DSH Weekly Boxing Notebook: Manny Pacquiao and Chris Algieri prepare for battle

November 19, 2014

On November 23, boxing fans will see a version of the classic "Rocky" storyline play out as superstar Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) will take on the relatively unknown Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) in a showdown in Macao.

A Pacquiao win keeps the hopeful flame of a Floyd Mayweather bout still burning, so long as he does not overlook his seemingly outmatched opponent.

Algieri -- a good athlete, college grad, and a former kickboxing champion -- displayed heart and boxing skills in his recent upset win over Ruslan Provodnikov, and in a sense has already won just by getting this fight with Pacquiao.

Undoubtedly, Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division champ, will be the heavy favorite come fight night.  Nevertheless, he is getting older, and will also have to overcome a height and reach disadvantage against Algieri.  Algieri also has yet to taste defeat, as he is undefeated as both a boxer and kickboxer.

So with fight week officially in motion, here is the latest news on Pacquiao-Algieri and the sweet science:

Trainer Freddie Roach Motivated by Boston-New York Rivalry

On the surface, one would not expect a fight camp based in the Philippines to draw motivation from the longtime sports rivalry between Boston and New York.

However, Manny Pacquiao is a Celtics fan, his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach is from Massachusetts, and his opponent Chris Algieri is a New Yorker, so suddenly the ingredients are there for residents from both cities to have their own rooting interest in a bout taking place on the other side of the world.

The spirit of that rivalry seemingly is taking root just days before the fight, as Roach has had plenty to say about both his prized pupil and their upcoming foe.

"I know New York is a sports capital desperate to hold on to its only world champion, said Roach. "But everyone in the Big Apple needs to realize that Chris Algieri is going up against a buzz saw in Manny Pacquiao.  New York has had its share of sports miracle upsets in the past -- Bobby Thompson's 'Shot Heard 'Round the World,' Jerry Koosman's two World Series victories for the Miracle Mets, and Joe Namath's Super Bowl III MVP performance -- but the reality is this, heart, no matter how big, can only take you so far.  On November 22, Manny is going to drop the curtain on The Chris Algieri Show."

A little motivated, Freddie?

"You bet I am," Roach continued.  "Remember, I grew up in Deadham, Massachusetts.  There is no love lost when Boston plays New York in any sport.  I live for beating a New Yorker.  And by the way, Dom DiMaggio was a much better centerfielder than his brother Joe."

We can excuse Freddie for his bias when it comes to the diamond, but he became more serious and objective when discussing Pacquiao's progress in training.

"Manny looks tremendous," said Roach.  "He has worked hard against the best sparring partners he has ever had.  He knows what is at stake here.  Believe me, he wants an emphatic victory.  He needs an emphatic victory.  That is why he has gone the extra mile in this camp to achieve that."

Would-be "Rocky" Chris Algieri meets Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone

At a recent press conference in Los Angeles, undefeated WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri made his final media appearance before heading off to Macao for his bout with reigning WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.

The upset-minded Algieri, a Long Island native with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Management and a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition, had the opportunity to meet cinema's ultimate underdog, as movie star Sylvester Stallone paid a surprise visit to the press conference.

"It was the thrill of a lifetime," said Algieri.  "When I put my arm around him to pose for a photo all I could feel were muscles.  Boxing owes a great deal to 'Rocky' and Sylvester Stallone."

Stallone, an informed fight fan and a member of boxing's Hall of Fame because of his contributions to the sport, pointed out the parallels between his famous film character and Algieri.

 "In my business life imitates art.  But in Chris' case I think it's the other way around," said Stallone.  "Watching Chris rebound from those two first-round knockdowns against Ruslan Provodnikov and out-box him the next 11 rounds to win the title was more than an upset.  It was Rocky-esque.  As for his fight against Manny Pacquiao on November 22, all I can say to you Chris is great movies deserve great sequels and I won't be the least surprised to see you give us one in Macao."

Joining Algieri at the press conference was WBO featherweight champion  Vasyl Lomachenko, WBA super lightweight champion Jessie Vargas, and China's two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming.  All three will be on the Pacquiao-Algieri undercard, as Lomachenko and Vargas will be defending their titles, while Zou will fight in a world title elimination bout.

