Leading up to the big fight in Macau last Saturday, Freddie Roach said it time and time again:
“This isn’t a Rocky movie.”
Maybe it was because Chris Algieri’s enjoyment of his newfound limelight came off as smug and cocky. Maybe it was because too many people were starting to write off his fighter, Manny Pacquiao, someone whom Roach has often called a son. Whatever it was, Freddie Roach was adamant that Pacquiao would destroy Algieri.
Pacquiao didn’t get the knockout Roach predicted, but he did manage to knock down the New Yorker about as many times as Ivan Drago knocked down Rocky Balboa. Pacquiao dominated Algieri for virtually every minute of every round. It wasn’t surprising that Pacquiao was faster, had more power and moved with ease around the challenger. It was surprising that Algieri and his corner completely disregarded the skills that got him this once-in-a-life-time opportunity in the first place.
Algieri and his team constructed an absolutely ludicrous fight plan. In his post-fight ring interview, Algieri admitted that he went into the fight with the intention of winning by knockout. He and his trainer, Tim Lane, had said something similar in the lead-up to the fight, but most dismissed the claim as mere puffery. Apparently, Algieri and his trainer were serious.
Algieri earned the fight with Pacquiao by being in the right place at the right time to dethrone the big-hearted warrior, Ruslan Provodnikov. Algieri beat the aggression and power Provodnikov brings to all of his fights with a long, stiff jab, quick feet and steely resolve. In short, he boxed with guts.
Algieri used all the physical tools he was given and maximized them by employing a strategy that emphasized those tools. That’s what he’s done most of his career. With only eight knockouts on his record, it’s clear Algieri isn’t a power puncher.
But that Algieri didn’t show up to fight Manny Pacquiao. It took Roy Jones Jr. a few rounds to figure out exactly what was going on. Then he explained it to the world: Algieri was purposefully not boxing and allowing Pacquiao to come in with his punches, especially the hard left, in the hopes that, like Juan Manuel Marquez, Algieri might be able to land a knockout counter right hand. In doing so, Algieri was giving away rounds and eventually would end up getting hit with the power left that helped Pacquiao become the legend that he is.
Some might think I’m being too harsh on Algieri and his team. They might say different fighters require different tools. Fair enough. But it is unconscionable to advise a light puncher like Algieri to lay in wait for one devastating punch against a fighter with a recognized solid chin and even better fighting spirit.
Even if Algieri truly believed that he had hurt every person he’d ever fought, as he claimed in his post-fight ring interview, then it was the responsibility of his trainer to speak sobering truths. Instead, Lane, Algieri’s trainer, went along with the idea and then repeated delusional instructions in the corner on fight night.
After the first few times Algieri was knocked down in the third, Lane told his fighter, “You’re doing beautiful, man. Keep it up.” After the next knockdown in the seventh he said, “This is where we want to be.” Later in the ninth when Algieri ran into another left hand and crumbled to the canvass, Lane said, “We are exactly where we need to be.” Algieri would have been better off with a minute of silence in between rounds.
While Pacquiao didn’t end his knockout dry streak, he controlled the fight with vintage movement, speed and ferocity. It was further proof that Pacquiao’s skills are nowhere near the end. Pacquiao can fight and beat anyone in the world at 140 and 147 lbs., except for maybe Floyd Mayweather. And at the end of the day that was what this fight was really about — whether Pacquiao could win in such a fashion to keep the dream of Mayweather vs. Pacquaio alive. He did.
With Les Moonves, the head of CBS (parent company of Showtime), heavily involved in talks with Bob Arum, and other conversations going on with HBO, it seems that all the hoping, wishing and cursing to get this superfight made might just finally be paying off.
“I trust Les Moonves. For the head of CBS to spend that much time on something would be counterproductive if it [the superfight] was bullshit.” – Bob Arum
The time is now. Surprisingly, the superfight might be better and more competitive today. For some, this will come off as blasphemy, but here goes: This version of Pacquiao is more like his older self four years ago than the current version of Mayweather is to the Mayweather of four years ago. That’s not to say that Pacquiao would win the fight or that Mayweather's legs are shot, as Roach is fond of saying. What it means is, today, Mayweather isn’t using the evasive style that once would have likely shut out Pacquiao. Maybe he's been saving it for the right opponents. Maybe Father Time has slowed him down just a hair more than Pacquiao and in the process leveled the playing field. Until these two legends step into the ring, it’s all conjecture. Let’s keep pushing for the fight that fans have demanded and posterity deserves.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.