There was a fact forgotten underneath all the avocado and spandex jokes — Chris Algieri can actually fight. He reiterated that fact for us Friday night on Spike TV against Amir Khan. Algieri was last seen getting bounced around the ring and beaten up badly by Manny Pacquiao last November. The majority of fans and writers felt that the more talented Khan would do the exact same thing to him. And though Khan got the win, Algieri made a solid showing of himself, eliminating any doubt that he is an overhyped product and putting himself in position for another money fight.
Khan is the flashier fighter who sports excellent hand speed and fires combinations quite well. And for most of the 1st round, the difference in talent showed. He was winning it fairly easily, but then Algieri landed a huge right hand that rocked Khan, wobbling him and forcing him to retreat. It was a shock to many — Algieri had displayed more firepower in three seconds than he did in the entire 12 rounds against Pacquiao. Just like that, Khan was reeling.
That punch set the tone for the rest of the fight, as the normally trigger-happy Khan started using every inch of the ring as Algieri — yes, the guy with a knockout percentage hovering in the 30s stalked his man while cutting off the angles. Clearly, this may be as much an indictment of Khan’s oft-troubled chin as it is proof that Algieri has improved with new trainer John David Jackson, but it marked a major change that continued for every round. Khan no longer felt confident firing away without fear; he’d been hurt, and he was hesitant to engage from then on.
Algieri also proved once again that the guy may look like a pretty-boy, but he takes a helluva shot. It wasn’t as surprising as the fact that he could hurt Khan, but it was significant nonetheless — Khan couldn’t hurt him. Khan landed some hard right hands, and though Algieri’s face bore the marks of a man who had just gone to battle, at no time in the fight did he even remotely appear to be bothered by anything Khan threw. After tasting the power of Pacquiao and Ruslan Provodnikov before him, Khan was a mere annoyance, and Algieri walked right through every punch.
It was Khan who may have taken a step back, despite the victory. He needed to do more than win the fight. He needed to sell the fans on him being the guy who could give Floyd Mayweather some trouble in what could be the pound for pound king’s swan song in September. After struggling with Algieri, he certainly didn’t help himself there. Maybe that’s not fair to him, but Khan touts himself as an elite fighter. Algieri had already fought an elite fighter and got viciously battered. Khan did no battering here. He edged a guy many thought he should destroy. It was hard to envision Khan baffling Mayweather before the Algieri fight, and now the thought seems laughable.
In hindsight, it was easy to toss off the Huntington, New York native as a wannabe contender who didn’t belong with the top fighters after his performance against Pacquiao. But we may have forgotten just how great Pacquiao is. And when you’re in the ring with an all-time great, even if you’re pretty good yourself, the odds are pretty high that you’ll be overwhelmed. Khan is no all-time great — it remains to be seen if he’s even a top welterweight right now — but he’s a very good offensive fighter that Algieri fought on even terms for the most part.
The reason he lost the bout is probably going to be the one shortcoming that haunts him for the rest of his career — he doesn’t possess top-level power. And for guys like him and Mauricio Herrera, another very good fighter with a low knockout percentage, it’s difficult to convince judges to score rounds for you. After wobbling Khan early, he had a hard time doing so again, even though he landed a few more flush shots throughout the night.
Still, the fight was close, and the 117-111 scorecards in Khan’s favor were way too wide. Even with the loss, Algieri gained a great deal of respect from fans and writers (myself included) who may have written him off a bit prematurely. He could give quite a few of the top welterweights some problems, particularly ones bothered by rangy boxers. A rematch with Provodnikov would be worth seeing again, and he might even upset a guy like Danny Garcia, who looks like someone just asked him a difficult calculus question when anybody so much as moves laterally against him.
Sometimes in boxing, a loss does way more for a guy than a win ever could, and this one has given Algieri some well-deserved credibility. At the very least, after being ridiculed as a guy who didn’t belong, he’s now a guy fans wouldn’t mind seeing again. And sometimes, a win raises more questions than a loss. Thought Khan may get the fight he so desperately wants, he failed to make the case that he deserves it. If anything, he seems like more of a long shot to defeat Mayweather than ever.
So the fight belonged to Khan, but the night went to Algieri. There are some fighters who are desperate to hold on to a glossy record, but what they don’t understand is that the record is rendered moot if the fans will pay to see you regardless of the losses. Algieri suddenly finds himself in the best position of his career — with fans wanting not to be rid of him, but intrigued at the possibilities in front of him.
He took another loss, but gained a lot of respect, and with it, another significant fight in the future.
Not bad for a nutritionist.
(Photo: Al Bello, Getty)