This piece originally ran on KnockoutNation.com.
If a kinder gentler promotion was something that was on anyone’s gift list for the lead up to Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38KOs) vs. Chris Algieri (20-0, 8KOs), scheduled for November 22, 2014 at the Cotai Arena in Macau, China, those people need to cut their losses and move on. Top Rank Promoter and CEO Bob Arum early on would seem to have been saying that he was one of those in favor of a more respectful fight week and overall fight promotion. “You have promotions where guys just trash-talk each other and that to me is boring,” Arum said in the days before Algieri arrived in Macau. “ This has been a very intelligent kind of promotion with both fighters…. this event has been like a real-life Rocky story… We have a Rocky here that is highly educated and very articulate…. If I had scripted this and sent the script in to HBO, it would have been rejected because of being unrealistic.”
But with the flurry of questions with regard to realism and the veracity of stated desires and trash talk, there are many mirages in the desert that observers would swear were real but in fact are nothing more than a contradiction of nature. What is an incontrovertible fact is that this fight has already measured up to be a huge win for Top Rank as well as a phenomenal draw for typical fight fans and previously unseen and unfathomed boxing virgins alike. Surprisingly, this widening of interest has been due largely if not solely to Algieri. His movie star attributes – intelligence, handsomeness, grit under fire and unshakeable confidence juxtaposed with team Pacquiao’s current “trashing the underdog” mandate only add fuel to the white-hot fire. Love him or hate him, Algieri has that “it” factor that has steadily ensnared fans from all over the world and all walks of life. Whether he has the “it” necessary to level a true powerhouse that is the sum and total of the reality of Manny Pacquiao is another question. However, that the exact manner in which things are unfolding – increasingly more garish, crude and rude versus gentlemanly, intelligent and wise as fight night looms – while messy to view must be a unicorn type of utopia for any promoter to behold.
So what do you do to continue the good times? But of course, you have a last war of words between the two very outspoken and charismatic trainers, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and ubiquitously Bodhisattva – esque trainer Tim Lane, representing Pacquiao and Algieri respectively, which happened today. The level of disrespect was so palpable that if words were subatomic cruise missiles, there would be no Macau to fight on come Nov 22, just a small possibly radioactive life raft.
Sparks flew early, with Tim Lane calling Pacquiao as a lefty the easier “simple” fight for Algieri versus the “harder” Ruslan Provodnikov (23-3, 16KOs): “When we were offered the Manny Pacquiao fight I believed that this is not as tough of a fight as Ruslan, “ said Lane. “Styles make fights and Manny Pacquiao being a lefty and what he brings to the table, I do not find that to be as challenging as … Ruslan. I believe that Chris will dominate Pacquiao more so than he did Ruslan with two eyes this time.”
With regard to Roach’s continued disrespect, most markedly consisting of the repeated contention that Algieri will easily be dispatched in the first round as a contender who doesn’t even belong in the same ring as Pacquiao, Lane amicably expressed a deeply patronizing regret laced with pity for both Roach and Pacquiao and the position he believes that they now are in having entered into the “ The Chris Algieri Show” set to showcase in the ring on Nov 22. “If I was in Freddie’s shoes, I would be talking a lot too because he knows what the outcome of the fight is going to be.” Lane commiserated. “(Freddie’s) got to blow a bunch of smoke. I feel for them. I love Pacquiao, but he’s not beating Chris. I think Freddie is aware of that and that’s why he’s barking.” Translation, bow down old folks, cause there’s a new sheriff in town and he’s serving out Pacquiao eviction papers, pronto. Brass balls? Huge. Even bigger considering Lane and Algieri’s biggest fight to date as both coach and fighter has been the Ruslan Provodnikov fight, which was a split decision win where Algieri famously got seriously hurt (and famously seriously recovered) in the first round.
Naturally, these words and intimations must be more than frustrating to Roach, who probably feels that it is Lane who is blowing smoke considering the time tested fact advantages behind Pacquiao once the bell rings in Macau. In answer to Lane’s claims that Pacquiao is the “simpler” fight due to Algieri’s comfort with lefties, Roach kept to monosyllabic knee jerk dismissals – alternately calling the fight long if it went three rounds and the expected if Algieri was lights out in round one. “ Three.” Roach said flatly with regards to rounds at first query. When prodded, Roach amended this assessment with a return to the belief that in the first round Pacquiao would end the fight in dramatic fashion with none other than his left hand. “He knocked me down with it in training.” Roach confirmed. “… This is the first time that (Pacquiao) has ever told me that he will knock this guy out… the press has been saying that (Pacquiao) has lost his punch. At 144 the punch is coming back….(Algieri) runs very well… We’ll have to chase him down but we will catch him.”
As to who will find themselves running confused and outmatched, Lane had his own WALKING DEAD rejoinder with regards to the perception versus the reality of Manny’s speed and footwork when matched against Algieri. “There’s nobody out there that really does it like Manny does it, with his footwork and his angles,” Lane admitted, adding the significant caveat, “…(Pacquiao’s footwork and angles) work when you are hitting a heavy bag. It looks really really good and really really fast. When you have zombies in front of you that don’t have footwork… Manny Pacquiao… looks amazing. But when you have someone with footwork that moves and is not there, those punches end up hitting air and they end up missing and confusing you …it looks good but Chris won’t be there. It’s going to be confusing for (Pacquiao).”
For once, despite all of the detritus of the expended venom, Roach and Lane could agree; watching Pacquiao versus being in the ring with Pacquiao are two distinctly different things ripe for championship exploitation. “Algieri thinks that he’s the faster guy in there.” Roach confided. “(Algieri’s) only judged Manny’s speed by watching him on TV. Once he gets in the ring, he’ll be shocked. But he’s not going to last more than three rounds.”
Somewhere in Macau, it is very likely that Algieri’s early peace offering to Roach of a medicinal healing necklace is likely being newly housed in a Venetian Hotel trash bin. I doubt Algieri minds the slight.