That bout is the WBO Welterweight title fight between boxing megastar and current champion Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) and unbeaten American, and all-round good guy, Chris Algieri (20-0, 8). The bout, being fought in Macau, is being seen as a major contest by all those in the boxing community and, as we've gotten closer to the bout, it appears more and more fans have began to give Algieri a real shot at the upset.
Algieri got the fight after announcing himself on to the boxing world with a hard fought and much debated decision win over "Russian Rocky" Ruslan Provodnikov. That bout saw Algieri put on a Rocky-esque performance picking himself off the canvas twice in the opening round, biting down on his gum shield and fighting his heart out despite a badly swollen eye to claim a narrow decision over Provodnikov to claim the WBO Light Welterweight title. The win over Provodnikov prevented any further talk about a Pacquiao Vs Provodnikov bout and put Algieri into the driving seat for a Pacquiao fight that was agreed relatively soon after Algieri's win.
Out of the ring Algieri is the perfect good guy. He's articulate, smart, charming and very likable. He's everything that a fighter should be out of the ring and is full of respect for his sport, people in general and of course his opponents. There is no real bluster about him, you won't hear him yelling about how good he is and you won't see him try and convince the world that he is a once in a generation super talent. Instead of being cocky and arrogant Algieri is a fighter who comes across as well educated and a man who knows he's got a great chance to go from a "good guy" to a mega star.
The educated guy outside of the ring also fights like an educated and well schooled guy inside the ring. He bases almost everything off the jab, movements intelligently and although he was caught under the Provodnikov storm early on he steadied himself, took a knee, took his time and began to work out the Russian whilst using his foot work to prevent Provodnikov from setting himself. It was the type of performance that you would almost expect from Algieri if you've had the chance to listen to him talk. It was also the type of performance that showed he had skills, toughness and heart, the type of qualities that could have make the kid with the million dollar smile a star.
Of course whilst Algieri wants to become a star Manny Pacquiao already is a star and is one of the few global names in boxing. The Filipino icon is a boxing star, a professional basketball player, an actor, a singer, a politician and most importantly a hero to his countrymen. Like Algieri he is one of boxing's "good guys", a fighter who respects his opponents, keeps the trash talk to a minimum whilst letting his hands do the talking in the ring. It's fair to say he's never going to offend large swathes of the boxing community or say something just to cause controversy.
Although similar in demeanor out of the ring the two fighters have very contrasting styles. Algieri, as mentioned, is a thinker with a boxers mentality basing things off his jab, movement and control of distance. Pacquiao on the other hand is an animal, a whirring dervish, a destructive machine looking to leave chaos in his wake. At his best the Filipino is a frightening fighter to be up against with a dynamite left hand, under-rated boxing skills and offensive mentality which, for a long time, seemed to make him the complete opposite to Floyd Mayweather in terms of style as well as personality. Quick, powerful and destructive Pacquiao can spit out opponents in double quick fashion, just ask Ricky Hatton, whilst he can also grind them out and break them bit by bit, as he did against Miguel Cotto.
To make himself a star Pacquiao had to take risks. That is shown not only in his style of fighting, which is genuinely exciting, but also the opposition he has faced and in some cases the conditions regarding those bouts. He won his first world title as a teenager when he stopped the excellent Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand, he made his US debut on short notice against a very highly regard world champion in the form of Lehlo Ledwaba and then he went on to fight a who's who of boxing with fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley all being fought as Pacquiao excited the boxing world like so few fighters do.
Going in to this bout there a lot of questions for both men. For Pacquiao a big questions regards his hunger, he's not a young whippersnapper any more, instead he's a veteran who has fingers in all sorts of pies and may well be tired of his career as a boxer. Another questions regarding Pacquiao is time, just how much time does his body have left fighting at the top level, he's not been a defensive fighting avoiding through his career, instead he's been involved in battles and of course battles take their toll on the body. A third question regarding Pacquiao is what does he do against a taller, rangier boxer like Algieri? Some fight fans have pointed to his impressively one-sided victory over Antonio Margarito as to how he handles tall fighters however Magarito is a fighter who cames forward and gave away his physical advantages, Algieri on the other hand is a back foot fighter who uses his physical dimensions to keep fights at a distance and fights off the jab, two very different styles.
As for Algieri their is a huge question about how he handles the explosiveness of Pacquiao who is a very different kettle of fish to Provodnikov despite both men being aggressively minded come forward fighters, afterall Pacquiao is more rounded and more active. That brings us to another point, how does Algieri cope with the intense activity of Pacquiao who always seems to be moving or throwing, or doing both at once, again a stark contrast to Provodnikov who only seemed capable of moving or throwing, not both at once. A major concern about the American is what happens when Pacquiao is inside Algieri's reach? Does Algieri have the short shots to force Pacquiao to think twice or will he just need to tie up and hope that a referee can split them? One final big question for Algieri is how will he cope in Macau with most of the crowd being very pro-Filipino and the setting being somewhat alien to him? It's true Algieri has done very well in the press conference and looked confident through out though in the ring things could be so much different.
We suspect if Pacquiao is hungry and focused he does what Provodnikov did in the first round and makes the bout look like a mismatch. If Pacquiao however is fighting at less than 90% of his best then this bout becomes very difficult for the Filipino who could end up eating a lot of jabs from Algieri on the outside which could well unsettle Pacquiao's rhythm and timing, something that is incredibly important to the Filipino fighter. Unfortunately Algieri, who we really do like as a person, we suspect his lack of power will be his downfall even if Pacquiao isn't quite on song and eventually the Pacman will get to him and stop him likely from accumulation rather than a single shot. If Pacquiao's 100% that stoppage comes inside 6 rounds, if he's not 100% then it comes in the second half of the fight.
(Image courtesy of http://www.boxnews.com.ua)