(David Price, left; John McDermott, right)
The Olympia in Liverpool has a busy schedule on its hands this weekend, playing host as it does to a succession of fight nights commencing Friday. Heavyweight colossus David Price and battle-torn lightweight “Dirty” Derry Matthews will be hoping to make it into the winner’s enclosure surrounded by friends, a feat which has proven problematic for the red half of Merseyside of late. In fact, so blunted has their cutting edge been in recent games, acerbic critics of the city’s most famous football club have suggested that their terrace anthem be amended to “You’ll Never Win At Home.”
Price is a 6’8” former Team GB amateur whose opponents to date (to murder a McIlvanneyism) have shown the same measure of agility as the tribute to Bill Shankly which bristles in the wind outside Anfield, albeit with less purpose. Shanks, at least, keeps his hands up at all times. After rolling over his promotional stablemate, Tom Dallas, last summer, Frank Maloney feeds him another in the portly shape of Essex trier, John McDermott.
McDermott, 26-7 (17), is as well known for what he’s almost achieved as what he has in reality. Back in 2009, the Horndon chugger lost a trio of nip and tuck affairs which on different nights could quite easily have been seen his way. The first pair of those came against the remnants of Danny Williams in a brace of kooky and unseemly British title fights. McDermott came within a smidge of taking Williams out in their first meeting before being pipped to a split decision in the return. Then, to round out a thoroughly demoralising year, “Big Bad” John rallied to put the wind up a still baby-stepping Tyson Fury, with a determined shift that many felt merited a win (yet wound up being scored horribly for Fury by referee Terry O’Connor).
An incredulous Maloney fought tooth and nail to secure a rematch. Once again McDermott was going along pretty well until Fury, spluttering on fumes, caught him with a pitter-pat flurry late in the bout which rather disappointingly siphoned away McDermott’s ambition.
Price has shown only basic technique thus far. He holds his left hand low and relies almost exclusively on a rudimentary one-two, which has been more than enough to see him home in each of his eleven starts. In today’s heavyweight division, rarely will a specimen of Price’s dimensions encounter an opponent who is willing to look past them in order to try and win.
Questions remain, though -- questions about the big fellow’s chin in the main, which stem back to when he fought in a headguard and vest. Despite earning a bronze medal at the Beijing Games, the lasting memories of his work there comprise of him listing into the ropes after fielding a sharp left from the eventual champion, Roberto Cammarelle.
McDermott is coming off the finest (legitimate) win of his career, after he derailed the unusually hard-punching Larry Olubamiwo in a minute and 15 seconds. It was a similar trick to the one he pulled against Pele Reid back in ’08 and one which upholds the idea that even a semblance of defensive technique will usually be enough to trump the absence of any at all.
Should McDermott manage to land a haymaker again then he has every chance of scoring a big upset here. Price, though, is unlikely to be anything other than measured. He’ll peck and poke at McDermott with his jab before lowering the boom with a straight right hand which, should it land square, will probably be all that he needs. If McDermott’s fitness could be relied upon he would be well advised to glue himself to Price’s chest before aiming to tire out the younger man who, it should be noted, has yet to negotiate seven straight rounds as a pro and has been involved in only 32 in total, with the majority of those having been fought at his own comfortable pace.
Matthews warms the crowd up a day earlier against the unbeaten Italian champion at lightweight, Emiliano Marsili. This is a strange one which has come to fruition at the behest of the IBO – yet another alphabet gang in the ever expanding list of boxing’s governing bodies. Matthews, who is ranked no higher than 25th with this organisation and Marsili (rated 35th) will, surprisingly, contest their lightweight world title.
As baffling as that is to conjure with, a win will probably help to inflate the winner’s future purses and so, while it’s easy to scoff at its merits, the match remains an important one for both.
Marsili, 23-0-1 (9), has yet to fight outside of his homeland. Internet footage reveals a compact but aggressive southpaw who’ll look to set up in front of Matthews and then chop away at him before retreating into a shell whenever the home fighter answers back in kind.
Matthews, 29-5-1 (15), has been pegged as something of a wasted talent. “Dirty” was an amateur starlet tipped for big things when he emerged as a featherweight fledgling. After tallying good wins over John Simpson and Stephen Foster Jr. the wheels came off in 2008 against Mongolian slugger Choi Tseveenpurev. Beset by personal problems and distractions away from the ring lights, Matthews proceeded to suffer consecutive stoppage defeats against Martin Lindsay, Harry Ramogoadi and Scott Lawton, disasters all and persuasion enough for him to enter into retirement.
His inevitable comeback in 2010 can be viewed as a success. A run of 8-1 (4), including revenge wins over Choi and Lawton, lodged against just a single reverse (to current British junior lightweight boss Gary Buckland in the final of a 2010 Prizefighter tournament) propelled Matthews to a European title crack at Welshman Gavin Rees. Unfortunately, the close battle which ensued had to be abandoned as a technical draw in the 4th, after Rees bore in with his head and spread Matthews’ nose across his face.
Matthews is tall, wide shouldered and has a mantis-like reach. Better striking from range, too often he finds himself drawn into close quarter brawls unsuited to his gait. Despite the frailties of his past, Matthews has a bit of momentum going for him right now and he brings with him excellent support, ingredients which should carry him home to a world title of sorts, one which may be seen as fool’s gold to some but nothing less than the end of a rainbow for “Dirty.”