MACAU // Nine months ago, American Chris Algieri was fighting in a venue holding less than 2,000 spectators, but he enters the big time when he challenges eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao for the WBO welterweight title at the Venetian Macao on Sunday.
Algieri, 30, who has been billed by promoters as the “real-life Rocky” because of his rapid and improbable ascension to world title challenger, is not overawed by his situation.
“Yeah, it’s cool, but it doesn’t faze me,” he said in Macau this week ahead of his clash with Pacquiao in the casino city’s 15,000 seat arena.
“I’ve literally seen this in my mind for a long time and now it’s here, it isn’t ‘I made it’; it’s, ‘this is where I’m supposed to be’.”
Algieri earned his title shot the hard way. Nine months ago, his bout with Emanuel Taylor was headlining at a 1,555-seat venue in his hometown of Huntington, New York. That unanimous points decision victory gave him an opportunity against Russia’s WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov in June.
Despite two first-round knockdowns and having to fight with a swollen right eye, Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) prevailed via a 12-round decision to set up the Pacquiao clash.
Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) recognised that Algieri, who holds a Master’s degree and is contemplating attending medical school, could see the fight as a potential springboard, in much the same way his own 2008 victory over Oscar De La Hoya helped transform him into a global name.
“I will not let that happen,” said Pacquiao, 35. “My time is not over yet. I’m not predicting a knockout, but I’m looking for a good fight and looking to prove I can still fight.”
That is about as close to “talking trash” as Pacquiao will allow himself, but his voluble trainer Freddie Roach was far more willing to dismiss Algieri’s chances.
“He’s in way over his head this time,” Roach said. “Manny’s really on top of his game right now and he’s looking really good. He can’t wait to get in the ring with this guy and show the world he’s a better fighter.”
Undaunted, Algieri insisted that he has the ability to beat Pacquiao.
“We’re not worried about what Manny’s going to do, we’re focused on what I’m going to do, and if I fight my fight, I win,” the challenger said.
The bravado only elicited a snort of derision from Roach.
“They’re trying to make out like Algieri is the next Rocky,” he said,“but this isn’t a movie.”
DeMarco fights for sister
American Jesse Vargas defends his WBA junior welterweight title on the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri undercard in Macau on Sunday undaunted by an opponent who has a huge motivation.
Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (31-3-1, 23 KOs) received the devastating news that his 13-year-old sister had been struck down with cancer on his arrival at training camp in the Philippines last month.
“I fight for the life of my sister – it’s for her that I’m going in the ring,” DeMarco said.
His sister Mariana was diagnosed with bone cancer in the shoulder and has already started chemotherapy.
DeMarco was distraught at the news but vowed to win the title to show her that the odds can be overcome.
“She would see everything in life can be accomplished with hard work,” he said. “I’m fighting for her dream to have a life.”
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE