Chris Algieri was an unknown when 2014 started, a local draw in his hometown Paramount Theater in Huntington, New York, a prospect with a kickboxing background and little hype outside of his cocoon on Long Island. But two big wins over Emmanuel Taylor and Ruslan Provodnikov have put Algieri in position for one of the biggest chances in boxing: a fight with Manny Pacquiao on November 22 in Macau.
Algieri, 30, upset Provodnikov in June on HBO to win the WBO junior welterweight title, and after brief talk of a rematch, he moved into negotiations to go up to welterweight (actually, a 144-pound catchweight) and challenge Pacquiao for the WBO belt at 147 pounds.
Now 20-0 (8 KO), Algieri is still a massive underdog, and though he respects Pacquiao's achievements and skill, he feels he has some advantages, and believes he knows what he has to do.
"He knows how to fight," Algieri said of Pacquiao in quite the understatement. "It's going to be my job to break his focus and break his will, like I did with Ruslan."
Towering over Pacquiao during promotional events when the two go face-to-face for the cameras, the 5'10" Algieri recently said he was surprised by how short and small Pacquiao is, and though he knows Manny has faced bigger fighters in the past -- such as Oscar De La Hoya and Antonio Margarito -- he believes he brings something else to the table.
"I'm a different guy than the other tall guys that he's fought. It's an interesting style matchup.," he said. "I always use my reach and my jab. I was actually surprised at how much taller I am than Manny. I was told he was small, shorter than I am, but he's a lot shorter than I expected. That plays a big factor in the speed. Speed is how much distance you travel. He's got more distance to travel; it's going to affect his speed."
But Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KO) presents matchup problems, too, and Algieri acknowledges that.
"Manny is a master at changing range and positions and changing angles," he said. "He's a combination puncher and he punches at every angle you can think of, but I'm a pretty good angle fighter as well. I'm not a straight in guy, so it's going to be interesting to see how our styles mesh and clash. It's going to be a very, very fast chess match out there."
When it comes down to it, Algieri says, his boxing IQ and preparation will win the fight. "My mental preparedness, my mental mind state going into the fight. By the end of training camp I'm going to be even more confident than I am now and as you know I'm already a confident person.
"I bring to the table many things that Manny hasn't seen: Ever! He's got a big athletic guy with a big desire to win. I've never lost. This is a huge opportunity and it's perfect timing."