By Tim Smith
What does it take to be a New York fighter?
Chris Algieri has spent the majority of his professional career fighting at the Paramount in his hometown of Huntington, Long Island. Joe DeGuardia, Algieri's promoter, wanted to build him into a hometown hero and succeeded.
In 2011, Algieri began to fight exclusively at the local Paramount Theater – most of the time before capacity crowds. When he stepped away from home he defeated Ruslan Provodnikov at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in June of this year. It was his first time fighting on HBO and it was a star-making performance, as Algieri overcame two early knockdowns and a badly swollen right eye to score a split decision victory and pull off the upset.
Algieri is stepping on a worldwide stage and taking a huge leap forward in competition when he meets Manny Pacquaio in a 12-round welterweight championship match on HBO Pay-Per-View in Macau, China on Saturday night.
For Pacquiao, who was born in General Santos, Philippines, this will be something of a hometown fight. The Philippines is a short flight from Macau. Algieri will be representing Huntington, Long Island. But is he representing New York?
Is Chris Algieri a New York boxer in the mold of Brooklyn-born fighters Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, and Paulie Malignaggi?
"He's from Huntington, Long Island. He's fought most of his fights at the Paramount,'' said Mitch Abrahamson, the boxing writer for the New York Daily News. "You have to consider Chris a homegrown talent. Every chance he gets he talks about Huntington and Long Island. He went to Stony Brook College. By virtue of where he's from and where he's fought, you'd have to consider him a homegrown New York fighter."
Abrahamson points out that boxers like Gerry Cooney, who is also from Huntington, and Buddy McGirt, who is from nearby Brentwood, were considered New York boxers even though they weren't born in one of the five boroughs.
"You can't hold it against him that he's from Long Island and not from Brooklyn or the Bronx or flashy like a lot of the boxers who come from there," Abrahamson said. "People look at Gerry Cooney as a homegrown New York fighter and he's from Huntington. Chris doesn't talk and act like fighters that we're used to hearing from New York. He's not from Brownsville. People have a tough time making sense of who he is in terms of his talent. He's from Huntington and an undefeated fighter. You have to give him his credit."
George Willis, New York Post sports columnist who covers boxing, said there are plenty of transplanted New Yorkers who are considered New York boxers.
"You have fighters who are fighting out of New York who are from Haiti and Ghana," Willis said. "I don't think that a fighter like Algieri will have any problem being identified as a New York fighter."
If there are any doubts from anyone as to whether to accept Algieri as a New York boxer, he can clear it all up with a decisive victory over Pacquiao.
"You could argue that he's not a New York guy. If he keeps winning, they'll accept him,'' Willis said.