David Price: A Very Professional Beast

By Matt McGrain on August 28, 2012
David Price: A Very Professional Beast
Why would the professional code, less forgiving of his natural style, reap more rewards?

As a Scottish Highlander, obstinacy is as much a part of my character as a love for good whiskey and a change of mind does not always come easily…

I was not overly impressed with Price as an amateur. An absolutely huge man standing fully six-feet-eight with a reach measured at eighty-two inches he weighed in for his most recent professional contest at 245 lbs., in shape. With enormous physical advantages over almost every single opponent he met, his heralded unpaid career seemed underwhelming to me in terms of palpable achievement, a Commonwealth gold medal arguably his greatest success after his Olympic bronze medal earned in Beijing in 2008. 

Price, out of Liverpool, England, had a classically amateur style, straight-backed and straight punching, seemingly lacking smarts on the inside and variation in attack.  Occasionally hampering his own considerable physical advantages with a strangely deep stance and a habit of punching across himself, a questionable chin was also seemingly exposed by the superb Italian Roberto Cammarelle who stopped him with a left hook, and American Bermane Stiverne, who stopped him with right hands (now rocking something called the WBC Silver title, Stiverne is far more famous for his left).

When he turned professional I did not turn a cartwheel. After all, if Price’s amateur career was something of an underachievement, why would the professional code, less forgiving of his natural style, reap more rewards? 

Price has now convinced me. As a Scottish Highlander, obstinacy is as much a part of my character as a love for good whiskey and a change of mind does not always come easily. David looks to me like a fighter who takes instruction. When he was an amateur, he looked like an amateur. Now he’s a professional and now he doesn’t. A natural trainer he is boxing like someone who is also a natural learner. And he is taking his sport very, very seriously. A glance at his statistics tells us that there is a total variation in weight of only four pounds across his thirteen pro contests, every one of them a win, eleven coming by way of knockout.

Let’s take a closer look at this very professional beast.


Price is a box-puncher and technician, utilizing mobility and to put his opponent under a wide range of pressures. A very neat stalker, he is not just looking to trap his opponent and then unleash but boxes patiently positioning the opponent for jabs as much as for one of the right hands that now enjoy such a deadly reputation on the British boxing scene. 

Price is schooled enough to support this style and as he continues to learn, which seems inevitable given the rate at which he has displayed new abilities in his most recent fights, it is likely a method of boxing he will grow into.

David’s two best performances in the amateurs were his one-sided drubbing of another cracking professional prospect, Magomed Abdusalamov, and his shocking stoppage of Islam Timurziev. It is a fact, however, that each man was able to glide past Price’s jab and get to the inside where the bigger man had to hold and wait for the referee to intervene. This is no longer the case. One of the main reasons I was suspicious of Price’s ability to translate middling amateur success into serious professional success has become one of the main reasons he is to be acclaimed. Price has successfully augmented his style to suit the pro code.

Footwork and Balance

Recently, comparisons between David Price and the Klitschko brothers have begun to creep into commentary by fans and media alike. These are premature, to say the least, but this is an area where reasonable comparisons can be made. Price’s balance is superb.

There is a sense that he boxes well within himself. It is true that he is at heart a conservative fighter and nowhere does he benefit so completely from this as he does in this area. Given to overreaching as an amateur and early in his pro career, Price was ironing this problem as early as his eighth fight, a seventh round stoppage of Raman Sukhaterin. Now his stance is almost perfected and it is rare to see him make corrections. This is the base from which he is able to launch his now varied attacks whether he is stalking or covering up, leading or countering. It may be his most extraordinary attribute.

Areas of his footwork are almost as special. In his most recent outing against Sam Sexton, David’s only real challenge was to corner a smaller, quicker opponent ostensibly with faster feet. He did this with ease, stalking his man into range over and over again before finding his supposedly elusive opponent with relaxed punches. He likes small moves, crowding his opponent in narrow increments rather than with untidy rushes. He steps in well with his harder punches. His lateral movement tends to be more about pre-cutting the ring, something he does beautifully for a man of his experience but the small moves he makes when retreating or making room for punches are controlled and disciplined.

