With two champions in his corner, unbeaten Price works to improve his craft

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Darwin Price probably doesn’t require any external motivation to put in the extra gym work required to become a championship-caliber fighter. But if the unbeaten 140-pound prospect did need such motivation, all he’d have to do is peer over his shoulder.

Darwin Price and Alvaro Ortiz

Darwin Price unleashes a left hook to the head of Alvaro Ortiz back on November 13. Price defeated Ortiz by unanimous decision and looks to move to 11-0 on Saturday when he faces Javontae Starks on NBCSN. (Eli Baylis/Premier Boxing Champions)

That’s because Price trains at the Houston-area Plex Boxing Gym, the same venue where 154-pound titleholders Jermall Charlo and Erislandy Lara ply their trade. All three are products of renowned Houston-based trainer Ronnie Shields, with the two champions often providing Price a metaphorical target at which to shoot.

“I talk to Charlo and Erislandy Lara all the time, and they give me a lot of inspiration,” says Price, a 27-year-old boxer-puncher who stands 5-foot-11. “Seeing them as champions come in and train hard, staying focused and not slacking, you want to push harder to get to where they are.”

Says Shields: “It’s a good thing for Darwin to witness [Charlo and Lara’s] success. Being there with them in the gym, Darwin’s seen what works for them and why it can work for him.”

So far, it’s seems to be working just fine for Darwin “Pay The” Price, who has dominated all 10 of his opponents, stopping half of them and winning unanimous decisions against the other half.

Price looks to continue his march from prospect to contender on Saturday when he competes in his first nationally televised main event against Javontae Starks (13-1, 7 KOs) at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

The scheduled eight-round clash, which will be at a 142-pound catchweight, will be Price’s second straight fight in San Antonio, following his eight-round, near-shutout victory over previously unbeaten Semajay Thomas at Scottish Rite Theatre on June 25.

“San Antonio is getting to know who I am,” says Price, a St. Louis native who will be fighting for the sixth time since February 2015 when he faces Starks. “It’s a great city to build my name in, and it’s becoming my second home. I have a few people coming there to check me out again."

Price says he is hoping to give his supporters a better performance than he did in his last fight, which he claimed was subpar—an odd assessment, considering he scored a first-round knockdown and cruised on the scorecards, winning 80-71 (twice) and 79-72.

“It was my first televised fight, so I was tight and overwhelmed,” Price says. “I dropped him with an overhand right, but I burned a lot of energy, didn’t fight like my usual self and did what I had to do to win.

“I’m my biggest critic, and I’m a better fighter than that.”

Price promises that his mental approach will be much different against Starks, a talented fellow 27-year-old from Minneapolis who won his first 13 bouts before dropping a narrow unanimous decision to then-unbeaten Samuel Figueroa in his last outing.

“I’m a lot more confident, relaxed and focused,” Price says. “I’m ready to dominate, but there’s always room for improvement and so much to learn. I’m not at the top of my game, but I will be, one day.”

He’s got at least one believer in Shields, who is eager to see his pupil learn from past mistakes and showcase his various skills against Starks.

“Darwin’s got to learn how to pace himself when a guy’s applying pressure like Thomas, but he got caught up in the hype of trying to stop him, and Darwin’s not a knockout guy,” Shields says. “I don’t want him thinking of one shot to take a guy out.

“Darwin’s been successful by working combinations behind his jab and setting guys up. I thought he did a good job [against Thomas], but he could have done a lot better. We’ll look for improvement in this next fight.”

For full coverage of Price vs Starks, hit up our fight page.

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