fighting on cards like Fight Camp and, in particular, Saudi Arabia are the things that you dream of as a fighter, at any point in your career.
“He handled it so well though and took it all in his stride. I believe this kid is the best prospect in the UK. He’s so young with so much potential and just soaks it all up like a sponge. By the end of 2021, he’ll be the name on everybody’s lips.
“The fight with Phillips was so important. Phillips had fought up at welterweight, was very aggressive and Hopey gave away a lot of weight. He did everything right, against a bigger, stronger man. He punches hard now, so imagine when his strength comes and he grows physically, imagine what he’ll do then.”
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.