Previously, he has been guilty of finding himself pinned to the ropes when on the retreat but this appears to be something that he has eliminated as his ring awareness improved. Hopefully it is not a bad habit that will return to haunt him upon being hurt. For the meantime, he has shown technical ability that demands he is given the benefit of the doubt, turning Tom Dallas more than once during their June 2011 contest when he felt the rope touch his back.

The only remaining criticism of his footwork is the distancing. Regularly, Price gets far, far too close with his lead foot, sometimes planting it almost right outside his opponent’s lead whilst looking to jab or one-two. Often coming a little square across his shoulders, he neglects to utilize the fullness of his height and reach. These kind of distancing issues are what punchers and once-upon-a-timers like Audley Harrison—David Price’s October opponent—ask for for Christmas. Whilst it may make for a more exciting fight, it is also the only area where he shows a mechanical shortcoming in footwork that may end up costing him dearly. 

Ring Generalship

A legitimate box-puncher is always in pursuit of control of the action, the ultimate example at heavyweight being Wladimir Klitschko. Price is no different. Left to his own devices he likes to start a round more slowly then begin to sit down on his punches once he has established his jab and discovered his rhythm and range. This is the plan he brought to the ring for his English title fight with John McDermott but that plan was quickly supplanted by a fire-fight when McDermott decided to rush him. As described above, Price sometimes fights too close to the opponent when out-boxing and it allows these Hail Mary rushes to produce affects they should not. Try to imagine McDermott rushing Wladimir Klitschko for some idea of what I mean.

Of course, Price took immediate control of his gutsy opponent and thrashed him in quick-short time. But for just a moment, McDermott’s puncher’s chance was accented in a way that perhaps was not necessary. 

I would pick Price to be the ring general against fighters like Povetkin and Helenius (and he was anything but when the two met in the amateurs), men firmly entrenched in most people’s top ten heavyweights, were he to meet them tomorrow, but he is, and may remain, susceptible to extreme aggression if he continues to fall into this trap of boxing-long at close range.

Temperament and Mental Strength

This is the area in which is hardest to pin down a prospect, but the early signs are encouraging.

Firstly, Price seems a genuinely patient man. He has been discussed as a possible opponent for the Wladimir Klitschko. He and his brother have cleared out all willing opponents from their own generation and are now looking to the next one, a disturbing development underlined by Vitali’s recent drubbing of (then) 15-2 Dereck Chisora.

Price himself speaks of “waiting until he is ready.”

So does Alexander Povetkin but the difference is that Povetkin is now likely on the slide whilst Price has his peak in front of him. Timing is everything and Price knows it. I personally hope that he makes Wladimir and his brother wait. David should be thinking about dominating his own era, not taking on the only great heavyweights produced during the last.

Nor has the constant harping on his chin fazed him. As discussed, Price was repeatedly hurt in the amateurs and speculation regarding his mandible has been almost non-stop in the boxing media and on message boards. Price has taken it all in the stride—much as he took the free punch he had to swallow on his professional debut. Dropping his guard on the referees command to break, his enterprising opponent David Ingle took the opportunity to land a flush punch on the unsighted prospect, a punch that produced only minimal affects. Ingle is no world beater, and the moment when a top class puncher connects with Price’s jaw will indeed be a telling one but it must be noted that both Dallas and McDermott landed jarring rights upon him that had the same effect as the free shot Ingle landed—which is to say, almost nothing. Either way, Price continues to take the speculation, well, on the chin.

In addition to his patience and his seemingly boundless professionalism, Price showed absolutely no sign that the external pressures of expectation affected him even slightly. Grossly undermatched by a pleasingly resurgent Frank Maloney early in his career, the proclivities of the restless crowds did not appear to interest him one bit. Price does it his way in the ring and out of it.

But the standard of the opposition in that ring, and when he was moved on, the suddenness with which the improved competition has capitulated (his last four opponents had a combined record of 91-18 going in but lasted a total of only eight rounds between them) leave combat-tested clues as to how he will deal with adversity thin on the ground. It was notable though that when McDermott rushed him, pinned him to the ropes and pushed his forearm across his throat, Price was totally unruffled. He merely applied his superior size and strength and walked the smaller man out before thrashing him.

The jury must remain out here but the signs are the verdict will be a positive one.

