An attempt to assess the career of Bradley Pryce (b. 1981) presents one with the trickiest of conundrums – the Newport bad boy could have achieved so much more with his career, but also so much less.
Having been inspired to take up boxing by watching his brothers Byron and Delroy at the Enzo Calzaghe gym in Abercarn, a 10-year-old Pryce embarked on an impressive amateur career.
Pryce turned professional in 1999 at the age of 18 and was victorious in his first 16 fights, benefiting from plentiful sparring with his close friend Joe Calzaghe.
‘Sugar Sweet’ was even closer to another member of the gym, his partner in crime Gavin Rees.
The talented duo both freely admit to being overly attracted to junk food and alcohol, indulgences they would not forego in the build-up to fights.
Pryce also fell foul of the law with a conviction for domestic violence.
The loss – and, arguably, the lack of professionalism – meant that Pryce would never be a promoter’s protected prospect, a man who could be steered towards a world title.
Instead, the ever-game and ever-competitive Welshman became ‘the opponent’, the fighter to call on at the last minute following a late withdrawal, or the man to pitch in against the game’s hottest prospects.
In 2003 he was called up as a late replacement to face champion Neil Sinclair for the British welterweight title, Pryce losing a spirited eight-round war in front of the Northern Irishman’s adoring Belfast fans.
He then dropped points decisions against Thomas McDonagh for the WBU international light-middleweight crown and Michael Jennings for the British welterweight title.
But Pryce followed the Jennings loss with the first major title win of his career, a 12-round points victory over Ossie Duran for the Commonwealth light-middleweight belt.
The triumph was all the more sweet for Sugar as it came in front of his home crowd at Newport Leisure Centre.
Pryce made six successful defences in the period 2006-9 and was part of the Enzo Calzaghe stable’s record-breaking run of success.
The glory nights included a victory over Thomas Awinbono at the Millennium Stadium, an impressive three-round defeat of Martin Concepcion, and a memorable seven-round stoppage of much-vaunted prospect Anthony Small.
It all came unstuck in March 2009, though, when Pryce was destroyed in two rounds by the heavy-hitting Matthew Hall, the Mancunian fighting in front of his home fans at the MEN Arena.
Pryce looked devoid of all strength as he was dropped three times in the second round, and only later did the full explanation emerge.
He later confessed that he had been battling the eating disorder bulimia in the build-up to the fight and had been making himself sick up to four weeks before in order to make the weight.
“I have to sort my diet out now,” said Pryce several weeks after the loss. “It’s dangerous to do things like I did and I am thankful because it could’ve been a lot worse.
“I tried making myself sick and the weight just started falling off. I was eating what I wanted and then just bringing it back up.
“But it meant I was too weak to get into the ring, let alone fight. It wasn’t me at all and I am ashamed of it.”
The defeat meant Pryce was back to being ‘the opponent’, and mixed results have since been the story of his career.
His checkered past also cost him two 2008 pay-days in the States when Joe Calzaghe fought in Las Vegas and New York’s Madison Square Garden, the US authorities denying Pryce a visa to enter the country.
The Welshman continued to be never less than competitive, though. In 2012 he lost a hard-fought points decision against Billy Joe Saunders in a challenge for the Commonwealth middleweight title.
Then – again as a late replacement – he gave fast-rising Chris Eubank Jr the toughest bout of his fledgling career before dropping an eight-round points verdict.