By Kieran Mulvaney
If Chris Algieri is harboring any doubts at all prior to his fight at the Venetian Macao with Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, if he in any way is wondering whether he belongs on the big stage or has a chance against one of boxing’s biggest stars, he is hiding the fact extremely well.
Sitting with a small batch of reporters in a suite at the Venetian Macao on Monday night, Algieri spoke with the same measured, relaxed, supremely self-confident calm that he has exuded since the moment his fight with Pacquiao was announced – since before his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov, in fact, for which he was also the massive underdog, but in which he overcame a first-round knockdown and a hideously swollen right eye to score a controversial decision win.
His outgoing manner and his positively non-boxer-like ability to communicate articulately in whole sentences has made him an excellent salesman for the contest with Pacquiao, a role he has shouldered as the Filipino has contributed comparatively little to feeding the media beast. Though he does not feel his rival is shirking his publicity responsibilities.
“No. Manny’s done this a thousand times,” he said. “He’s been that guy. He’s earned the right to not be that guy any more, and I’m happy to take the reins.”
In fact, he seems happy about most things as the biggest moment of his career approaches. Not least, he is happy – if not effusively so – that he is being treated and regarded the way he has long felt he deserved to be.
“I’ve always trained like a champion. Now I’m being treated like one,” he said. “I had my own gym at the Palazzo [the Venetian’s sister property in Las Vegas]. I was able to take the elevator straight down and walk through my kitchen into my gym. Literally my gym. There was no one else using it. It was the way you would dream it could be.”
He is happy about the fact that, in addition to improved facilities, his training camp featured a team that worked as well as he could reasonably have hoped; everyone, he says, from his usual crew to his sparring partners; as a consequence, he says, he left camp with no doubts.
“There’s no doubt [in the sense] that I skipped something, or that I couldn’t do something because this guy didn’t show up and I couldn’t get all the rounds I wanted, or that there was a snowstorm and I couldn’t get to the gym, none of that happened – which has happened before in almost every single camp we’ve ever had,” he said.
If such a perfect camp is new to him, so too is the sight of his visage on a massive scale everywhere one looks. But this too is something he professes to be taking in his stride.
“Someone on my team asked me the other day, ‘What’s it like, seeing these big posters with your face everywhere?’ I just shrug my shoulders,” he insisted. “Yeah, it’s cool, but it doesn’t faze me. I’ve literally seen this in my mind for a long time. And now it’s here, it isn’t like I made it; it’s like, this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Nor is it enough for him simply to be a part of the main event. If he is to be taken at his word, he genuinely expects to emerge victorious.
“I expect to control everything,” he asserted nonchalantly. “And that includes my opponent. Control, control, control. That’s what this sport is all about. Manny is a smart, smart fighter. He’s going to be adjusting, he’s going to be resetting. But Manny’s a rhythm fighter. If he can’t find his rhythm, he’s all over the place. Even in the second Tim Bradley fight, he was having a lot of trouble until he found his rhythm, and then he ran away with it.”
“But we’re not worried about what Manny’s going to do, we’re focused on what I’m going to do,” he said. “And if I fight my fight, I win.”