Technique on Offense

The gains Price has made in this area are boundless.

In his first two fights as a professional he was feinting with the jab. This was not something he did with any success in the amateur ranks. Four years and thirteen fights later and he has finally turned that jab into a ramrod of a punch, using it to spear and control Sam Sexton throughout the four torrid rounds the smaller man managed to last.

He can use it to stab whilst on the retreat, an invaluable weapon for a heavyweight of his dimensions, but it is when he sits down on it going forwards that it becomes a truly terrible weapon. It has taken those four years and those thirteen fights to break him of the last habit he has carried over from the amateurs that was really hurting him, but he no longer prods or flicks with that jab. Trainer Franny Smith has done absolutely exceptional work with David, but this is his crowning glory. The first time Price knocked Sexton to the ground with seconds remaining of the third, a clipping right hand was the supposed finisher. But a replay revealed the truth. Watch Price drive that jab home in slow motion and watch Sexton’s legs give way under him as a result. This is not a punch where many heavyweights can lay claim to superiority. It is early days, but my suspicion is that by the end of next year we will be naming only one.

A little more variety in the punch would be nice, as would a jab to the body, but these are layers that may be added naturally with time and experience. 

Generally, however, body punching is not an area where Price needs more help from Franny Smith.  A decent body puncher even when he was boxing unpaid, Price has ramped it up a notch since turning professional. As early as May 2010 confrontation with Daniil Peretyatko, Price was leading with both right and left to the body and combinations either to the body or mixing his attack from high to low, have become commonplace.

More dangerous than his jab, or his body punching abilities, is the right. Price’s version of this punch is an interesting one. He shows real variety with his trailing hand, coming square to throw a tidy right hook, looping in an overhand version of the shot, and drilling the straight right down the pipe. This punch looks lethal and in three different incarnations has been responsible for the dispatch of Dallas, Sexton and McDermott all. Taken in tandem with his new and improved jab, this already makes up one of the more prestigious one-twos in the division.

Whilst his left hook is nothing like as prestigious, Price actually disguises this punch quite well, twisting it out of a seeming jab as early as his fight with Peretyanko. I think Price has been guilty of fighting right hand happy previously and although I think the jab may cure him of this, he should still look to hook more, as he did against Dallas, landing a couple of crackers. Whilst it’s a better punch when he goes to the body than when he goes to the head, he’s going to need that extra dimension as he moves through the ranks if he’s to be successful.

Also problematic is his infighting ability. As we shall see, Price looks to hang on when inside and although he emerged from a clinch to drop Sexton with a beautiful right hook, he generally lacks aggression and fluidity when he is up really close. A superb uppercut makes up for this shortcoming to some degree. Price may have a problem drawing bigger men onto this punch, but when he gets it working as he did against Sukhaterin (amongst others), it is a thing of beauty. Often disguised by his relaxed stance and surprisingly compact for such a big reach, I thought the right uppercut was going to be Price’s money punch for a long time and was pleasantly surprised by the dynamite in his longer right when he started to produce stoppages.

His left uppercut, too, is a nice punch and the one-two he showed off it against Tom Dallas made up perhaps the most wonderful three-punch combination he has yet thrown.

Finally, Price does not look like a natural finisher. When he’s relaxed, he punches as well as any man of his size, but when he ties up—as he tends to when going in for the kill—he suddenly starts missing. Against Osborne Machimana, who wanted to be anywhere in the world other than in the ring with David Price when they met last February, Price looked tight trying to dispatch his overawed opponent. Against a teetering McDermott he missed twice with punches he would have been landing had McDermott not been hurt and ready to go. Price is big enough and powerful enough that he might get away with this, hurting people as he does even when he doesn’t land clean, but sooner or later letting a hurt opponent off the hook will hurt him. Killer instinct can’t be taught but it can be learned. Hopefully Price picks it up along the way.

