Friday, November 21, 2014

Will Chris Algieri Spoil A Potential Mayweather-Pacquiao Clash?

On June 14th of this year undefeated Jr. Welterweight contender Chris Algieri, a fighter who was unbeaten in nineteen professional fights entered the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to challenge WBO Jr. Welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov for Provodnikov’s world championship. Despite coming into the fight unbeaten, Algieri was a relative unknown outside of New York where he has garnered a significant following.

It was no surprise to some that Algieri was considered an underdog against Provodnikov, who was considered one of the sport’s hottest rising stars. For those who considered Algieri a non-threat were nearly proven right as Provodnikov knocked Algieri down twice in the first round and caused severe swelling of Algieri’s right eye. Despite two knockdowns going against him and an eye that would eventually swell shut as the fight progressed, Algieri implemented his strategy using lateral movement to be an elusive target for the champion and was consistently able to beat Provodnikov to the punch throughout the fight.

Although Provodnikov landed the harder punches, it was Algieri’s tactical strategy and overall greater activity that resulted in him winning the fight via twelve round split decision to win his first world title as a boxer. Even though Algieri was unknown to many prior to the Provodnikov fight, the win over Provodnikov allowed Algieri to become a two sport world champion after previously winning world titles in the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions in Kickboxing.

With twenty wins and his first world title in professional Boxing there was little doubt after his win over Provodnikov that Chris Algieri had established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Algieri’s performance in that fight has secured him the opportunity to challenge multi-division world champion Manny Pacquiao in a fight for Pacquiao’s WBO Welterweight world title on Saturday night in Macau, China.

Following Algieri’s win over Provodnikov I stated that Algieri had gone from an underdog to a world champion and his ability to not only overcome adversity, but his impressive performance against Provodnikov would likely establish him as a rising star in the sport. For the recently crowned Jr. Welterweight world champion however, he is once again cast in the role of underdog.

It is after all understandable why many are considering Manny Pacquiao a heavy favorite in this fight. Pacquiao has been on the sport’s marquee stage for much of the last decade, has arguably been Boxing’s biggest star, and sharing that status with multi-division world champion Floyd Mayweather. There continues to be much debate as to whom is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Between the two however, Floyd Mayweather remains undefeated. 

This however, has changed somewhat as Pacquiao has gone 3-2 in his last five fights, after dropping a highly controversial split decision to Timothy Bradley in June 2012 and suffering a brutal sixth round knockout loss at the hands of archrival Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012. Pacquiao was able to rebound fighting twice since the loss to Marquez in scoring a convincing twelve round unanimous decisions over Brandon Rios in November of last year, and regaining the WBO Welterweight world championship by defeating Timothy Bradley in April of this year. Although Pacquiao’s status among the sport’s mythical pound for pound ratings is likely a subject of much debate, Pacquiao’s status as a superstar of the sport is still very apparent. Pacquiao now prepares to defend his title against Algieri.

The key to this fight in my eyes will be whether or not Algieri will be able to neutralize the speed and lateral movement of Manny Pacquiao. Even though Algieri is a slick boxer and has good lateral movement and quick hands, Manny Pacquiao is a fighter that has the ability to throw punches from every conceivable angle and also has shown that he can throw punches in anticipation of where his opponent will move. This along with his speed and quickness has made Pacquiao an extremely difficult opponent.

It is important to remember however, that as overwhelming and difficult to combat as Pacquiao has been throughout much of his career, he has also been hit. This was demonstrated in Pacquiao’s fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. In a fight where Pacquiao seemed to have Marquez in trouble, it was Marquez who brought the fight to a sudden and dramatic conclusion in closing seconds of the sixth round. Pacquiao appeared to be potentially going in for the finish only to be stopped by a sudden and flush right hand by Marquez knocking him out cold on the canvas. While some may have the opinion that Marquez hit Pacquiao with a “Lucky” punch, it was in actuality a perfectly timed punch by a highly skilled boxer who simply was able to capitalize on an opening that his opponent left him.

Although Algieri has only eight knockouts in his twenty wins, he is a world-class boxer. It will be interesting to see if he takes the role of counterpuncher in this fight and looks to capitalize on openings that Pacquiao might leave him before letting his hands go, or if Algieri will use his 5’10 height and seventy-two inch reach and attempt to keep the 5’6 1/2 Pacquiao who has a sixty-seven inch reach on the outside. This has proven to be a difficult task to accomplish for previous Pacquiao opponents who were naturally bigger and had longer reach.

It will however, be of equal interest to see whether Pacquiao, who has not scored a knockout since stopping current WBC Middleweight world champion Miguel Cotto for his first WBO Welterweight world championship in 2009 will be looking to end this fight quickly. Pacquiao may be thinking that Algieri having only stopped eight of his twenty previous opponents does not have the power to hurt him. One must always remember that anything can happen and Pacquiao should not take unnecessary chances.

What may be of more interest than either fighter’s respective fight plans for this fight could be the potential of a fight with Floyd Mayweather for Pacquiao should he retain his title on Saturday night. Although there may be renewed interest in the potential clash between Mayweather and Pacquiao, which has been speculated for several years, the fighter who will stand across the ring from Pacquiao on Saturday night in Chris Algieri is a fighter who has never lost a fight in either Kickboxing or Boxing and who has a combined record of 40-0.

Despite the opinion of many that Chris Algieri is an underdog heading into this fight, it is not a position that he is unfamiliar being in. With the seemingly renewed interest in a Mayweather-Pacquiao clash and with some treating this fight as a mere afterthought, all Chris Algieri has to focus on is this fight and if Pacquiao and those around him have somehow underestimated him, it could have severe consequences as to any potential fight with Floyd Mayweather as well as the financial incentives that would come with a fight of that magnitude.

The eyes of the Boxing world now turn to Macau, China where Pacquiao will defend his WBO Welterweight world championship against WBO Jr. Welterweight world champion Chris Algieri. We will see what happens on Saturday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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