Algieri Gives Analysis on Some of Boxing's Top Fighters

At a recent media conference call, Chris Algieri was asked about the styles of various fighters.  Here are his interesting answers:

Q: How does preparing for Pacquiao differ from preparing for Provodnikov?

CHRIS ALGIERI: Let me touch on Provodnikov's style. He is a lot better than people think. Every fight he has lost has been a very close fight. He really brought it and he is a great champion. On top of being an exciting fighter the guy is good. And to tell you the truth the Ruslan I fought was the best Ruslan I have ever seen. The guy was cutting off the ring and his technique was very sharp and he was faster than usual. I made a mistake early and we all know how that went. I don't want to downplay Ruslan's power at all. He's a fantastic fighter but in terms of his style and Manny's they are completely different and the preparations for each are completely different but that is no different for me because I am always fighting guys with different styles.

Q: Is your size an advantage?

CHRIS ALGIERI: I'm tall for the weight class. I am built to go in and stand in front of the man and trade bombs - why would I do that? I've got length, I've got reach, I've got speed; I've got footwork and defense, but that's not what's going to be the difference in this fight. It's not a tall guy versus a short guy - It's Chris Algieri versus Manny Pacquiao. It's what I bring to the table versus what he brings to the table. I think a lot of it has to do with my mental preparation and mind going into this fight as well as what we know from Manny. We know Manny is a living legend and a hall of famer for sure. He's one of the greatest fighters that has ever lived. For me, I have to go out there and be myself. I have the talent and the tools to win this fight - I just have to go out there and perform.

Q: Would you compare your style to Floyd Mayweather?

CHRIS ALGIERI: I throw a lot more punches than Floyd. He's very efficient with his punches and when he throws he lands a very high percentage, but he's not exceptionally busy every round. I think I bring a lot of energy and combinations and punches every single round. Even when I'm not throwing I am moving my upper body, I'm moving my feet, I'm moving my head, I am changing levels - all those things are important and they count and they are a part of boxing. It's kind of a lost art because it is difficult to teach, and unless you are an educated fan or a trainer or a fighter you don't even see those kinds of things. Bringing some of the finer elements of the sport to the ring.

Algieri then discussed B-Hop and some of the past greats . . .

CHRIS ALGIERI: Bernard Hopkins' style is the way...everything he does is for a reason - little head feints, little hand movements, little shoulder rolls and gestures are all finer points of the sweet science. Before contemporary times everyone did that kind of stuff. I have seen videos of Sugar Ray Robinson and Willie Pep who did a million other things than just punch, to set up a perfect shot or to offset their opponents' rhythm. Boxing is incredibly complicated. It's not Rock'em Sock'em Robots.

Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum Doubtful of Pacquiao-Mayweather Fight

At a recent conference call for the Pacquiao-Algieri fight, a reporter asked Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, about a Mayweather fight for either man.  Here is the exchange:

Q: "If Algieri beats Pacquiao, is he in line to fight Mayweather?"

BOB ARUM: "How can I talk for Mayweather? As far as the Pacquiao fight is concerned with Mayweather, as much as a lot of people surrounding it would want it to happen, myself included and Manny included, Floyd is reluctant to fight Manny Pacquiao, period. If people don't see that by now, they are never going to see it. In as far as if Chris Algieri wins the fight against Manny Pacquiao, then there is a provision in the contract for a rematch. If he beats Pacquiao then beats Manny in a rematch and Floyd wants to fight him, that's not my business - that's up to Joe DeGuardia and it's up to the Mayweather camp."

Mayweather Promotions Announces Erislandy Lara-Ishe Smith Bout

Mayweather Promotions announced that on December 12 a 154-pound world title showdown will occur between WBA Super Welterweight Titlist Erislandy Lara (19-2-2, 12 KOs) and former IBF Junior Middleweight World Champion Ishe Smith (26-6, 12 KOs) at the Illusions Theater at The Alamodome in San Antonio.

“This is a fight I needed, the fight I wanted to secure my legacy in the sport of boxing,” said Smith. “There’s a chink in Lara's armor, I'm fully ready to expose it on Dec. 12. I've always played the underdog role. I love when people count me out. I will become a two-time champion, crowned a champion again for the greatest city in the world Las Vegas.”

