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Price Is Right For Saturday Night Coronation

Welsh boxing superstar bids for glory on Saturday night in the Welsh capital.

Imagine if Gareth Bale – or Jess Fishlock, for that matter – had packed in football at the age of 20 as a full Wales international to take up another sport.

Now, consider the reaction if they had not only become an Olympic champion, but also world champion by the time they were still in their 20s.

Bale is a 0.5-handicap golfer and Fishlock’s personal fitness and dedication could have served her well in many fields, but it’s doubtful either could have got close to the success in a “second sport” earned by Lauren Price.

On Saturday, former international footballer Price – who won 52 caps – makes her first world title challenge as a professional boxer when she takes on welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill in Cardiff.

Price is shorter on experience and well as on height and reach. 

But she is also shorter in the odds market, with DragonBet making the Ystrad Mynach fighter 1/4 favourite to win at Cardiff’s Utilita Arena.

McCaskill is 10/3, with the draw at 20/1. Price is 10/1 to win by KO or stoppage.

Price has earned that status through the fact that although she has only had six pro fights since she won at the Tokyo Games, she has never lost a single round.

As an amateur, it was not all plain sailing, though. Not long after starting out in 2011 – while still combining football with her ring career – she lost four fights in a row.

But she proved adaptable and determined, taking note of all styles and types of opponent. As she gained confidence and grew more streetwise, the red defeat icons in her record began to give way to blocks of winning green.

Price won in India, Bulgaria, Russia and Belarus before finally striking gold in Japan at the delayed 2020 Olympics.

Now, she insists, she is at the right age and career stage to put all those experiences to good use by overcoming a champion who, at 39-years-old, is 10 years her senior.

The American has lost three fights in her career, but never lost as a welterweight.

In women’s boxing, fighters tend to reach their peak older than their male counterparts, but Price believes her time has come.

“Every style I’ve come across in the amateurs has obviously set me up for fights like this,” says Price.

“I’m at my peak. I’m just ready for it. She’s been around, she’s done it.

“I respect her, as well, for taking the fight for starters. I called a lot of the champions out and I didn’t really get much back. It’s a good fight, but it’s also a fight I believe I’m ready for and I’m going to win.”

In many ways, Price’s career has mirrored that of her inspiration, Katie Taylor, the Irishwoman who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Like Price, Taylor was a former footballer and the pair both left the amateur ranks to turn pro in the aftermath of their gold medal Olympic glory.

In order to make ends meet when still an amateur, Price held down a variety of jobs, including a taxi driver in Caerphilly. That, too, was good preparation for her world title challenge.

“I could tell some funny stories from those days,” she says. “You see some sights and you have to be able to remain cool and calm and do your job.”

As well as aiming to get the WBA and WBO belts around her middle, Price is also looking to do something else she is yet to achieve – to win as a professional in front of a home Welsh crowd.

“I want to bring big nights back to Cardiff,” she says. 

“Since I turned professional, that’s been one of my biggest goals. Obviously, once the bell goes, I block everything out. But that’s how I’ve been brought up from a boxing point of view, never listen to the crowd. She [McCaskill] is coming into the Dragon’s Den.”

If Price does win on Saturday, then her former Wales Commonwealth Games coach Colin Jones – a man who fought, and lost, in two world title bids – has no doubts that Price stands comparison with any Welsh fighter of recent years, male or female.

“To become a world champion takes something special,” he says.

“Lauren is right up there with any of them.”

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