THERE are so many things to like about Christopher Mark Algieri. The boxer of Italian and Argentine extraction still lives in his parents’ home and actually trains at the basement of the family abode. From his meager earnings as a kick-boxer and professional fighter, Algieri was able to earn a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. Oh, lest we forget, the guy has the looks of a movie star which has sent many a woman swooning.
Then again, when Algieri steps into the ring Sunday to swap leather with Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight championship (147 pounds) at the Cotai Arena in Macau, trainer Freddie Roach opines that not one of Algieri’s admirable traits will matter opposite the most feared product of the school of hard knocks. “That master’s degree in nutrition is not going to help him,” said Roach. “I don’t care how many protein shakes he drinks a day, Manny is going to kick his (butt).”
Roach’s view is shared by boxing experts, albeit in a more subdued and objective manner. While Algieri boasts of having developed the ideal fight plan against Pacquiao, nobody is buying his blueprint and Pacquiao remains the overwhelming favorite to retain his WBO title. The prevailing opinion is that Algieri is coming in way over his head and his lack of big fight experience will be exposed by the veteran Pacquiao.
“Algieri’s chances of winning are slim and none,” noted boxing manager and aficionado Hermie Rivera told Spin.ph. “Algieri cannot run away from Manny all night long. Somewhere in this exciting 12-rounder, the irrepressible Pacquiao will catch the runner (Algieri) and the challenger will fold like a collapsed hand in poker.”
Algieri, 20-0 with eight knockouts, is moving up to welterweight to challenge Pacquiao. He first gained media ink in June, when he scored an upset split-decision win over Russian slugger Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO junior welterweight (140 pounds) championship. In the opinion of many, Algieri won the Pacquiao sweepstakes because the flaws he showed in the Provodnikov fight convinced promoter Bob Arum that he is the “ideal” foe for the ‘Pacman.’
Algieri no doubt exhibited heart and determination when he recovered from two knockdowns and a badly swollen right eye to outpoint Provodnikov. Algieri can box, but his boxing skills are still unpolished, the end result of a late entry to pro boxing after a successful career in kick-boxing. Algieri can’t generate a full extension on the left arm to properly deliver the jab and has a tendency to backpedal while trying to deliver the jab. This makes him prone to having balance issues, a flaw Provodnikov exposed when he floored a backpedalling Algieri with a wild left hook. Algieri also has some kick-boxing habits that he still can’t shake off. There are occasions when he suddenly plants his feet, drops his hands and crouches to look for an opening, much like a kick-boxer suddenly moving in slow motion to unload a kick. This is a very noticeable defensive flaw that can prove costly against the cagey Pacquiao. Algieri’s habit of getting lazy with his right straight also makes him a sucker for the left hook, something Provodnikov repeatedly showed.
Just the same, Algieri is expected to rely on his boxing skills to keep Pacquiao at a safe distance. But Pacquiao is not cut in the mold of the one-dimensional Provodnikov. Pacquiao works behind an industrious right jab before throwing his vaunted left. The ‘Pacman’ is also the master of feigning a punch which will make it difficult for Algieri to read his offense, particularly the left straight/hook.
Trainer Freddie Roach had predicted an early knockout victory for Pacquiao and this is anchored on the observation of many that Algieri has a tendency to start slow. He was so disoriented in the opening minutes of the fight with Provodnikov and nearly got creamed. It is imperative for Pacquiao to seize the momentum right away because Algieri tends to get his rhythm and confidence going in the second half of the fight. The fact that Algieri has the punching power of an ant (he last scored a conclusive knockout in 2012, against journeyman Winston Mathis) will also make it harder for him to convince Pacquiao not to take his chances on the inside.
“Sa tingin ko tatakbo si Algieri pag nasaktan siya kay Pacman,” said former world title challenger and incumbent boxing trainer Edito ‘Ala’ Villamor. “Every boxer may chance talaga manalo pero si Algieri may slim chance lang to win this fight.”
“Hindi naman ganoon ka veteran si Algieri at pag tinamaan siya ni Pacquiao ng suntok, mag cover na lang itong si Algieri,” seconded minimumweight contender Denver Cuello. “Dahil sa bilis ni Pacquiao, hindi niya (Algieri) malalaman kung ano ang gagawin niya kasi hindi pa siya nakakatagpo ng kagaya ni Pacquiao.”
Pacquiao has not scored a knockout since 2009, but all point to him ending this drought against Algieri. Of course, that is unless Pacquiao suddenly drops his guard and tries to do a hoops crossover in front of Algieri. His focus in check, Pacquiao should prevail.