When it was announced that Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent on November 22nd would be Chris Algieri, casual fight fans collectively asked “who?” While it’s true that the 30-year-old former kickboxer from Long Island is a virtual unknown, he has certainly earned his shot at one of the greatest boxers of all-time after he pulled off a shocking upset victory over feared slugger Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year. The victory raised eyebrows as Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) lined himself up for a $1.4 million payday against Pacquiao. He may be a big underdog, but boxing pundits know better as Algieri’s 5’11” frame and impressive boxing ability could be a recipe for disaster for the Filipino. Life+Times caught up with Algieri to discuss his shocking rise, whether or not he still plans to go to medical school and if Floyd Mayweather is in his future.
Life+Times: Do you think Manny Pacquiao might be overlooking you considering that he decided to play a game of professional basketball before you two fight?
Chris Algieri: I’m not really thinking about that. The only reason I was concerned about him playing basketball was if he got hurt. That was my problem with that. If he wants to play basketball, that’s fine. If he wants to be a politician, I don’t care either. The only thing that matters is if he shows up healthy and ready to go on fight night. We don’t get paid until after we fight. As far as I’m concerned, as long as he shows up to fight, I don’t care what he’s doing.
L+T: You were on a path to medical school but now it seems that is on hold since you have such a huge opportunity in front of you. How are our parents dealing with it?
CA: They are truly proud and excited about the whole process. I think my father has a lot of difficulty understanding and grasping the magnitude of it because he’s used to being the local celebrity and selling tickets for my fights. It’s obviously gone way beyond that at this point. My mother is a very strong minded and aggressive woman and she understands where this is all going now. She sees that what I’ve been planning over the last decade is coming to fruition. She’s proud that I’ve been able to stick through it.
L+T: Win or lose, is medical school still in your future?
CA: It depends on how these next 18 months play out. As fast as things have gone, things could really escalate. But we’ll see about medical school. It’s about passion. If the passion for boxing is not there, then there’s no need for me to do it. It’s still very much there. My body is still responding to training and I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been in my life so as long as my body and mind are healthy and the passion for what I do is here, I’m going to keep going.
L+T: This is your first time fighting outside of the New York/New Jersey area. Will it be difficult for you to not have the support of your fans all the way in Macau?
CA: Nope. It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I don’t hear anyone except my trainer when I’m in the ring anyway and in terms of where the fight is, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been doing training camps all over the country for the past couple of years now. I’ve lived in other places just to train. I’m used to traveling but I would travel and come home to fight. I’m used to traveling and being away. It makes no difference who is there to support me because I’m there for the guy that’s right in front of me.
L+T: What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
CA: My physical strength. I think people underestimate how physically strong I am in the ring. I’ve come across very few guys that are stronger than me. Knockout power and strength are two completely different things and I’m a physically big and strong guy in the ring. I’m able to use my athleticism to be even that much stronger. That’s something you won’t know unless you’re in there with me and Manny will find that out on fight night.
L+T: Is it important that you show Pacquiao that you have the ability to hurt him?
CA: I think it’s important in every fight to show these guys that I can hurt them. They have to respect me when they rush in. I had to hit Ruslan Provodnikov hard enough to keep him from coming at me. They say Floyd Mayweather doesn’t hit hard but he had to hit hard enough to keep Canelo Alvarez from rushing in, right?
L+T: Right. But that’s been the one big criticism about you: your lack of knockout power. So what is it that has you unbeaten at this point in your career?
CA: It’s my will. Before the Provodnikov fight, he was talking about breaking wills and I said “You know what, we have a lot in common because I break my opponents will as well. I break their will because I don’t get tired and I get stronger as the fight goes on.” In a lot of my fights, my opponents don’t try to win; they just try to get to the end. I get stronger as we go. I put pressure on fighters in a different way. Ruslan puts pressure by coming straight at you; I put on pressure by being extremely active and in your face all night long.
L+T: Do you remember a time when you realized that your will would carry you a long way?
CA: My trainer will tell you about the first time we sparred and I was 16 and he was preparing for a world title fight and he spent seven rounds trying to knock me dead in a sparring session and I just wouldn’t go anywhere. He kicked me in my liver with a rear leg round kick, which he was known to knock a lot of people out with and I never went down. That was his eye opener. He was a believer for life at that point.
L+T: If you beat Manny Pacquiao, would you be interested in a fight with Floyd Mayweather?
CA: I want the biggest fights and if that’s the biggest fight, which definitely it will be. But once I get past Pacquiao, I have to fight him again because he has a rematch clause. I’m living the Pacquiao dream right now.
L+T: What’s the first thing you’re going to do on November 23rd if you come out victorious in the biggest fight of your career?
CA: Prepare for the next biggest fight of my career. My biggest fight was June 14 and the next was before that. Every fight from now on is the biggest fight of my career.