Tonight, an interesting bout will take place in the welterweight division as Amir Khan (30-3, 19KO's) takes on Chris Algieri (20-1, 8KO's). The real implications of this fight far outstrip the WBC Silver Belt that will be on the line that night. This is a crucial match for Khan, who has been chomping at the bit to be Floyd Mayweather's last bout before retirement. Any talk of title contention would take a dominant showing against Algieri, a durable and skilled boxer in his own right, who will be fighting on his home turf.
A Bit of Backstory
Amir Khan has been campaigning for a big fight for a while now. The former champion has repeatedly called out the likes of Miguel Cotto, Timothy Bradley, former training partner Manny Pacquiao, and Mayweather, and over the past year has become exceedingly outspoken. Coming off of a dominant win over fellow former champion Devon Alexander, many believe that Khan possesses the skills and handspeed to truly threaten Mayweather's technical brilliance.
Chris Algieri's underdog story came to a screeching halt when he was fed to Manny Pacquiao last November in Macau. After mounting an impressive comeback win despite suffering two nasty knockdowns by the Siberian crusher, Ruslan Provodnikov, Algieri received the bout of a lifetime. HBO did an impressive job of painting Algieri as a threat of Pacquiao, focusing on his rangy style and near-inhuman resilience and heart. Six knockdowns later, Algieri lost his belt, his untouched record, and was poised to fade back into obscurity as a tune-up fight for Pacquiao before Mayweather. Now, he has another opportunity to prove that he is still one of the best in the world in the crowded welterweight division.
Amir Khan and Chris Algieri are two sides of the same coin: If you took Algieri and cranked up his offensive confidence and handspeed, you'd essentially get an Amir Khan, and vice versa-toning down Khan's offensive mindset would likely yield you a boxer not unlike Algieri. Despite the differencing offensive mentalities, their offensive flaws are alarmingly similar.
This similarity all hinges on their movement and attack patterns. In my previous article on Amir Khan in his bout against Devon Alexander, I explained that Khan's offense is very linear. Relying on his superior handspeed, Khan will establish his range with a probing jab, and then dive in with a blistering 3-6 punch combination. Despite its predictable trajectory, Khan can often get away with his blitzes because of his speed and offensive mindset-often pushing back his opponent and preventing them from retaliating under the sheer volume of his offense.
In this gif, Khan repeatedly darts forward to hammer Devon Alexander with a low left jab, a right straight to the body, ending with a wide left hook to the head. The first two times he throws the combination, Khan lands successfully as his speed catches Alexander off guard. On the third attempt, however, Alexander begins to predict the attack pattern and stiff arms the Brit as he attempts to jab his way in. Rather than change his strategy as the round winds down, Khan's immediate solution to the counter is to throw more punches. As Devon tries to counter over Khan's jab, he eats an unexpected 2-1 as Khan as Amir runs straight into him piling extra punches on his initial combination.
That's the gist of Khan's offense. He has tremendous output, and drowns his opponent in volume despite taking damage in return as long as he can be first and last in each exchange. He will pump a lancing jab while he circles to maneuver for a better angle, but nearly all of Khan's damaging combinations happen when he comes straight down the midline. For Amir Khan, defense is the best offense, and his limitations in direction have led to his two well-known brutal knockout losses as both Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia flattened the Brit with counter left hooks to his blitz.
Offensively, Chris Algieri has essentially the same mindset as Khan, only his combinations occur off of the back foot when he waits to counter. Whereas Khan prefers to take the center of the ring, Algieri almost always ends up circling with his back on the ropes, constantly on his bike looking for angles. As such, Algieri has cultivated a very educated left hand as he circles, where to overwhelms his opponent by constantly blinding them and peppering them with Fighting Harada-type pumping jabs.
Check out this tasty jab-hook-uppercut combination Algieri hits repeatedly on Emmanuel Taylor as he circles to the left.
However, this mobile offense all but disappears as soon as he beings to add his right hand into the mix.
It is my theory that Algieri is comfortable enough with his left hand to jab and hook with enough fluidity and freedom to create some truly creative single-arm combinations on the move, but he is so caught up in finding somewhere in the sequence to add in his right that he stops his tricky lateral movement. As you notice in this sequence, Algieri is constantly circling until he begins his combination, to which he plants his feet and peppers Provodnikov with lefts before trying to crack him with a right hook. Provodnikov simply turtles up and waits out the barrage of jabs to be ready to throw a counter hook on Algieri's right straight. Both times Provodnikov throws that left hook are to try to loop over the recovering right arm.
Not only does Algieri's habit of stopping his lateral movement when he is thinking of throwing his right hand give him trouble, but his retreating footwork is simplistic as well. As seen in both his bouts with Provodnikov and Pacquiao, when the opponent flurries on him, Algieri slaps on a tight high guard and almost always retreats straight backwards until he is almost at the ropes before he tries to go a more favorable angle.
This habit made Algieri food for Pacquiao, as the Pilipino bulldozed him with combinations as Algieri desperately tried to find some space to reestablish his distance. The predictable limited mobility of their offense, be it front foot or back foot, make the offense of Amir Khan and Chris Algieri very similar.
The two boxers also employ very wide stances, and in doing so, both have issues throwing the right hand. Both Khan and Algieri do not move their back feet when they throw their long straight right hands, leading to issues such as Khan's awkward foot drag during combinations, or Algieri's overextension of his right straight.
Watch Khan's right foot when he throws both of his combinations. He does not move his back foot forward when he throws his right hand, and ends up stumbling and throwing multiple punches on one leg. He compensates for this inadvantageous transition by, once again, throwing more punches to keep the opponent wary of attacking, but durable opponent that catches him during this dragging step could be catastrophic.
Algieri's more defensive-minded style, on the other hand, causes him to shell up immediately on a counter and try to retreat to reestablish distance. In this sequence, Algieri's back foot also remains anchored behind him as he attempts to throw his straight right, forcing Algieri to reach for his opponent, and preventing him from being able to step out of Pacquiao's return flurry.
Expect this match to go the full 12 rounds. Algieri is too durable to be finished by Khan's fast hands, and Algieri does not have nearly the power to put any of the top welterweights away. Algieri is the water to Khan's fire, similar in attack pattern tendencies and movement, but polar opposite in mentality and planning. The fact that they have similar skill sets but completely different offense/defense mindsets , along with the implications for the winner of this match make this bout an intriguing one.