News November 2017

One Last Time for Welsh Warrior Sugar Sweet “Even now I’ll be a league above Sarkozi”


By Michael J Jones

ON DECEMBER 1st in Bristol, the long career of Welsh warrior Bradley “Sugar Sweet” Pryce is set to conclude when the former Commonwealth champion faces Dan Sarkozi over eight rounds. It will be the 36 year old’s 63rd pro fight in his eighteenth year as a pro fighter for his contest at the Dolman Exhibition Hall.

It has been quite a journey for Pryce who turned pro in 1999 and, after prevailing in his first sixteen contests, it has been a career of various ups and downs. Now 38-24 (20), the bare numbers do little justice for a tough and talented boxer who has met consistently high class opposition since his debut.

Typically, December 1st opponent Sarkozi is no push-over for the soon-to-be retired Newport veteran. Seven years younger at 29, the Bristol-based welterweight brings a respectable 10-2 record to the contest as well as home advantage.

Pryce has seen it all before however and Livefight caught “Sugar Sweet” in a confident mood a few days ago when we called to talk about the Welsh-man’s final contest.

“People have expected me to retire for a while now but I just kept going” Pryce tells Livefight. “I’ve made the decision and actually chose this fight to end my career with. I looked at all the shows for the end of the year and noted Sarkozi was without an opponent for December 1st.”

“I called Chris Sanigar and the fight was made. Sarkozi’s a welterweight so the fight will be at 10st 12 and an on the day weigh-in.”

“Training has been going very good, I’ve just been ticking over trying to get my weight down. I’ve not been this low for eight or nine years but it’s a good weight for me. I’ve been taking fights the last few years at middleweight and super-middleweight so it’s nice I’m going back to a weight where I’ll be at my best again.”

Much was expected of Pryce when he turned pro in the late 90’s. A former multiple Welsh ABA champion who was also a full ABA champion, the young Welshman impressed for much of his 76-4 amateur career before turning pro under Frank Warren with Enzo Calzaghe as head trainer.

Pryce quickly established himself as a formidable force as a super-featherweight/lightweight and raced to 16-0 (10) while showing lightning-fast hand-speed, dazzling skills and supreme confidence. It seemed only a matter of time before the streaking prospect was mixing it at the top level but, as often the case in boxing, potentials can fall short with even the most talented fighters.

“I was an excellent amateur but I never really gave a hundred percent at any stage of my career” reveals a reflective Bradley. “I was never fully dedicated and it showed in the way my career has gone. Right now for this last fight, I’m probably the most dedicated I’ve been my whole life. I’m not eating rubbish, not drinking any crap and living cleanly the way I always should have been living.”

“You do wonder sometimes what could have been but I’ve still had a good career and I’m proud of it.”

It was the dangerous fists of Ted Bami that would end the unbeaten run of Pryce and, in the years following, terrific wins would follow shocking defeats as the Newport fighter struggled to find the consistency required to succeed at the highest level.

In 2006, the 24 year old Pryce would upset Ghanaian Ossie Duran to lift the Commonwealth light-middleweight title in what would prove the highlight of his pro career. The Welshman would stay the Commonwealth champion for three years before a bitter loss to Manchester puncher Matthew Hall.

“Winning the Commonwealth title was probably the biggest high of my career but the lowest was definitely that loss to Hall” comments Bradley of his shocking two-round loss that clearly still rankles him some eight years later.

“I wanted the rematch to put it right but it never came off.”

In the years following his disappointing title defeat to Hall, Pryce has continued to box a high calibre of opponent and has often drawn praise for brave distance defeats against the likes of Sergei Rabchenko, Chris Eubank Jr and Billy Joe Saunders but admits his passion for the sport has declined in recent years.

“These last few years I’ve just been going through the motions really, taking fights where it didn’t matter if I won or lost, away from home and at higher weights. It’s been better in a way as there’s never been any real pressure on me but I feel I’m not nervous at all about this being my last fight and I’m training harder for this one than I have for years.”

