I’m done time to end my career #retired
I have started to look at the unsung heroes in a wee weekly column that highlights the men who make a living from the sport of boxing rather than seek the glory of the belts and the nights under the lights as headliners.
This week I have focussed in on a guy who I would not really call a journeyman though after 60 fights where he has lost on 22 occasions, he may have ended up holding that accolade, worthy it may be or not.
It is former amateur internationalist, Bradley Pryce.
Pryce deserves attention, not because he became an undisputed champion or for the number of belts he held around his waist but for the time he gave to the sport and ultimately the decision he came to in January of this year, to retire. His decision brings down the curtain on a very respectable career.
Bradley “Sugar Sweet” Pryce made his professional debut in 1999. This is a Welsh boxing wizard who reached a pinnacle by holding a significant title – he was Commonwealth Champion at super welterweight from 2006 to 2008. He also fought for the British title twice and was a holder of the WBO intercontinental title in 2001 by beating Jason Hall. So the label of journeyman would be unfair though his initial promise might not have been realised he is a fighter people loved to watch, an entertainer who gave crowds enough to applaud and marvel at.
One Saturday in January his battling came to an end in a loss to Zach Parker which was his first stoppage in 8 years. His decision has reluctantly been come to, due to issues with his eyesight. Pryce believes that he would struggle with the stringency of the medicals so he has decided to struggle no more.
His pedigree is not in question and as one of the cream of Welsh boxing, he trained alongside the likes of Joe Calzaghe and Gavin Rees – grew from a very decent apprenticeship. Of course, like Rees his fondness for the ale and the hearty food of the valleys alongside American fast food chains did not help his progress in an elite athlete sport… Hence, perhaps his promise did not quite deliver what others thought he could achieve.
For critics, therefore, this was a lad whose promise was not realised. It is only, however, when you dispassionately sit to review what he did achieve you get a sense of what his career gave us as fans.
He exploded on the scene with 16 straight wins once he turned pro. His first loss – in fight number 17 – was a 6th stoppage to Ted Bami and that set him back on his heels.
The time had come to assess whether he wanted the professional boxing career or was his life was to be one long jamboree?
Pryce sat at the edge of the ring to ponder and then fate took charge and he ended up being the guy who was often called to fill the shoes of people who failed to turn up.
He continued to be a contender though, including a 2003 attempt to win the British title in Belfast which was lost in the 8th despite a very hardy attempt as Neil Sinclair took the title in front of his home fans.
It was a feature of his career that Pryce always contributed greatly to fights that he lost including for the EBU and WBC international title in 2013 against Siarhei Rabchanka who he also lost to in 2011 for the WBA international title. There was also a second British title attempt too against Michael Jennings in 2005; though these were not career defining, for his opponents they were battle after which they felt they had truly won something.
The battel that came to. really matter for Pryce was the win against Ossie Duran for the Commonwealth light middleweight belt at Newport Leisure Centre. It was his highlight and what a highlight! He went on to proudly defend that precious belt no fewer than 6 times.
In 2009, Mathew Hall was to wrench it from him in 2 rounds but the 6 wins to defend his belt were massive nights of triumph and triumphalism.
In 2009, like many who saw it as a career boost, he decided to enter Prizefighter, the format engineered by Eddie Hearn to bring boxing back into the spotlight. Pryce managed to get into the semi-finals before losing to Prince Arron. What was particularly sweet for Pryce was beating his former conqueror, Neil Sinclair to get there.
That loss in 2009 saw Pryce come out to bravely explain the bulimia that was blighting his fighting, his preparations and his life. That admission put into context the battles he had had with food before and the unfairness of accusations of failing to make his career the success that others thought it should.
Despite such bravery, it was youthful stupidity and the convictions he had accrued as a young man that stopped two massive paydays being his as he was refused visas to enter the US of A and fight on Calzaghe undercards in Madison Square Gardens and Las Vegas. The Americans would have loved him.
It was then he became a guy people wanted to fight and felt they had to beat in order to open up their markets. It included scraps against Billy Joe Saunders for the Commonwealth middleweight belt, Frankie Gavin and Chris Eubank Jr.
Throughout his career, Bradley Pryce proved that there is glory in boxing away from the glaring lights. He showed that the sport depends as much on the guys who fill the small halls as those that fill Wembley. Pryce is a true boxing champion, as it is a brave man that laces gloves, steps in the ring and fights; and a braver one who knows when it is time to call it a day and that is what Pryce has managed.