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Chris Algieri: Two-Faced and a Champion

h1_Chris-Algieri-MAX.jpg
h1_Chris-Algieri-MAX.jpg

By Steve Kim


Newly-minted WBO junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri made the rounds with various boxing scribes early this week with a victory lap after his upset victory over Ruslan Provodnikov last weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He is an overnight sensation - who was six years in the making.
 
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” he told Maxboxing on Monday afternoon. “I knew I just needed an opportunity and that’s one of the reasons why I jumped on this fight so fast. A lot of people think I came out of nowhere and this is a fast ascension but it’s been a long road, man. I’m not going to lie; there were times when I thought I was making a lot of lateral moves and I didn’t know much longer I was going to this anymore because I didn’t want to fight off-TV, local, for pennies.”

The night started off badly for Algieri, who was sent to the canvas from a left hook from the power-punching Russian and then took a knee to assess the damage to his right eye, which swelled quickly.
 
“The first one, I was pissed; I went down because it was my fault. I traded left hooks with him and it was too early to do that. I was a little more aggressive in the first round than I planned to be and I know he’s dangerous early,” Algieri recalled. “So I was more aggravated than anything, then the second one, I took a knee because of my face. I was trying to figure out what was going on. My upper lip was numb; the swelling was coming on so fast. It felt very strange to me. I’ve never had that happen before. I was trying to figure out what was going on with my face; I didn’t want to get hit with a punch that I didn’t see.
 
“So I decided it would be smarter for me to gather myself and get back to the game plan.”
 
And that game plan was to box Provodnikov. While the defending champion continued to stalk Algieri, he never really initiated the sustained offensive success that is his trademark. For large segments of the night, Algieri was able to turn Provodnikov and make him reset his feet and he poked and prodded all night with his lead hand.
 
Algieri says he regained his bearings quickly, “I felt great in round two; once round two came around, I got my jab going and I was still thinking about my eye and my nose and my face because it’s bleeding and swelling but it just gave me more reason to stick to a boxing game plan: to make him miss and keep punching with the jab. Really, by about round four, I had his rhythm and the big shots that he was throwing weren’t landing anymore and I was able to land my punches.”
 
There are those who think that Provodnikov won the fight based on the heavier punches. Others prefer the boxing of Algieri. But after 12, the challenger from nearby Huntington, New York, had no doubts that he had done enough to lift the title. “I knew I was winning as the fight was going on and I felt that, just energy-wise while we were fighting. I felt I was getting stronger, moving better and he wasn’t. He was throwing less, walking forward more. A lot of the jabs I was hitting him with were really bringing his head up in the air and I know he doesn’t want to admit it or not or if anyone wants to see it but I hurt him to the body a couple times throughout the fight and that definitely slowed down his pace.”
 
Judges Don Trella and Tom Schreck agreed with this assessment and had Algieri up by the score of 114-112 (overruling the card of Max DeLuca, who had Provodnikov ahead by the score of 117-109). But it came at a heavy cost. Algieri’s right eye was grotesquely swollen. “It’s funny; I’m like two-faced right now,” he said with a chuckle. “On one side, I look like normal Chris Algieri; the other side, I look like the Oakland Raider guy.”
 
So what was his initial reaction upon seeing his eye?
 
“’Oh, sh*t,” said Algieri, laughing, who didn’t need a mirror to understand what was happening.”I could tell it was a mess while I was in the ring but it’s definitely a little disheartening. It’s odd to see yourself disfigured in any way. It’s part of the game. This is boxing; it’s a risky business.” Algieri says the swelling would have to subside before a complete prognosis could be given. “But they checked my retina and my vision; that’s all good. We just gotta make sure there’s no orbital fractures in there if it’s possible, especially the way it swelled up so much but we’ll go from there. There’s no cuts or anything like that. Literally, other than my eye, I don’t have a scratch on me.”
 
When you ask him if the realization that he was a champion came upon him as he woke up on Sunday, he cracked, “Hey, you’re assuming I went to sleep.” Yes, the celebration last long into the night and early morning for Algieri, who said, “It didn’t hit me till last night (Sunday). I was at home with my extended family up from Florida and we were sitting there and everybody was talking and excited and I was alone - I was with everybody but I was alone - I was like, ‘Man, I did it. I did it. I’m a world champion.’”
 
The 30-year-old Algieri wants to strike while the iron is hot.
 
“My business mind doesn’t stop. I was literally in the hospital talking about the next step with my attorney. I’m already thinking about the next thing; this is as much a business as it is a passion. It’s time to maximize this till I retire. So I’m thinking about what the next moves are going to be, what are all my different options. I’m thinking about big, national brand corporate sponsors, sponsorships and things like that. I want to make moves now. Boxing never sleeps; neither does Chris Algieri,” he stated. And it’s clear who he would like to face next.
 
“They keep talking about that Manny Pacquiao fight and I don’t think anything out there in my position could say no to that. Manny Pacquiao, top of the sport. It’s the biggest state that you can get. That’s where I want to be.”
 
TNR
 
Here’s the latest episode of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
 
 
MR. PADRE
 
Like many others, I was saddened by the passing of “Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn, who left us too soon at the age of 54. During my childhood, Gwynn, alongside Steve Garvey, Eric Dickerson and Magic Johnson were my favorite professional athletes.
 
I was such a big fan of Gwynn that I made out a Padres schedule (and if I recall correctly, orange for home games, brown for road) on a standard sheet of paper and every day, I would check the box-score everyday to see how he did and I would dutifully put down how Gwynn did at the plate on that particular date. So if you needed to know how Gwynn did on May 23rd versus the Astros and Bob Knepper or Joe Niekro at the Astrodome, I could tell you within seconds just by looking at my bedroom wall near my desk.
 
He’s best known for being a line-drive machine who won eight National League batting titles but what’s often forgotten was, in his early days, he could also steal bases (he once nabbed 56 bases in a year) and was a Gold Glove right fielder (he’s still among the very best I’ve ever seen at charging ground balls, scooping the ball, crow-hopping and getting rid of the ball quickly with accuracy).
 
I think I speak for a lot of people by saying a part of our childhood died along with Gwynn.
 
And it turns out he was a better person than he was a player. Using athletes as role models is always a slippery slope. The reality is we really don’t know all that much about the players we idolize for essentially playing kids’ games (albeit much better than most of us) and they oftentimes let us down. It turns out with this guy, he was even more than we could’ve hoped for.
 
This story from David Johnson on Deadspin was simply outstanding:
 
 
MIDWEEK FLURRIES
 
 
Algieri-Provodnikov peaked at 1.1 million viewers on HBO...Wladimir Klitschko-Kubrat Pulev will take place on September 6th in Hamburg, Germany...Robert Byrd will the third man in the ring for the July 12th bout between Saul Alvarez and Erislandy Lara. The three judges will be Dave Moretti, Jerry Roth and Levi Martinez...I really think in 1994, Gwynn could’ve hit the magic .400 mark but that dreaded lockout took place...Was this the best Spurs championship team? I think so...I know I joke a lot about being a “diehard Kings fan” but really, there is nothing quite like playoffs hockey...Ican be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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