Last year at this time, Chris Algieri was 18-0 and had just been given word that, on Valentine’s Day, around 11 weeks away, he’d be facing 17-1 Emmanuel Taylor in a scheduled 10-round bout to be shown on the NBC Sports Network. Taylor represented the toughest challenge to date Algieri had faced in his previous 18 fights, stretching back six years.
Algieri had come off an impressive stoppage of 14-12 Wilfredo Acuna back in September, as well as unanimous 10-round decisions against 10-1 Jose Alejo and 24-8-2 Mike Arnaoutis earlier in the year.
As soon as Star Boxing’s President, Joe DeGuardia and Matchmaker Ron Katz notified Algieri of the match, Algieri accepted. The fight would take place in the Paramount, a multipurpose nightclub in Algieri’s hometown of Huntington, New York. The Paramount is an old theatre, which promoters rent for the use of putting on plays, concerts, children’s events and boxing. For boxing, it can be configured to seat around 1,200. The Paramount closely resembles Philadelphia’s now gone Blue Horizon, which, for decades, played host to most of Philadelphia’s vast array of boxing talent, including Bennie Briscoe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Tyrone Everett, Jeff Chandler, Johnny Carter, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Stanley “Kitten Hayward.
Through the holiday season and into 2014, Algieri worked out with his two hard-driving and dedicated trainers, Long Island’s Keith Trimble and former Long Islander-by-way-of-Virginia and now Las Vegas resident Tim Lane.
Lane is a former ISKA (Kickboxing) champion. He left competitive kickboxing and moved into boxing in 1996. He won three of his five pro fights between 1996-1998, being trained and managed by former world heavyweight kickboxing champ Derek Panza. Lane was a much more proficient fighter when he was using his legs.
Keith Trimble runs a successful Martial Arts Gym, the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, on Long Island, and is highly-respected in that field.
As a former kickboxer who did quite well in that field (Algieri was not undefeated as publicized in the pre-fight buildup), the triumvirate of Algieri, Lane and Trimble moved into the world of professional boxing as Algieri’s love of the sport grew and as his passion for kickboxing waned. Together, they were licensed. Together, they trained.
Day in and day out it was Algieri with Trimble. When fight time approached, Lane flew in from his home in Las Vegas, where he moved several years ago. Together, from mainly small venues in and around Long Island, Team Algieri racked up win after win.
He fought at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn…The Huntington Hilton Hotel…The Plattdeutsche Restaurant in Franklin Square, Long Island…The Westbury Music Fair in Westbury, Long Island….At Madison Square Garden on an undercard which featured Yuri Gamboa v Rogers Mtagwa and Juan Manuel Lopez v Steve Luevano in the co-featured fights…and he fought at the Paramount in Huntington. He fought eight main events there.
Only two years ago, he was fighting guys whose records were 10-5-1, 7-4-1 and 10-5. He stopped one of them and decisioned the two others. He was becoming more and more of a smooth boxer. His conditioning was increasing with every outing. But he wasn’t learning to punch even a drop harder. Either he wasn’t being taught by Trimble and Lane or he wasn’t learning.
While Algieri was fighting his 7-4-1 guys, Manny Pacquiao was fighting Timothy Bradley (twice). He was fighting Brandon Rios. He was fighting Juan Manuel Marquez. Though only 2-2 in those four fights, the experience Pacquiao was adding to his future Hall-of-Fame resume was invaluable. He won. He lost. He learned.
Algieri was building and padding his record, but he wasn’t learning. My SiriusXM co-host, Gerry Cooney, who knows more than a little about power-punching and throwing body punches and turning over a thunderous left hook and snapping out a ramrod left jab, would say to me, “Algieri is just not learning enough. I don’t know if it’s his trainers or what it is, but he should be learning to punch harder and move his head more. He needs more than what he is getting.”
My late, great guru—Hall-of-Fame trainer/announcer Gil Clancy—used to say, “Nothing beats experience. If you want to be a good dancer, you need to have a good dance partner, someone who really knows what they are doing. If you are trying to become a better tennis player and continually play against lesser opponents, you’ll never get any better. The same thing holds for boxing. The better the opponents are, the better you’ll be, especially if you have boxing talent to begin with.”
Well, that upgrade to a higher opposition level came against Emmanuel Taylor. Algieri rose to the occasion against Taylor, winning by sores of 98-92 and 97-93 (twice).
Then came the big jump. Algieri fought last June 14 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. His opponent was ultra-tough Ruslan Provodnikov. The “Russian Rocky” dropped Algieri twice in the first round, although the second knockdown was Algieri taking a knee to assess the damage the first knockdown did to his rapidly-swelling right eye.
Rising from the knockdown, Algieri finished the first round in a place he had never been before—behind by three points on each of the scorecards. He turned on his impressive foot-speed from that moment, and, showing heart and courage nobody knew he had, went on to take a disputed split decision against Provodnikov.
Off that victory, Algieri was offered a fight against Pacquiao and came to financial terms which would earn him around $1.5 million. For this camp, Algieri had everything. He had paid sparring partners. He had training like never before. There were two-a-days. There were three-a-days. HBO cameras were in his face wherever he went. He became an instant celebrity on Long Island…and in New York City…and in Los Angeles. They even loved him halfway around the world in Macao, China.
The training progressed and Algieri got in phenomenal shape. He used state-of-the-art machines to train on. He had hot tubs and ice baths. He had massages and strength coaches. His every step was recorded and monitored. So was his breathing and his heart rate. The plan was to turn Algieri into a fighting machine. His punch output was charted to be at an astounding 100+ per round.
Then the fight began. Algieri couldn’t find a rhythm. Pacquiao could. The taller, rangier, longer-armed Algieri could barely lay a meaningful punch on Pacquiao. Not so the other way around.
How could that be? Algieri had everything going into this fight. Or so he thought.
His corner had convinced him he was in better shape than Pacquiao. Algieri was told he had done everything humanly possible to win this fight.
He was told, over and over, that he has everything that Pacquiao has, and more.
On paper, he did have youth over Pacquiao. He did have height, he did have reach and he did have speed over the Filipino legend. Yes, he may have even had conditioning.
Yet, in reality, Algieri did not have everything. He lacked the one thing that Pacquiao has in abundance, the one thing no trainer or coach or fitness guru can give or teach.
Chris Algieri did not have experience.
He received it the hard way on Saturday night.
Photo Credit: Chris Farina