Technique on Defense

Dallas was likely the fight when Price’s defense came of age and he can be seen blocking well in this fight, parrying a right and slipping a left with real elegance just one minute into the first round. I think he’s become a natural reader of his opponent and he rarely seems surprised by punches. Audley Harrison is unlikely to work any changes upon him in this regard; in fact the ultimate Olympic underachiever’s reluctance to lead under any circumstances likely makes him easy meat for the Liverpool man, although Harrison is perfectly capable of providing a stern test to the Price chin should he land. Naturally wearing his head in the forwards position does make that chin a little more available than it may otherwise have been, but Price is becoming good at tucking it in and his guard is a good one, although he has a tendency to lay out the left hand in an advanced jabbing position for offensive reasons. This is another technique perfected by Wladimir Klitschko but the Champion has also become the absolute master at controlling range. Price is far from perfecting this art, and the position of his left is an occasional cause for concern.

Clinching rather than fighting up close, Price should look to Lennox Lewis for inspiration as far as this technique goes. Lewis, a man of similar dimensions, leaned, pushed and fouled beautifully up close drawing a toll from the opponent every time he clinched. Price is, at the moment, to polite in these clinches and a mean streak up close would do him no harm, especially if he isn’t comfortable offensively in there.

Still, his defense is generally quite solid and should he lose I think it more likely that a failing chin, engine or poor judge of range will be the culprits rather than a technical shortcoming on defense.

Speed and Power

Price is deceptively fast of hand and was in no way out-sped by Sexton, his quickest opponent to date. Both his straight and wide punches are swift and he is clever enough to be able to sacrifice power for additional speed should the circumstances call for it. Oddly, I’d consider the power issue as yet unresolved. Although he blasted the tough McDermott out in one, he was still gaining his feet at the time of the stoppage. Although he was the first man to stop Sukhaterin, I had the sense that the Belarusian was being worn down more than anything else, by a hurtful, technical offense.

I think that Price is a genuine puncher, but perhaps not a great one. The step up in class should tell. And that step up in class is coming. I don’t feel I’m sticking my neck out when I pick Price to beat Harrison. I suspect he has Tyson Fury somewhere in his not-too-distant future and I think he will prove the better of the two top British prospects. Before or just after that, Chisora may find himself in the other corner.

After that the world stage beckons, with rematches of amateur rivals Abdusalamov and Helenius possible introductions to the top 12.

On paper, Price has many qualities that make a champion, and one or two question marks where we need to see definitive answers to be sure. What does the man himself make of his chances?

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe I’d be successful at it.”

It’s taken some time, but I believe it too.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

David Price feature on Trans World Sport

Roberto Cammarelle vs David Price (Amateur fight)

Bermane Stiverne vs David Price of England in the Final Highlight

David Price v Magomed Abdusalamov (Amateur Contest)

David Price v Raman Sukhaterin Part 1

David Price v Raman Sukhaterin Part 2

David Price V Raman Sukhaterin Part 3

David Price vs Tom Dallas R1&2 KO

David Price vs. John McDermott

David Price vs Sam Sexton full fight

Bunce's Boxing Hour: Price v Harrison Confirmed

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 07:10am, 08/29/2012

    Matt McGrain-Simply a great report on this this up and comer….all things being equal, as Sherlock once said “it’s elementary Watson”..... and as applied to boxing “elementary” very often boils down to this…who hits the hardest and who can take the hardest hit!

  2. Matt McGrain 06:58am, 08/29/2012

    Yeah, Mike, I’m not sure that would do it…

  3. Mike Casey 06:44am, 08/29/2012

    If that happens, Matt, I’ll help you drink your whiskey. A three or four week binge should just about do it.

  4. Matt McGrain 05:11am, 08/29/2012

    Cheers gents.

    As regards the Harrison fight, Price should beat him (Though it may be dull) without a struggle but imagine the unthinkable happened?  It would be Fury-Harrison.  Fury affords Harrison far more chances.  Somehow, someway, Fraudley is only two fights away from a world title fight…again.

  5. the thresher 04:01am, 08/29/2012

    Great read and thanks for the info on David. He could be the next “big” thing.

  6. Mike Casey 02:41am, 08/29/2012

    Matt, this is an excellent analysis of David Price’s strengths and weaknesses. Much like you, I’m hedging my bets. I like his attitude and I just hope that cry of ‘Timber!’ at the back of my mind isn’t telling me the future. He’s doing everything right at the moment but doesn’t LOOK quite right to me. You somehow instinctively know when a guy’s got ‘it’ and when he hasn’t. But first things first, and he simply must beat Harrison!

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