For a number of years now, the majority of boxing PPVs have been sold on the name value of just one of the night's combatants. Whether Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, the reason to watch has as of late been to see one of the sport's best in actions - who stands across the ring is many times a mere formality. This Saturday's HBO Boxing PPV absolutely fits into that mold.
Pacquiao vs. Algieri features pound for pound great Manny Pacquiao taking on Chris Algieri - one of the least known boxers to get the PPV treatment in quite some time. Casual fans have never heard of him, and even decently devoted boxing fans did not have him on their radars 6 months ago. And so, for the casual fans in particular, there's an important question to ask here:
Does Chris Algieri have a shot against Manny Pacquiao?
Ask the surprisingly candid Freddie Roach, world famous trainer to Pacquiao, and the answer is a resounding no. Roach has emphatically stated that Pacquiao is simply a class above, and that Algieri has no idea what he's getting into Saturday night in Macao. This has been echoed by most experts and fighters who have weighed in. Ruslan Provodnikov things Algieri needs to "run and hide"; Timothy Bradley somewhat more diplomatically think Algieri might give Pacquiao a little trouble, but the legend will adjust and take the fight.
There is one notable exception to the chorus of Pacquiao picks - Chris Algieri himself. Algieri is a supremely collected and confident fighter, and we saw the results of his mental strength in his June defeat of Provodnikov - the fight that earned him this PPV shot. There, Algieri was brought in as a respectable fighter for the rising Provodnikov to dispatch. When Algieri hit the canvas twice in the first round, it seemed that everything would go according to plan. Yet he picked himself up, pulled himself back into the fight, showing tremendous reserves of mental strength along the way, and pulled off the win. That win, controversial though it may be, came from a combination of the mental game and nice technical boxing, staying outside and using movement to avoid the heavy Provodnikov shots while keeping up a high volume pace to land his own. Algieri walks into Macao to fight the biggest fight of his career, but he still strongly feels he can use those same skills to once again pull off the upset.
Watch BE's Connor Ruebusch break down Pacquiao's techniques for getting inside on taller fighers:
So which side is right? The many Pacquiao supporters, or Algieri? The records obviously favor Pacquiao, but HBO would point out two significant factors in Algieri's favor: 1) Pacquiao's recent KO loss to Juan Manual Marquez and the accompanying questions about his current status, and 2) The argument that all great fighters start somewhere and this may be that start for Algieri. It's an interesting and somewhat compelling argument. It's also flat out wrong.
It's true that Pacquiao is no longer at his very best - no one would argue otherwise. But even a slightly diminished Pacquiao is one of the sport's best. Against first Brandon Rios and then Timothy Bradley, he showed that he remains a world class fighter - perhaps a bit more tentative for sure, but still possessing the kind of skills that precious few can handle. In particular, for Chris Algieri those skills match up very poorly for the challenger. Algieri used movement and speed to deal with Provodnikov - against Pacquiao, he'll be the slower fighter. Where Provodnikov was a stationary target, Manny will be in and out, moving from side to side, hard for Algieri to catch.
As for the argument that a great fighter must start somewhere? That is indeed true. And I do think Algieri has a bright future ahead of him. But this is a huge, huge jump. It wasn't until Pacquaio was 48-3-2 with wins over Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales that he took a swing at Oscar De La Hoya (who was, himself, 3-3 in his last 6 at the time). This is the equivalent of a young Pacquiao taking on De La Hoya just slightly removed from his prime - a fight that likely would have ended much differently for the still developing Pacquiao.
So does Algieri have a chance? A boxer always has a shot. And if this was 2017 and Algieri had wins over a number of other top fighters under his belt, and Manny had a series of losses, sure. But today, November 22, 2014? Sorry Algieri believers, but I just can't see it.
Prediction: Manny Pacquiao by decision
Join us here at Bloody Elbow for results, discussion, and live fight coverage this Saturday, November 22.