- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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LIVERPOOL, England -- Tony Thompson showed the relentless nature of the heavyweight division by obliterating the world title aspirations of promising British prospect David Price with a second-round stoppage in his hometown on Saturday night.
The one-punch knockout sent shockwaves throughout the division.
Thompson (37-3, 25 KOs) was supposed to be a steppingstone for the 29-year-old Price, who entering the fight was unbeaten in 15 starts, with 13 stoppages. But the 41-year-old Washington native, who twice unsuccessfully challenged for Wladimir Klitschko's world championship, silenced the home arena with a crippling right hook that landed behind Price's left ear a little more than two minutes into the second round.
"It was a funny shot; it perforated my eardrum," said Price, whose manager, Frank Maloney, collapsed after the post-fight news conference after his blood pressure dropped from not eating all day. "I threw an uppercut, and he caught me around the back of the ear. My legs went from underneath me. That shot didn't look like much, but it just scrambled me."
The 6-foot-8 Price's legs deserted him upon impact, and he crumpled to the canvas as Thompson's corner exploded in celebration. The Beijing Olympic bronze medalist struggled to his feet but was mercifully halted by referee Steve Gray.
"It hasn't sunk in yet to be honest, but that's heavyweight boxing -- you get caught," Price said. "It's not the end of the world. I've been knocking people out like that so far, but I'm not invincible. Anyone can get caught or hurt. One punch doesn't change who I am. Everything happens for a reason. This could turn out to be a positive in my career."
Thompson did his own version of Muhammad Ali's celebration after defeating Sonny Liston by berating press row, saying, "I told you. He fell for my tricks. He fell for the tricks."
Price was being lined up for stadium fights in the United Kingdom, with a hugely lucrative domestic clash expected first against Dereck Chisora and inevitably against Tyson Fury. But those plans are now set back at least 12 months.
"I'm gutted as it stands now," Price said. "Of course I'm disappointed. I never took this fight lightly. But I've got a great team and we will come back as one. Let [Thompson] enjoy the victory. I'm not going to start calling him out here and asking for the rematch."
Thompson, meanwhile, picks up where Price left off. He's clearly rejuvenated his own world title hopes, although with two stoppage defeats against Klitschko, a third fight is unlikely. Thompson did call out the 6-foot-9 Fury on Saturday regarding a bout that could be in the cards if the unbeaten British giant survives his American debut against Steve Cunningham in April.
"I wasn't shocked by that finish at all," Thompson said. "A lot of people were writing my career off before me and my team were. But my wife gave me the 'Rocky' speech to get back in there and fight. This is a shock to you all; I accept that. But this is what we do."
Price looked tentative in the opening round, showing the southpaw Thompson far more respect than he showed his last victim, Audley Harrison, whom Price obliterated in a matter of seconds at the same venue in December. Price pawed nervously with his left jab, fainting throughout while Thompson simply circled the ring keeping out of range.
In the second round, Price began to press forward and unloaded a barrage of punches with Thompson pinned in his corner, but the wily veteran was never in any real danger.
Nick Peet is a boxing contributor for ESPN.com.
2dMalik Smith, ESPN Stats & Information