Lara and Smith were originally scheduled to meet on Friday, May 2, in Las Vegas to kick-off Cinco de Mayo Weekend, but Lara withdrew from the fight to face Canelo Alvarez on July 12.  Lara dropped a close and controversial 12-round split decision to Canelo in that bout, and is now looking to reassert himself as one of the top fighters in his division.

A slick southpaw, Lara, 31, graduated from the renowned Cuban Amateur Boxing Program and migrated to the U.S. to pursue a professional boxing career.  As a young contender, he suffered a controversial loss against Paul Williams.

Since then he has established himself as one of the sport’s most prominent fighters highlighted by a TKO of Alfredo Angulo and a 12-round unanimous decision over Austin Trout on Dec. 7, 2013 which earned him the WBA Super Welterweight World Championship.

"This is a fight I wanted and I’m happy that it’s finally going to happen,” said Lara. “We’ve had words in the past but now it’s time to see who the better fighter is.  I’m the champion and Ishe Smith is going to realize that I’m on another level once he steps in the ring with me.  I have a great team behind me and you’re going to see the best junior middleweight in the world in the ring on Dec. 12. Make no mistakes about it I'm coming to dominate."

After a long career that saw him go from the world of reality television as a star on “The Contender” to competing at the top level at 154 and 160 pounds, Ishe Smith, 36, finally put it all together in 2010, beginning a four-fight winning streak that culminated in a decision win over Cornelius Bundrage for the IBF Junior Middleweight Title on Feb. 23, 2013.  He subsequently lost his title on September 14, 2013 by a close split decision to the always-tough Carlos Molina.

Also on the card, once-beaten super middleweight contender Badou Jack (17-1, 11 KOs) will face Samuel Clarkson of Cedar Hill, Texas (12-3, 7 KOs) as he looks to climb back as a top contender in the 168-pound division.

The 31-year-old Jack was undefeated and on the verge of a world title shot before getting caught with a punch in the first round against Derek Edwards this past Feb. 28.  The hard-hitting Jack, of Las Vegas by way of Stockholm, Sweden, rebounded in his next bout with a 10-round unanimous decision victory over Jason Escalera on Aug. 30.

“I'm very excited to get back in action,” said Jack. “I’m ready to put on a fan-friendly fight in a great fight town.”

Additionally, promising undefeated junior middleweight and Mayweather Promotions rising star Chris Pearson (11-0, 9 KOs) of Dayton, Ohio, will take on once-beaten Steve Martinez (15-1, 12 KOs), of Bronx, N.Y., in the 10-round co-feature.  The matchup showcases two power-punchers who have combined to knock out 13 of their last 16 opponents.

Pearson, 24, compiled an outstanding record of 96-8 in the amateurs and was a 2011 U.S. National Champion at 165 pounds.  A natural right-hander who fights left-handed, Pearson went 3-0 in the World Series of Fighting matches. Two of the victories were noteworthy, as they came against Olympic Games medalists (2008 gold medalist Bakhyt Sarsekbayen and 2012 bronze medalist Yamaguchi Florentino).

Due to an injury, Pearson will be fighting for the first time since February, when he won a close eight-round split decision over Lanardo Tyner.

“I’m thankful for another opportunity to showcase my talents,” said Pearson. “I believe success is when opportunity meets preparation and I’m prepared. I will allow my performance to tell the rest of the story.”

Martinez, 24, promoted by Star of David and Square Ring, was also an accomplished amateur, going 103-17 while winning three New York Golden Glove titles as well as a National Golden Glove title. A pro since Aug. 2009, Martinez will be seeking to establish himself as a legitimate prospect with the first significant victory of his career.

Martinez is a poised fighter with a good punch. He went 11-0 at the outset of his career before suffering his lone setback on an eight-round split decision to lefty Dennis Douglin in Jan. 2012. He has gone 4-0 with three knockouts since, including a fifth-round TKO over Antonio Fernandez in his most recent start last May 15.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to fight on SHOWTIME,” said Martinez. “Chris Pearson is a great prospect and my dream was always to fight the best in my division. This is the second go around for this fight.  My respect to Mayweather Promotions who kept their word and put this fight together again.”