The 36 year old entered 2017 off a points defeat to Irishman Luke Keeler in Dublin but, just two months later, would suffer his first inside-schedule defeat in over seven years to the heavy-handed prospect Zach Parker. The contest was waved off in the fourth as Parker moved to 10-0 and has since shown his punching power when stopping Luke Blackledge in the first.

“He’s usually a light-heavyweight or super-middleweight but they made it at a catch-weight so I took the fight. I probably should have turned it down, but I didn’t want to say no, so I took it and he was a very powerful boy and caught me with a good shot.”

Pryce would slip to another points defeat in June before suffering another knock-out to Scott Fitzgerald in his last bout two months ago.

“That last one against Fitzgerald he just caught me. I could have continued but they stopped it.”

The Fitzgerald reverse was Pryce’s only sixth inside-distance defeat in nearly two decades and 62 bouts. Now comes Dan Sarkozi on December 1st and Bradley, as always, is talking a very good fight ahead of the contest.

“I’ve never seen him fight but people told me about the fight he had with (another Welshman) Gareth Piper a few years ago. Piper was 1-8-1 but everyone said he won well with no problems. That was a while back but I still feel Sarkozi shouldn’t be in the same league as me.”

“He doesn’t look too tough but, at this stage of my career, everyone’s a tough fight for me these days.”

“It’s in his neck of the woods in Bristol but he’s got no stoppages on his record so I’ll be the one with the power at the weight and can end the fight inside schedule.”

“I’ve come to the decision and I’m definitely ending my career now. Boxing puts far too much strain on the mind and body. I’ve not been put through too much in recent years but I’m training harder than I have in years and I want to go out with a win.”

As our conversation reaches its climax I ask what the future will hold for the long-time pro boxer?

“I’ll still have to go out and work unfortunately but I’ve been working in security for a while now and will carry on with that. It’s hard work doing shifts but it could be worse. I’ll be spending more time with my girlfriend and kids once I’ve retired from boxing.”

“I’d just like to thank everyone who has bought a ticket and is coming down to Bristol to support me for this last fight. The last few times I’ve boxed it’s just been a mate and my girlfriend and that’s it so it’s nice to get a few supporters again for this fight.”

There are many who witnessed Pryce’s amateur career and the way he began his pro journey and tell you he massively under-achieved. That may well be true but it’s still been a terrific career filled with classy performances in victory and brave showings in defeat.

The Welshman has also battled bulimia and alcoholism through various stages of his fighting years but is still in remarkably good nick after 62 bouts. The former long-time sparring partner of Joe Calzaghe has not scaled the heights of his one-time gym mate but has left his own mark on Welsh boxing as a tough and courageous competitor.

The old version of Pryce would have had too much flair and speed for Sarkozi but these days the playing field is even and victory is not guaranteed, especially away from home. Livefight feels the younger man may just pinch a close decision in front of his home fans but look for Pryce to give him something to think about along the way.

Parting shots

At one time in the Calzaghe gym were Pryce, Joe Calzaghe, Gavin Rees, Enzo Maccarinelli and Gary Lockett. Only Pryce failed to win a version of the world title (Lockett held the WBU belt for a while).

Pryce would make six defences of the Commonwealth title, including brilliant stoppages of Anthony Small and Martin Concepcion, before Hall beat him. He maintains his camp for the Hall fight was his worst one as he crashed weight and had little left by fight time.

Bradley is one of only ten men to have stopped the legendary Peter Buckley in 300 fights. The two had previously gone the distance but Pryce got him out in one in the return.

Pryce first brought himself attention in the pros when he stopped Gary Reid live on Sky Sports. That night, he looked like a lanky Prince Naseem as he speared Reid repeatedly with flashy combinations while barely taking a shot in return.

For the majority of his 24 defeats, even ones which occurred in his prime, Pryce took the fight at very late notice. Even some of his most famous victories were taken at last minute.

Pryce didn’t box in Wales as a professional until his eleventh fight.

When the Welshman took Ricky Hatton protégé Rabchenko the full twelve rounds in 2011, it broke the Belarusian’s eleven-bout KO streak. Pryce took the fight at late notice but gave Rabchenko a good fight.

The two men would meet two years later with Rabchenko, boxing on home turf, taking another decision.

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