Heavyweight David Price's career is in ruins and Tony Thompson's is on the upswing again after their sloppy and messy yet thrilling slugfest on Saturday at Echo Arena in Price's hometown of Liverpool, England.
They wobbled each other repeatedly like drunken sailors in a bar fight, but in the end it was Thompson who scored the fifth-round knockout for a second consecutive upset of Price, whom he also knocked out in the second round at Echo Arena on Feb. 23.
There was so much hope for Price from so many in boxing. He was a 2008 British Olympic bronze medalist, was the 2012 ESPN.com prospect of the year and had even been prominently mentioned by heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko as a future possible title challenger. And he sure looked the part. He had been plowing through opponents, displayed a massive right hand and had an awesome physical presence at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds.
In their first fight, Price, the heavy favorite, hurt Thompson with his devastating right hand and was pounding him in the second round and on the verge of a stoppage victory only to see Thompson survive the onslaught and then catch him with a short right hand. Price went down and beat the count, but he was staggering and so wobbly that the fight had to be called off.
Opting for the immediate rematch rather than something a bit less taxing, Price and his team -- promoter Frank Maloney, trusted Maloney adviser Don Majeski and trainer Franny Smith – clearly made the wrong call.
Even bringing former heavyweight champion and Hall of Famer Lennox Lewis into the training camp to work with the 29-year-old Price proved to be worthless. "Lennox Lewis only had one training camp with the guy," Thompson said, going on to explain that it was not nearly enough time for Price to adapt any of Lewis' teachings.
Price neglected his almost four-inch height advantage, rarely jabbed and let himself get dragged into a slugfest with Thompson, a southpaw from Washington, D.C., who wore a black shirt into the ring that read "Pure Warrior."
That was Thompson's mindset, and Price allowed Thompson to make it a rough, physical fight. It was great for fight fans to watch but the entirely wrong fight for Price to engage in.
It seemed as though Price got caught up in trying to pound Thompson out after dropping him with him a clean right hand in the second round.
Thompson did not take the full force of the shot, which was lucky for him.
"It was a good knockdown but I was going backward and it wasn't a crunching right hand," Thompson said. "I was clear-headed the whole time."
Price (15-2, 13 KOs) continued to attack in the third round and should have been credited with another knockdown when he creamed Thompson (38-3, 26 KOs) with another right hand, sending him sagging into the ropes, which were responsible for holding him up. But referee Marcus McDonnell did not rule a knockdown and Thompson rallied to hurt Price with a left hand late in what was a wild, action round.
In the fourth round, they continued to trade fierce shots but Thompson came on strong. He battered Price to the body and was working him over as the round ended.
Price looked like he was nearly out of gas in the fifth round as Thompson unloaded on him. He must have landed more than a dozen shots from all angles during a furious onslaught that forced Price to retreat to the ropes. Thompson continued to let his hands fly and Price was done. He basically turned his back and leaned over the ropes in the corner, forcing McDonnell to issue an eight-count.
But when McDonnell was done counting, he looked into Price's eyes, saw that he was done and called the fight off at 1 minute, 55 seconds. Once again, the Echo Arena crowd was stunned. Once again, Price was stunned. And once again, Thompson was celebrating, having put himself back into the hunt for another title shot or, at the very least, another significant fight.
"I'd be a liar if I didn't say I had butterflies," Thompson said of his feeling coming into the fight. "He scared the hell out of me, but he brought the f------ best out of me."
Whatever Thompson does next, he will get a significant fight. But Price? Who knows. His future is very, very uncertain.
"He has to start over," Thompson said. "He was in great condition, but his mind wasn't. My mind is great. I'm a thinker. I saw him get tired. I discouraged him and, in the end, I stopped him."
Price did not speak after the fight, but Maloney -- who was on the verge of tears and taking the loss very, very hard -- did.
"Wrong sort of fight," he said quietly. "Tony Thompson showed his experience. All credit to Tony Thompson. I don't know what went wrong in there. That wasn't the game plan. I think he maybe [Price] wanted to make a point.
"Everyone in the camp is in shock. We knew it was a hard fight going in. We'll sit down and start looking at what to do. I don't think we want to have [another] rematch. I wasn't too keen on this rematch."
And now we know why.