Algieri Enjoying Newfound Popularity in Macao

Just one day after arriving in Macao, Chris Algieri resumed his promotional roadwork for the biggest fight of his professional life.  On a busy Sunday at the Venetian, Algieri made a public appearance where he was greeted by hundreds of fans and answered questions about his battle with Pacquiao.

“I worked hard for over 10 weeks in the most strenuous and productive training camp of my career," said Algieri.  "I had a lot of different sparring partners, including Zab Judah, giving me different looks to prepare me for anything Pacquiao decides to throw at me.  I am 110% prepared for our fight.”

When asked how a fighter could be so handsome, Algieri responded, “Every time I enter the ring I look to improve and perfect my master-boxer style of fighting -- utilizing the space inside the ring to my advantage.  Good defense is the key to preserving my handsomeness.”     

Andre Dirrell to face Derek Edwards on December 19

An IBF super middleweight elimination bout between 168-pound contender Andre Dirrell (23-1, 16 KOs), of Flint, Michigan, and veteran Derek Edwards (27-3-1, 14 KOs), of Las Vegas, has been confirmed as a 12-round co-feature of a December 19 card headlined by Adonis Stevenson.

For the switch-hitting Dirrell, the elimination bout for the IBF’s No. 2 position behind No. 1 James DeGale and champion Carl Froch will be his fifth since getting injured against then-undefeated Arthur Abraham in his second Super Six World Boxing Classic fight on March 27, 2010.

Dirrell had scored a knockdown in the fourth and was comfortably ahead of Abraham on all scorecards heading into 11th.  About a minute into the round, Dirrell slipped on a wet canvas and Abraham blatantly hit him while he was down, knocking Dirrell out cold and resulting in Abraham being disqualified.

Dirrell suffered neurological issues as a result of the punch, withdrew from the tournament and was sidelined for 21 months.

Dirrell has won his last five fights, three by stoppage.

“I’m excited to be back on the fast track and I’m ready to show that this is definitely where I belong,” Dirrell said.  “It takes time to move back to the top, but I like to improve myself each time I step into the gym.  I almost feel like I’ve been overworking myself in the gym to prove that I’m back."

A 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the older brother of WBC Super Middleweight World Champion Anthony Dirrell, Andre has been victorious in both his 2014 fights, winning his last via fourth-round TKO over Nick Brinson on Oct. 8.

After blasting out Vladine Biosse two starts ago, the 31-year-old Dirrell called out IBF Champ Froch.  The fight was Dirrell's lone loss via a controversial, 12-round split-decision.

“I know I won that fight against Froch,” Dirrell said.  “I think everyone knows I won that fight.  He’s the one opponent I want and the fact that he’s a world champion again is just icing on the cake.  I don’t think I’ve ever been defeated and I want that title shot.  Hopefully he doesn’t retire because I know the world wants to see that rematch."

Before Dirrell gets his shot at a title he must first defeat a power-punching opponent who has a knack for upsets.

“This guy may have power, but power-punchers are the best opponents for pure boxers, for slick guys like me,” Dirrell said.  “That’s when I’m at my best.  I’m not even looking at his power – his will and determination in the fight will be more important than his power.

Edwards, who once fought light heavyweight kingpin Adonis Stevenson when he was campaigning at 168 pounds, is coming off perhaps the most unlikely result of the year, a  stunning 1:01, first-round knockout of previously-unbeaten, top-five ranked Badou Jack.

An extreme longshot going in, Edwards twice dropped Jack, the first coming with an overhand short right 32 seconds into the match.  Moments later, Edwards registered another knockdown from a right followed by a glancing left hook.  Jack stumbled to his feet but the referee had seen enough and waved off the bout.

“I’m definitely confident going in against Andre,” Edwards said.  “He’s a different fighter than Jack.  He had a good amateur background and fought some of the best super middleweights in the Super Six, but I see some things I can exploit in Andre.  I know I’ll need to force the action on him and be the aggressor.

Edwards knows that a second consecutive upset victory could forever change his life.
“I’ve never been this motivated for a fight,” said the 34-year-old Edwards.  “A win like this would put a lot of things on the table, open up a lot of doors and opportunities.  It’s definitely the biggest fight of my life.

“There’s no tomorrow," Edwards continued.  "It’s just one night.  I need to seize the moment and lay it all out on the line.  This is my one big shot.”

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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