By Mark G. Butcher in Macao: The Great Wall of China was never easy to breach, but a small band of New Yorkers are making a breakthrough in South-East Asia. Chris Algieri and his closely-knit team have brought that incomparable NYC state of mind to the opulent Cotai Strip of Macao. They are not here to simply make up the numbers – Team Algieri are here to win.
Their bravado has dismayed and, at times, irked Team Pacquiao. Rarely has such a huge betting underdog projected such confidence. It is reminiscent of Evander Holyfield’s insistence that he would defeat Mike Tyson when ‘The Real Deal’ appeared a shopworn fighter at the end of his days. Holyfield had a world championship and Olympic pedigree, of course, whereas former kickboxer Algieri has essentially learned the sport on a fight-by-fight basis having no amateur boxing experience.
The compelling Algieri has captured hearts and minds in Macao and is a success story for New York promoter Joe DeGuardia, who combs the grass roots of the sport for diamonds in the rough. In Algieri he has unearthed a potential superstar, but to make that leap the New Yorker has to beat the boxing superstar. As he relaxed in the media centre at the Venetian Casino, DeGuardia reflected on Algieri’s rapid rise with pride.
“Chris was developed right in New York, fighting in his backyard for eight fights in a row. Literally! The Huntington Paramount is right in Chris’s backyard!” said DeGuardia. “Then to go from that location, across the world to fight in Macao in the biggest casino in the world, and see his picture, larger than life, 50 feet high in the building is spectacular. New York has invaded Macao. The unsilent minority!
“Chris has had to learn his craft in the pros and he’s been doing it every fight because he had no amateur background,” he continued. “Every fight my matchmakers and I have seen him get better and developing. I’m watching this unfold and thinking, ‘Wow I’m looking at something that could potentially be a whole different future for boxing’. You have different networks, mediums and talk shows that he can do that other people in our business cannot. It’s a spectacular thing to see unfold because Chris can certainly be a crossover star and it’s rare to have that in our business.”
Should Algieri defy the oddsmakers, there is a rematch clause he will have to fulfill with Pacquiao’s promoter Top Rank before becoming a free agent. DeGuardia whispers excitedly about the prospect of an Algieri-Mayweather fight while acknowledging the major hurdle that stands in his fighter’s path.
“Once this fight is over we have a rematch with Manny and that’s basically it,” said the promoter. “We continue on our own way and hopefully by that time Chris is a star. We’ll work together with Bob [Arum] or whoever else has the opponents that can fit for Chris. But ultimately he has to beat Manny, fight a rematch and then we can look around. Obviously, there is another big name on the horizon [Floyd Mayweather] and he’s out west in Las Vegas. He’s sitting out there and looking to get number 50. What a fitting thing it would be to take care of Manny here, have a rematch and next Fall we make a Mayweather fight. Huge!
`With Chris and Manny you really have two good guys, who have a lot to offer the sport and their people. Chris outside the ring is someone a mother could say, ‘I want my kid to emulate him – that’s a real role model’. Manny is a congressman who helps his country out. Those are two good role models, two good people, but Chris fighting Mayweather? Talk about good and bad! Talk about the dichotomy, talk about the storylines. That’s an event!
“Fortunately, I’m independent as a promoter,” continued DeGuardia. “I do business with everybody so, if that’s the case, I can do that kind of deal because I’m not tied to anyone and I don’t have the friction that maybe exists between Top Rank and Mayweather’s company. So I can go in there and make a deal but obviously Chris has got to win on Sunday! Then we still have a rematch that we will obviously honour as that was our agreement and we’ll go from there.”
It’s virtually impossible to walk 30 yards across the vast Venetian Casino without bumping into a member of Pacquiao’s omni-present entourage; in contrast, Algieri keeps his circle small highlighting the difference in personalities.
“Chris is motivated and he’s grounded,” added DeGuardia. “Not only does he have the outside character, motivation and team, he doesn’t have a gigantic entourage and hopefully it stays like that because that stuff drains you physically, mentally and financially. He comes from a tight knit family. His mother and father are still together, real supportive and they all live together in the same house. It’s like the old fashioned Italian way.
“After he finished his Masters degree, he had a huge client base so four days before he fought Ruslan Provodnikov he was still giving physical therapy lessons to his clientele. This is the first time Chris doesn’t have to do that and he’s strictly focusing on boxing and boxing only so I’m expecting another leap in his advancement on Sunday morning. Fortunately, Chris is a very early riser!”
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