Frank Warren's Column - 02/03/13
Last Saturday evening Liverpool heavyweight hope David Price became the latest unwelcome recipient of boxing's OBE – One Behind the Ear. The right shot, detonated on the right spot by US veteran Tony Thompson late in round two, left our rising prospect rising from the canvas on spaghetti legs and with a seriously addled mind.
Though 'Big Pricey' was vertical again before the full ten count was tolled, the fight was correctly terminated before the prowling Yank could inflict career ruining damage.
People harp on about China chins and glass jaws but, occasionally it is the bomb delivered to the temple or behind the ear that causes optimum damage, temporarily relieving even the toughest fighters of their senses and equilibrium.
With a sudden single blow, the 2008 Olympic medallist was transformed – in the eyes of the world's media, at least – from heir apparent to the Brothers Klitschko to the latest in a long chain of 'horizontal British heavyweights.' That is the unpredictability of boxing when its largest juggernauts collide.
Clearly this was not supposed to happen, certainly not against a 41 year old who'd been sparked himself in his previous fight and who landed at Liverpool's Echo Arena a whopping 17lbs heavier than he had been for that mandatory world title challenge to Wladmir Klitschko just seven months back.
It's now fair to assume that Price won't be stepping inside a world championship ring anytime soon. Faced with the sternest test of his 16 fight pro career, he appeared tense and his defence was inexplicably sloppy, his left glove flapping around his midriff as the wily southpaw Thompson glided around him to execute his coup de grace on an unguarded head. Price was outmanoeuvred every bit as much as he was out toughed.
Still, while there are clearly adjustments to be made, this certainly shouldn't signify the end of Price's world title aspirations. He is still only 29.
The great Joe Louis, both Klitschkos and, of course, our own Frank Bruno all incurred harrowing inside the distance defeats prior to advancing to The Greatest Prize in Sports. Price could too.
The lasting physical damage would be nominal, he copped a single hefty whack, not a sustained shellacking, but could the psychological and emotional scars be long term? Now the test is psychologically, can he cope when the pressure is cranked up again?
We know Price has the power and technical ability, now he must prove his mental fortitude by jumping straight back on his horse and into a meaningful test.
Provided Dereck Chisora regains his license and impresses in his scheduled return later this month, we could have a ready made North verses South crossroads fight that would the fans as the battle for Redemption.
Audley Harrison wins Prizefighter for a second time and suddenly he is primed to fill the chasm of world title contender left by David Price? Hardly!
He beat three non-entities in a glorified three round amateur scramble. Whoopeee! In 29 tournaments since its inception five years back, not a single Prizefighter entrant has advanced to world honours.
At the ripe old age of 41, Harrison assures us he's finally got himself in 'proper shape', if so it only confirms that he's been conning the paying public for the last dozen years. Disgraceful.
He's already flunked more golden chances than Emile Heskey and Fernando Torres combined and certainly isn't worthy of another one.
It's my steadfast belief that Nathan Cleverly is the premier 175lb fighter on this planet. And, after enduring an annus horribilis in 2012, I'm hell bent on delivering a formula that will permit the maths graduate to prove it this year.
The 26 year old Welshman not only has the boxing talent to unify the light-heavyweight belts but also the looks, lines and charisma to evolve into a huge 'cross-over' star outside the ropes.
The boxing boffin stormed to British, Commonwealth, European and WBO crowns by the age of just 24. However, two years on, he is still to secure the big name matches that would permit his profile to match his prodigious talent.
I'm sick of cynics who disparage his level of opposition thus far. People forget that Juergen Braehmer forfeited the world title just two days before he was due to make a mandatory defence against Nathan in 2010, or that the lad from the Cefn Forest comfortably defeated Tony Bellew – soon to fight a final eliminator for the WBC belt – in the Liverpudlian's home city in October 2011.
Then, just as we were finalising a break-out fight against Bernard Hopkins, Nathan incurred a genuine injury which place him on the side lines for a while. Neither Nathan nor I can be blamed for that.
Whatever, 2013 promises to be a momentous year in which I hope Cleverly has a minimum of three fights, and hopefully four.
He kicks off with a severe test on my blockbuster Wembley Arena promotion on 16th March against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi, a 6ft 1in 25 old year German based Kosovan who's won 38 on the bounce.
If 'Clev' negotiates that – and he'll need to be 100% focussed – a second mandatory awaits in the form of moody ex-champion Braehmer who has served three prison terms for violent offences. Shouldn't be a hard sell that one!
If Nathan can see off that formidable tandem in style, I should certainly be able to manoeuvre him into the unification spat he craves.