Nov. 22 isn’t too far away now, and Chris Algieri is transitioning into a slightly more snarly mode. The Huntington HeartThrob moved camp from Long Guyland to Vegas, flying late Saturday and getting into that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell city early Sunday morning.
I chatted on Monday afternoon with the 30-year-old hitter, who has been building over the past 8 weeks a larger faction of rooters and analysts who think that maybe his style and skills could prove to be quite problematic for the 36-in-December-year-old Pacquaio (56-5-2).
Manny is once again conjuring nervous energy among some in his circle who believe he’d be better off being less the juggler, indulging in too much hooping it up, which is at the top of their tsk-tsk list.
Once again, Algieri told me he isn’t paying attention to reports of Manny’s wandering eye, and is expecting the best the whirling dervish has to offer on Nov. 22 in Macau, on a show which will be offered on pay-per-view in the US.
“As far as basketball playing goes, I say, hey, ‘As long as he doesn’t get hurt before our fight!” Algieri said.
Algieri (20-0, with 8 KOs) coughed as he yapped, and the hard-hitting journo in me sensed an opening: Got a little cough there? I threw in an inappropriate Ebola joke, truth to be told, as well. No, Algieri said, he was doing some cooking, prepping some smoothies and meals for the week. “Cooking fumes,” was his response. “And, too early for the Ebola joke, Woods!” he finger-wagged, with a chuckle.
The rosemary chicken and the sweet potatoes sounds delicious and a smart nutrition choice, I said, and we both agreed there is an opening for a high profile athlete to start a prepared food line. In that vein, I asked the Long Islander if he does allow himself to wander, to ponder, what if. If and when you win, do you see yourself at the top of the boxing food chain? This question came on the heels of Algieri signing a merch deal with Nike, an agreement which will have the esteemed sportswear brand custom-make his training outfits, his ring boots, his robe, the whole nine.
“I’m proud to be on team Nike,” he told me. And was there a particular reason he went with Nike, even though others were bidding for his signature?
“I like the product, I’m a firm believer in standing by the product. I’ve bought so much of their stuff, so I’m happy I don’t have to buy it anymore,” he said.
If he wins, that deal, one could imagine, could be morphing into something much larger. Think about it, the handsome Caucasian hitter with a clean record, and the ability to articulate and understand brand messaging….that’s a dream score for a company which understands that boxing is a sphere which could and should be exploited, to consumers, because it is the sport to which all others pale in comparison to, and features the best up-from-the-ashes tales from have nots which became haves.
But that is cart before horse stuff, as Algieri told me, so I then tried to get a sense of what his camp will be looking like for the next few weeks. First, the boxer didn’t spend too much time getting acclimated. He had sparring on Monday, and was psyched to see trainer Kenny Adams, and boxer pal Sharif Bogere, at the gym he makes his home away from home base, the Long Life Fighter Boxing Gym. (Note: After Sunday, he will be training at his own personal gym the Venetian is building for him.)
Algieri did seven rounds. And how did that go? Good, he said. Not the greatest, but, he said, though he likes when he has to push through, grind it out, even when his body and mind are at 95%, not 100%. When he finished sparring, he didn’t leave the session in the ring. No, he is his own toughest critic, so he will ruminate on what happened in there, pick it apart, figure out what he could have done better. “But overall, we’re stepping it up so much now,” he said.
Relaxation will be important, to counter the grind of training, and the pull of the appearances, and media time, and the like.
In case you were wondering, no, Algieri isn’t a guy who likes to insure that his game face is as nasty as humanly possible by swearing off dalliances. “I like my companionship,” he said, “because it’s good to have a change of pace. I’m doing so much punching in the face, it’s good to have some tender interaction. But, the last two weeks, I really bite down. The mindset then is different.”
He understands those that go the Marvin Hagler route, use the spartan ethic of self torture and deprivation as potent fuel.
“But for me, relaxation is a big part of camp. I’m getting a lot better at that as my career progresses.”
Readers, talk to me. Who among you thinks Algieri can out-box Pacman over 12 rounds? Who thinks that it is indeed a viable possibility that his career will progress to previously unimagined heights, in the minds of any but him?