Algieri's brains and brawn combination is unlike other opponents Pacquiao has faced

Undefeated American believes his combination of guts, size and smarts could surprise the experts when he faces Filipino legend at Cotai

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 8:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 8:48pm

Only a few weeks ago, boxing fans were asking "Chris, who? But the American will be hoping come November 23, that Chris Algieri will be the name on everyone's lips.

Manny Pacquiao has only to review Algieri's last fight to be reminded he could face a serious threat to his incredible ring record. For a start, Algieri couldn't be more different than Pacman.

In that June bout against Russia's Ruslan Provodnikov, the American was knocked down twice and virtually blind in one eye for the last part of the 12-round contest after catching a vicious left hook. Yet Algieri somehow won the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) light welterweight title in a massive upset.

I am a unique puzzle for any fighter. I am a thinking fighter. I am out there playing chess
Chris Algieri

Algieri now has the chance to really put his name in lights when he challenges Pacquiao, 35, for the world champion's WBO welterweight title at the Venetian's CotaiArena.

The New Yorker (20-0-0, 8 KOs) is convinced he's capable of matching the Fighter of the Decade, but cynics think he shouldn't share the same stage as the Filipino superstar (56-5-2, 38 KOs).

Algieri is a fresh-faced, highly educated athlete - one of a "new generation" of boxers hoping to shock the world.

Holder of two university degrees, including a masters in clinical nutrition - he also holds a bachelor of science degree in health care management - Algieri is armed with brains and brawn.

He's been a promoter's dream. Charismatic and good natured, Algieri aspires to be a doctor. The US$100,000 he won in beating Provodnikov was spent on repaying his student loans. He might not be Pacquiao's strongest opponent but one thing is certain: Algieri is different.

"I am a unique puzzle for any fighter. I am a thinking fighter. I am out there playing chess," Algieri said in Macau this week on a six-city trip to promote the fight.

"I don't think Manny has fought a guy who thinks as much as I do in many years. We will use what my skill set is and that is being a master boxer and really utilising a smart and educated game plan."

Algieri will earn US$1.5 million, while Pacman will take home in excess of US$20 million.

Algieri has been labelled a "Cinderella Man" - a moniker he dislikes. He doesn't like to be compared with former heavyweight champion James Braddock, the rags-to-riches American boxer, who came out of nowhere to win the world heavyweight title during the Great Depression in the 1930s. He's no Gene Tunney, despite his similar background as an educated man. Tunney twice beat then world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey in the 1920s.

"A lot of people have been making those comparisons. I don't like that for one reason because those guys were down and out and came from where they were. Like Rocky [Balboa, fictionalised movie hero] had a bunch of losses and Cinderella Man [Braddock] had a bunch of losses.

"I am the undefeated world champion," he stressed. "I am in a different starting point than those guys. But in terms of the meteoric rise, sure I can understand that comparison. But for me, this is just the next step in my career being the champion and the star that I always thought I would be."

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum couldn't help but draw similarities between Algieri and Tunney.

"Prior to the time when I was born, the heavyweight champion of the world, the 'Manassa Mauler' Jack Dempsey was challenged by the light heavyweight champion Gene Tunney," said 82-year-old Arum.

"Dempsey was a brawler and Tunney was a boxer. And Tunney was also very highly educated, as Chris is. Nobody gave Tunney much of a chance, and Tunney defeated Dempsey to win a world title," he said.

Like Tunney, Algieri is tall and he will be using his nine centimetre height advantage - Algieri is 1.78 metres while Pacquiao is 1.69m - and his longer reach to neutralise the fleet-footed Pacquiao. He's not going to be a stationary target like American Brandon Rios, who was outboxed by Pacquiao last November.

"I am not going to be a stationary target, that's for sure. I am going to use my height, range and speed to control Manny and to control the space within the ring.

"That's how I really approach my other fights so even though each guy is different, they have to adjust to me because I am taller than almost all the fighters that I fight," said Algieri.

The American, who also has a 20-0 kickboxing record, showed extraordinary bravery and guile to win his first world title in June despite an injury to his right eye that swelled to a grotesque, closed mess.

"For the most part you don't feel the pain a lot during a fight but that was actually a painful injury," said Algieri of the Provodnikov split-decision victory in New York. "I've actually been more worried in another fight before when I broke my hand. It was my 11th pro fight and I broke it in the second round. But I actually ended up knocking the guy out a couple of rounds later ... with the same hand."

Algieri thinks he could do the same against the highly efficient punching machine that is Pacquiao.

"My dream is the American dream. I earned the right to be here. I bled for this. I'm going to work extremely hard. I'll give it my absolute all," said Algieri.

Pacquiao says he is looking at "Clash in Cotai II" as just another fight, but admits Algieri is different. "I have a different plan for him. [Coach] Freddie Roach and I will be working on techniques and strategies," said Pacman.