Underneath The Avocado Tree: Manny Pacquiao Vs. Chris Algieri Preview And Prediction

If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing a preview for Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri, I’d have had one simple question: Who the fuck is Chris Algieri?

In September 2013, Algieri won his 18th bout after his opponent Wilfredo Acuna (14-12, and winless in his previous five) retired on his stool after the 7th round. It was an off-television fight in Algieri’s hometown of Huntington, New York. No one knew who he was, and even fewer cared. When researching Algieri prior to his February win over Emmanuel Taylor, I found far more clips of him kickboxing than boxing. The win over Taylor on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights got Algieri the exposure he had been seeking, and a fight on HBO with terrifying Siberian moose liver tartare enthusiast Ruslan Provodnikov. That was a fight that Algieri was not expected to win, and after a disastrous first round, it looked like a fight he might not finish on his feet. Algieri dug deep, however, made adjustments, and convinced two of the judges that he’d won.

How a win over a solid, but second tier fighter on Friday Night Fights, and a hotly disputed split decision over everyone’s favorite berserker earned Algieri a shot at Pacquiao on pay-per-view is one of those questions that can only be answered with: “That’s boxing.”

The whole sport feels weary. We’ve seen Pacquiao on 24/7 so many times we pretty much know down to the minute what’s going to happen. He’s going to train, play basketball (poorly I might add), pray, give away money to good causes, and pray some more. Filipinos will praise his humility and say how much he means to their nation. Freddie Roach will do any and all trash talking for Pacquiao, and we’ll learn exactly nothing that we didn’t know already.

This is where having a compelling B-side comes in really handy. Enter Algieri. He is a confident young man with an interesting back-story. This has been the bulk of this promotion, to the point where it has turned some people off. In interviews, Algieri comes across as an intelligent and self-aware person, a smart guy who has no lack of confidence and is fully invested in making the most of this opportunity. His endless discussion of nutrition and dubious fashion choices have made him something of a punch line, though.

There are only so many times a boxing fan can stomach hearing a grown man who lives in his parents’ basement being asked by interviewers about how often he gets laid. Chicks dig him. We get it. Boxing fans love to hate a pretty boy, and with Algieri there’s a vibe making fun of a guy at the bar for wearing his sunglasses at night and dressing like a complete douche.

What remains to be seen is how good he really is in the ring. In the Provodnikov fight, a fight that I, like many, thought Provodnikov won, Algieri showed great poise and undeniable toughness. Algieri (20-0 8 KO) is an athletic mover, or as he prefers to style it, a master boxer. He’s quick on his feet and uses his height and reach to good effect by making his opponents chase him and then popping them with his jab, which is his best punch. He also mixes in straight rights and left hooks before moving out of harms way.

However, he does have several deficiencies. The first is his obvious lack of punching power. Algieri has only eight KOs in 20 professional fights, the vast majority coming against inexperienced or downright awful competition. Algieri’s last stoppage win was over 7-4-1 Winston Mathis in March 2012. His head movement is nearly non-existent and his technique can be mechanical at times, particularly his straight right. He also tends to drop whichever hand he isn’t punching with. I wrote after his win over Taylor that a good counterpuncher would make him pay dearly for that, and Pacquiao has evolved into an excellent counterpuncher.

While Provodnikov was happy to chase Algieri around the ring, Pacquiao won’t do that. A month shy of 36, he is still very quick. At some point, Algieri will be circling to his left and drop his jab after throwing it. When that happens, he’s going to get caught with a Pacquiao right hook and be dumped on his ass.

Manny Pacquiao is not the same fighter that he once was. After a 20-year career spanning 63 fights in which he has amassed an amazing 56-5-2 record with 38 knockouts, how could he be? He’s bigger, slower, and his punches aren’t as concussive at welterweight as they were during his rampage through the lower divisions, which can aptly be compared to Sherman’s march through Georgia. Despite the inevitable decline of age, at no point during my comparison of these fighters did I find anything Algieri does well that Pacquiao isn’t capable of neutralizing with ease. Pacquiao is simply in a different class than Algieri.

Algieri told HBO’s Kieran Mulvaney that he expects to control the fight, thereby denying Pacquiao a chance to get into his rhythm. There is one problem with this. You don’t control Manny Pacquiao. He controls you. Since his rise to the top of the sport began, only two fighters, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales, have had anything resembling control over Pacquiao in the ring, and both had to walk through hellfire to do so.

Timothy Bradley had success frustrating Pacquiao, but I wouldn’t call what he was doing control. The best Algieri can hope for will be to stymie Pacquiao’s aggression as Bradley did, betting that his jab and length will be enough to frustrate the greatest offensive fighter of his generation. Pacquiao’s game plan is simple: Be Manny Pacquiao. He’ll cut off the ring, use angles, throw unorthodox combinations, and be back out of range before Algieri can respond. Even if  has an off night, he’ll still be too good for Algieri.

A Pacquiao win doesn’t mean all that much. Unless he looks phenomenal, or awful, we won’t have learned anything about him that we didn’t already know.

An Algieri win, however, has many implications. Who will he fight next? How the hell does a guy go from fighting bums off TV to upsetting one of the two best welterweights in the world in only a year? Will he finally move out of his parents’ house? What’s the trade-in value of a Honda Accord with 200,000 miles? Can we finally stop talking about Mayweather-Pacquiao? Seriously though, can we stop talking about that, please? These questions aren’t going be asked, though.

Prediction: Pacquiao by mid round KO.