It’s all about the criteria.
If all that mattered were neurotic fanbases and gushing television broadcasters, David Price would be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Meanwhile, if it only came down to pre-fight cool and post-fight hilarity, that very same title would be the dominion of one Tony Thompson.
The problem for both, however, is that there’s a little more to it than adoration or comedy.
That’s why, even in the aftermath of a cracking good—and unavoidably compelling—show from Liverpool’s Echo Arena, the supreme being of all things north of 200 pounds remained the same at the end of Saturday as it had been when the day began.
That man is Wladimir Klitschko. Everyone else is playing for second place.
And that reality looks no closer to changing now than it has at any point in 15 fights, since it began with a pummeling of Chris Byrd in 2006.
In truth, the younger Klitschko’s claim to the heavyweight throne would not have been immediately jeopardized regardless of the result from England. Thompson and Price entered the ring as just the No. 9 and 21 contenders in the IBO’s computerized rankings, and while their IBF slots at No. 8 and No. 14 were slightly better, neither seemed an imminent candidate for world domination.
In fact, the 41-year-old Thompson had already tried and failed twice with the top man, putting in 11 moderately competitive rounds in Hamburg, Germany in 2008 and supplementing them with six more far less threatening sessions nearly four years to the day later in Bern, Switzerland.
No one, not even his own kin, was forming a line for a third showing of that horror flick.
So when it came to the potential to actually change the heavyweight world view, it was Price who had it.
He had the frame at 6’9”, he had the connections with celebrity trainer Lennox Lewis and he had the following, as proven by a capacity crowd in Liverpool that gave him a hero’s welcome and helped make him a prohibitive favorite against a man who’d stopped him with one punch 133 days earlier.
And for about nine minutes—using the same sort of confident aggression Lewis displayed in rematches with past KO conquerors named McCall and Rahman—it actually looked as if Price might have the stuff to at least be considered worthy of appearing with Klitschko, if not actually challenging him.
Just five minutes later, however, the heavyweight hopes of England were crushed.
And the flock of suitors was culled by a pair.
Not only was Price dumped far beyond the back of the line of contenders, but the twice-beaten Thompson indicated no interest in another crack at his nemesis—instead settling for a role of high-ranked gatekeeper for the championship tier.
As the heavyweight champion of everyone else, as it were.
“I got beat by the best in the worst way,” Thompson said on the English-based Box Nation broadcast. “But if you take one step below the best, you’re not going to beat me. A lot of guys are a step below Klitschko, but I’m over that step.”
Going forward, it’s hard to imagine anyone joining him soon.
The eight men above him in the IBO rankings are hardly without flaws.
Three of them (David Haye, Tomasz Adamek and Odlanier Solis) have already lost to either Wladimir or his WBC champion brother Vitali, and a fourth (Seth Mitchell) was KO’d in two rounds just two fights ago by Wladimir’s trainer, Johnathon Banks, and barely survived to win a June rematch.
Is anyone in the top 10 capable of beating Wladimir Klitschko?
Unbeaten Russian Alexander Povetkin will get his chance at Klitschko later this year, but he has not fought a foe ranked higher than 39th in the past 12 months. Finnish export Robert Helenius is similarly untested at position No. 3—with no recent wins better than No. 33—while it appears Thompson will be happy to step in and intercept No. 6 Tyson Fury, who he mentioned by name after routing Price.
“I would love to fight Tyson Fury,” he said, referring to comments, via ESPN.co.uk, Fury made earlier this year in which the 25-year-old indicated he’d not be beaten by a "granddad." “Let’s get it on, man.”
With such a formidable screener and an iffy chase pack, Klitschko might just be champ for life.