“Andddd newwww undefeated WBO light welterweight champion of the world, The Fighting Collegian, Chris Algieriiiiii” bellowed ring announcer Michael Buffer this past June as he informed all who watched that Algieri had just defeated Ruslan Provodnikov. Not many gave Algieri, 30, 20-0 8 KO of Huntington, Long Island, New York much of a chance to beat Provodnikov but that was nothing new for Algieri.
On November 22, Algieri will again be back in the role that he cherishes, that of the underdog, when he faces the pride of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao 56-5-2 38 KO. This is classic David vs. Goliath only the roles are changed in that Algieri, the bigger man, is David in this scenario. With odds currently about 7-1 in Pacquiao’s favor, Algieri isn’t concerned stating, “I’ve been the underdog many times before in the past, so I think if I was the favorite I’d feel more uncomfortable. This is home for me.”
You would think that a win over one of the most feared men in the sport in Provodnikov would have garnered Algieri a little respect. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer was quoted as saying that Algieri isn’t in Pacquiao’s class, he’s jumping a bit too soon while insinuating that the sparring partners in camp will pose more of a threat. Recently on HBO’s 24/7, Roach finally gave “credit” to Algieri calling him a “tough kid” in one breath but then condescendingly stating “tough kids don’t win big fights” in the next. It is nothing new for Roach to play mind games with a Pacquiao opponent but this time there is an edge here that seems personal. Maybe it’s because Roach is from Massachusetts, said Roach, “Remember, I’m from Dedham, Massachusetts. There is no love lost when Boston plays New York in any sport. I live for beating a New Yorker”
Truth is, Algieri is a tough kid and has won big fights as evident by the world kickboxing titles he won prior to making the switch to the sweet science. Undefeated as both an amateur and a pro, he collected a USKBA Championship and WKA and ISKA Championships respectively. While he has the resume of an MMA fighter, it’s the sweet science that he cherishes, entrenched in him from an early age while watching the sport with his grandfather on many occasions. Looking for bigger fame, paydays, and the national exposure that the world of kickboxing could not give him, he switched sports. It wasn’t moving quickly enough at the beginning as Algieri was fighting exclusively on local cards. As he stated on HBO’s 24/7, “It was extremely, extremely frustrating; I felt that I wanted to be on bigger stages, fighting on different cards, fighting on TV, I wanted national exposure, “I really wanted people to see what I brought to the table”.
Enter the Provodnikov fight, Algieri, down twice in the first round, weathered the storm and fought basically with one eye throughout the fight. Algieri showed the poise and ring generalship of a fighter well beyond his years and experience. Using excellent movement and showcasing blinding speed, he peppered Provodnikov with solid jabs, sneaky uppercuts and power shots while adding timely body shots keeping Provodnikov off balance.
Again, a tough kid winning a big fight confirming Roach may be a bit off in his assessment of the WBO Champion. I know, I know, some detractors will say that Algieri “ran” against Provodnikov but Algieri landed 83 more punches, threw 217 more, landed at a higher connect percentage, and beat Provodnikov at his own game landing 13 more power shots. Pretty hard to do all of that when you are “running” away from your opponent.
Thing is, Algieri is a new breed of fighter, 2.0 if you will, a strategic thinker with a personal approach to training and nutrition. A gym rat with a bachelor’s degree in health science and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition, Algieri prepares all his own food unlike most fighters in the game which allows him to fuel adequately and appropriately at all the right times. As Algieri put it, “I don’t eat anything crazy. I just eat the foods most people should eat: eggs, oatmeal, chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes, fish and steaks.” While most fighters loathe the nutrition and training aspects of the preparation, Algieri is energized by it. In fact, his training meals mirror his every day eating habits, a disciplined approach that doesn’t need to change due to a fight.
He trains six days a week and most times, twice a day, combining the typical sparring and bag work with exhaustive cardio sessions, explosive power movements, and mental conditioning. He chooses to watch little tape of his opponents before a fight believing it could be counterproductive, “It’s all about rhythm and you can’t find out a man’s rhythm on tape, I’ll find out in the first round”, said Algieri, the strategic thinker.
Algieri’s mental preparation may be his biggest strength. It would explain his resolve against Provodnikov when most fighters would have looked for a way out. Agieri is a big believer in visualization exercises when preparing for a fight. He will visualize everything about what fight night will be like, the packing of his bags, the ring walk, and the action in the ring. The mind is more powerful than the body. Algieri’s mind believes he is supposed to be here, supposed to win, critics be dammed. When having to dig deep, the mind will not let him fail empowering the body to carry on.
Continue to underestimate Algieri by making the betting odds lopsided against him, think that sparring partners provide a more formidable challenge, and call him names like “The Long Island Long shot”. Algieri doesn’t care; he’s just here to fight for the love of the game. It’s his passion; he could simply walk away and pursue his goal of becoming a doctor but there will be time for that later, he has business to attend to and goals to attain. Don’t expect Algieri to be intimidated by facing Manny Pacquiao, his confidence is unwavering, his mindset unmatched, and his nutrition and conditioning at the highest of levels.
So, Algieri wasn’t supposed to beat Ruslan Provodnikov, now he’s not supposed to beat Pacquiao. What if? What if he beats Pacquiao and it is him not the Pacman who is rewarded with a Floyd Mayweather fight? Of course, he will not be expected to win that fight either, but what if……….. What an epic run that would be.
This article contributed to Behind The Gloves.