Wiser and wearier, Chris Algieri and Manny Pacquiao near the finish line
NEW YORK – Manny Pacquiao appeared weary from the wear and tear of an unprecedented two-week international press tour to promote his welterweight title match against Chris Algieri in Macau, China, on Nov. 22. He was not aware that the total mileage was going to be over 27,000 miles. But he certainly was able to rattle off the stops.
“We’ve been flying everywhere – Macau, Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, San Francisco, LA, New York,” he said back stage at the Liberty Theater in Times Square on Thursday morning. “By the time your body can adjust with the jet lag we move to another place with a different time.”
He’ll get to relax by taking a 15-hour flight back to the Philippines when the tour ends on Friday.
This is old hat for Pacquiao, who is accustomed to lengthy promotional tours where he is pulled from here to there. For Algieri, whose last time on HBO was his first time, being part of a whirlwind media blitz is a new experience. But he is not overwhelmed by it.
“Obviously it’s a big change. But I relish it. I’m built for this stuff,” said Algieri, who grew up and still lives in Huntington, Long Island. “All these interviews and the travel ÔÇª I love to travel anyway. Now I get to do two things that I love to do, box and travel. And I get to do it as a champion.”
If Algieri, the WBO junior welterweight champion, is in over his head, he doesn’t show it. And he certainly proved that he belongs in the same ring with Pacquiao based on his last fight. Ruslan Provodnikov had Algieri down twice in the first round and pounded Algieri’s eye shut. But Algieri rallied and pulled out an unlikely decision. It was enough to catch Pacquiao’s attention.
“I just learned about Algieri when there was news that Algieri wanted to fight Manny Pacquiao,” Pacquiao said. “Then I watched the fight with Ruslan Provodnikov. He showed that he deserved this fight because of what he did in the last fight.”
Now promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank has the hardest job – selling Algieri to still-skeptical boxing fans that might be having second thoughts about buying the match on HBO Pay Per View. Arum was working all the angles he could think of at the Liberty Theater.
“[Algieri is] very unique to the sport of boxing because of his education and how he uses his smarts when he performs athletically,” Arum said. “Anybody who says that the fight between Pacquiao and Algieri will be a blowout doesn’t know what they’re talking about. This is kid is mentally so tough that he’s going to present a real puzzle for Manny and he’s not going to be discouraged.”
Besides his two college degrees in health care sciences and nutrition sciences, Arum is also playing up Algieri’s good looks. Several beautiful young woman carrying signs of support lined up behind Algieri on the dais before the start of the press conference. Arum called them “The Algieri Fan Club.”
During the two-week press tour, Algieri was introduced to the fans in China. He joked that he might have made more fans in China than he has in Huntington. By sheer numbers he may be right. He and Pacquiao have shared airplanes and were even confined to the same room at customs in China for an hour, but they haven’t shared very much about themselves with each other.
“There’s been very little interaction between me and Manny. There’s no bad blood,” Algieri said. “I’d rather not know too much about my opponent’s personal life or him as a person. He seems like a great guy, but I don’t need to know that about him.”
At stops along the tour the promoters have set up friendly competitions between Pacquiao and Algieri. They played billiards, shot basketballs, hit baseballs in a batting cage and went bowling. Algieri won all four of the competitions.
“It’s funny how the competitiveness of us came out,” Algieri said. “We kind of got zoned in and a little quiet and looking at each other. We had a little tension, friendly but a little heated up.”
Pacquiao smiled when reminded that Algieri is 4-0 over him in recreational sports on the tour.
“I lost in all the games. But in the real game I think I’m better than him,” Pacquiao said.
Algieri has been taking in everything. It has been beneficial for him to see Pacquiao up close and to watch him interact with the fans and to see how he handles himself with the media.
“It’s been very good for me,” Algieri said. “You watch a guy like that for a decade. I was a kid in high school watching those fights. You’re never around the guy. You never meet the guy. And now you’re fighting the guy. For me to be around and see that he’s flesh and blood. He’s got two hands, two feet. He’s got a head. That’s help quite a bit in terms of helping me grasp everything.”
Algieri is going to be one of three grand marshals at the Huntington Awareness Parade in his hometown on Saturday morning. It will be an opportunity for his community to honor his accomplishment of winning the junior welterweight championship and to see him before he gets into heavy training for the Pacquiao fight.
A year ago Algieri was getting ready to fight Wilfredo Acuna at the Paramount in Huntington. In 12 months he has gone from making $15,000 a fight to earning $1 million to fight Pacquiao. He was asked how he would describe this chapter of his life.
“Just me coming into my own. Just a realization of that,” he said before pausing. “I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s everybody else seeing what we’ve known. My camp, we’re not surprised by this. Maybe the speed at which it’s happening, but not the fact that I’m here. I think it’s just the world taking notice of what we’ve been doing all along.”
What Manny Pacquiao press conference is complete without the obligatory questions about Floyd Mayweather Jr.? Thursday at the Liberty Theater was no exception.
Pacquiao said he is more optimistic than he has been in the last three years that he and Mayweather might face each other at last.
“Hopefully that fight will happen next year,” he said. “I think they started to negotiate right now. It’s a formal conversation. It’s a serious conversation.“
More serious than in the past?
“Yes,” he said.
Promoter Bob Arum said one of the major hurdles to the fight has been removed – the fact that Pacquiao fights on HBO and Mayweather fights on Showtime.
“That issue has been resolved by the two networks. We want to do the fight. The ball is in Floyd’s court. We’ve been down this road before,” Arum said.
An HBO spokesman said he wasn’t aware that the two networks had officially worked out anything regarding a possible match between Pacquiao and Mayweather.