Happens all the time. Person who wants to be a star, get to that promised land where folks are at your beckon call, where the worries melt away because the pitfalls which snag the common man no longer apply, are nullified because of the status your newfound celebrity now accords.
Ample money, respect afforded to you 24-7, tables are restaurants held for you, and patrons sitting there are rudely and promptly dislodged in order to make room for you.
Person attains stardom…and then, shockingly, finds that some of the pitfalls have melted away, but lo and behold, new ones have mushroomed.
Chris Algieri, the Huntington Heartthrob is there now. That belt around his waist, the WBO junior welterweight title, is a testament to the fact that he is arrived at the promised land for boxers. Oh, and the number of zeros on his next paycheck, the one he will cash for fighting Manny Pacquiao in Macau on Nov. 22, and on pay-per-view, that helps cement the notion that he resides in a new space. But, I asked the Long Islander as he readied his suitcases for the 17 or so hour of air travel to make the Monday press conference in Macau, where he and Pacquiao will be present to help in the hype process, has reaching this plot of promised land been all it has been cracked up to be?
Is it all good, and when inevitable annoyances pop up, are they immediately shoved aside, with an excess of good natured tolerance displayed…or are these newfound annoyances like zits on an adolescent, prone to popping up with disturbing regularity, and immune to immediate minimization?
“It’s both,” said the 30-year-old boxer, who started out as a kickboxer, and turned pro as a pugilist in 2008. He said that he is looking forward to the trek to Macau, and touching down in Taipei, before completing the second leg to the new fightgame mecca, as constructed by Top Rank promotional wizard Bob Arum. Algieri hit Europe and saw the sites, and got his world-view some seasoning, as a late teen, so he’s had the travel bug. “And this is what happens when you’re a 'star,' he stated. “It comes with the territory. And I’m prepared for it. It’s what I’ve wanted, and it is what it is.”
Now, it isn’t to say that Algieri (20-0, with 8 knockouts) has found all the shifts in his existence since he took that strap from Ruslan Provodnikov on June 14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and on HBO to be nothing but smooth. The cameras, they are now everywhere. HBO has been filming him for weeks for 24/7, he said, and there is media at every single workout. For a guy who describes himself as a “homebody,” this new phase in life is taking some getting used to.
“It’s so constant,” he said. “That’s the most aggravating part. And I can’t go out like I used to, even in my neighborhood. Even running in my neighborhood….There’s no place to hide.”
So far, he said, the HBO cameras haven’t caught him or any of his family or extended crew doing anything untoward, or embarrassing, or the like. “I told them, ‘Be yourself.’ I think there could be a new star, though. My grandmother is funny, and so sharp.” Anne Algieri has seen a bunch of decades fade into her rear view mirror, but her mind is keen. “They interviewed her, put her on the spot, and her answer was so good, good stuff. She talked about watching my fights, and how she knew I was a smart fighter right away. Her favorite fighter was Joe Louis.”
But while grandma is an immense fan, not everyone else is. I told Algieri about the article I just read, which called the Nov. 22 scrap a “Pay Per View Ripoff,” and described the Long Islander as a pillow fisted sort who is most adept at avoiding contact. He chuckled as I relayed this. But, I wondered, after you read a few of these, don’t you feel like lashing out? Does anger build, and don’t you want to shout out that you deserve some respect?
“It hasn’t gotten to that point yet,” he said. “I’m smiling even as you’re reading that. The people that write that, they have no idea who I am. If they write that, they don’t know me.”
The boxer told me that Team Pacquiao were the ones pushing for the bout to be contested at 144 pounds or less, and actually, he’d love for the event to be signed for 147 pounds, a true welterweight contest, because he respects the original division. “I’m a purist,” he told me. “That is the real weight class, for a real title. They wanted it, it’s not on me. I’ve always wanted to be a welterweight champion.” 140, 144, 147, wherever it is contested, he aims to give Pacquiao the same type of problems, he says.
I also asked for an update on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. He put a challenge out to Pacman on August 20. Has the Congressman taken the baton, and taken a chilly bath for charity? “Not that I’ve seen,” Algieri said. Hmmm, might there be an opportunity to force Manny’s hand? Wouldn’t it be something, I said, not intending to be a provocateur, or not a malevolent one, anyway, if you filled up a Gatorade bucket with ice and doused Manny in Macau, at the presser on Monday?
“Absolutely not,” said Algieri, chuckling heartily at the thought. “That would aggravate me if someone did that to me! I’d be furious.”
Another hmmm…no one ever gets under Manny’s skin, I thought aloud…wouldn’t it be interesting to see him get rattled and annoyed?
“Nah,” Algieri said, “I expect us to have a humble and refreshing press conference Monday. Although I’m guessing maybe the trainers will have their say.” His guy Tim Lane, he told me, will be able to match Freddie Roach if Dedham Freddie wants to talk trash. “We may have to pull Tim back. He can unload!”
The boxer leaves for Macau tonight. The Macau presser is Monday, and Tuesday there is another one in Shanghai. He flies to LA on Wednesday and does press on the West Coast, whereupon he comes back to NY for a media presser in Manhattan on Thursday, Sept. 4. By that time, maybe the Ice Bucket Challenge will have run its course as a web fad, and, perhaps, a few more people will be convinced that the New Yorker could indeed prove a stiff test for a guy who hasn’t scored a stoppage since 2009, one with almost 36-year-old legs.