THE FORMER PRO KICK-BOXER TELLS MATHEW SCOTT ABOUT HIS STRATEGY HEADING INTO THE BIGGEST FIGHT OF HIS CAREER.
Underestimating Chris Algieri might not be such a good idea.
Perhaps someone should mention this to Manny Pacquiao before their bout at the Cotai Arena on the morning of 23 November.
The 30-year-old American boxer has made a habit of springing surprises and he’s hoping to drop another one on the Philippine legend when they fight for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title.
I’VE BEEN READY FOR THIS MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Ruslan Provodnikov knows what we are talking about. The Russian fighter thought he had Algieri finished when he sent the American to the canvass in the first round of the WBO Junior welterweight championship title bout back in June.
But Algieri got up, dusted himself down, and – despite a right eye that was soon firmly closed under swelling – stripped Provodnikov of his title with a 12-round split decision that took his own record to 20-0.
Algieri puts that effort all down to preparation, and a training regime honed in his earlier days as a pro kick-boxer whose record also stood unbeaten and at 20-0 – and included the ISKA World Welterweight and WKA World Super Welterweight titles – when he decided to turn his talents to another code.
“The way kick-boxing has prepared me most for boxing in that it is a one-on-one competition and in that the lifestyle you have to follow is very similar,” says Algieri during a recent visit to Macau.
“So I am used to training camps and peaking for a performance for a single event. It’s doesn’t matter how good you feel on Sunday, or how good you feel on Friday – it’s about the Saturday night. The scientific approach I learned in my kick-boxing career has certainly helped me. I know how to prepare.”
Algieri first turned to kick-boxing as a Long Island teenager, catching a Tim “Bring the Pain” Lane bout on TV and becoming fascinated with the sport, and with the man who today is still his trainer.
“The first kick-boxer I ever saw was him and it was a knock-down, drag-out thing. A tough, tough fight,” says Algieri.
Still, the sport’s limitations, especially on Long Island, soon became apparent and Algieri’s hand speed eventually had him turning towards boxing.
“It [boxing] was just something I always wanted to do,” says Algieri.
“I was told it was a tough business to get into. But I was living on Long Island and there wasn’t much money in kick-boxing. I kept getting told that my hands were good, too, so that I guess planted a seed. So, once I had achieved all the goals I had set myself in kick-boxing, boxing was the natural next step.”
Six years later, that decision has led Algieri into what some might claim is the unenviable position of fighting a guy who has won world titles across a record eight weight divisions and seems even as the sun begins to set on a storied career to want to go out in a blaze of glory.
The 35-year-old Paquiao has shown flashes of his brilliance over the past 12 months with a unanimous points decision in Macau over Brandon Rios and the same ending for some sweet revenge over Tim Bradley in Las Vegas, after the American had taken a controversial split-decision in 2012.
But Algieri says he will – as always – come very well prepared.
“I’ve been ready for this my entire life,” he says.
“My training camp has been the entire year. I stay in shape. I am professional and my job is to stay fit. Not that long ago Manny was in the position I am in now. He was a relative unknown. He came in, fighting a known champ, and he wanted to be the man. I’m in that same position.
“For me what I feel is the great equalizer in boxing is the jab. I don’t care how strong you are, how fast you are, a good jab and a good mind can naturalise anything. So that’s the game plan.”