If the beginning of the joint international press tour for Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38KOs) vs. Chris Algieri (20-0, 8KOs) scheduled for November 22, 2014 at the Cotai Arena in Macau, China looked like a bros before hos bonding party similar to some popular girl’s pity session with the resident awkward fat girl, the ending appears to be morphing into an entirely different teen dream. Like Thanksgiving pumpkin pie gone bad in the locker of that same awkward fat girl secretly hell bent on becoming skinny enough to usurp that popular girl still too vain and too dismissive to see that fatty has become a threat, today, with the sweet undertones of “you should have destroyed me when you could” things are decomposing into a heady stench of dysfunction, self realization and unstated broken promises between two teams who truly can never ever be friends.
After a cordial start to a very public exceedingly mutual appreciation party that included the exchanging of stone necklaces and tips on dining well in Macau, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach as the sole ambassador for team Pacquiao is now singing a markedly different tune in reference to anything Algieri. “ ‘ROCKY’ is a fiction and so is ‘The Chris Algieri Show, “ said Roach, unequivocally. “New York is a sports capital desperate to hold on to its only world champion… heart no matter how big can only take you so far. …. I grew up in Deadham, Massachusetts. There is no love lost when Boston plays New York in any sport. I live for beating a New Yorker.”
Whoa, Nelly! What’s got Roach so aggressive? It probably has something to do with the unwarranted sense of betrayal smarting hotly within the embers of those unspoken broken promises referenced earlier. The specifics of those promises, we’ll be getting into later. Or maybe it is the dawning realization of the hubris of Roach yet again underestimating Algieri’s ability to manipulate the odds in his favor when given only the sliver of an opportunity. With Vegas odds jumping from 14-1 to 8-1 Algieri Pacquiao, for a kid who was completely and anonymously marooned in Long Island just six or seven short months ago, the fact that not just Algieri’s promoter Joe DeGuardia but Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum is hailing Algieri as “The Real Rocky” of ROCKY movie fame, personally outfitting Algieri with celebrity meet and greets with none other than Sly Stallone, Mike Tyson (50-6, 44KOs) and Eva Longoria, Algieri’s definitive arrival on the scene is no fluke happenstance. More aptly, it’s direct evidence of exceptional mental game, planning and confidence on the part of the Algieri machine led by none other than Mr. Algieri himself. Perhaps Algieri won’t cop to knowing what it is with regard to Roach’s sudden ire and Pacquiao’s mental distancing, but seeing as Algieri lists Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32KOs) as one of his top boxing idols, it follows that more than likely “The Real Rocky” knows exactly why “Mr. Boston” has abruptly turned salty: “Bernard Hopkins’ style is the way” Algieri demurred in his last conference call before departure to Macau, China. “Everything he (Hopkins) does is for a reason… Boxing is incredibly complicated. It’s not Rock’em Sock’em Robots.” Yet on the actions of Roach, Algieri remained usefully quizzical and publicly unfazed. “It seems kind of odd for (Roach) him to be coming out so much and saying so many different things and every day it’s a new thing, “mused Algieri “I would imagine it is some kind of strategy, a kind of mental game or whatnot. Freddie’s been around a long time and maybe this has worked for him in the past but it’s not going to work on me.”
But arguably this strategy has worked perfectly well for Algieri. It plays seamlessly into what is quickly becoming his signature game plan of appearing to be doing very little to directly challenge his nominal professional betters but in fact doing a lot of continuous little undercover moves to undermine and decisively topple even the most legendary opponents with a steady stream of planned action from which they cannot recover once realization of the ploy finally dawns.
In keeping with this hypothesis, doubtless Roach, along the lines of fool me one once (regarding the Ruslan Provodnikov (23-3, 16KOs) loss) shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, is livid. Why? Because it had to be team Pacquiao’s groupthink belief, likely led by Roach, that in granting team Algieri a patronizing bonhomie kindness at the outset that only a superstar dream team can mete out to an inferior opponent, that Chris Algieri would reciprocate by falling into an instinctual mental response of accepting this lesser status and giving up. Clearly, once again Roach has misjudged the internal workings and hardwired tenacity of Algieri. Maybe team Pacquiao extended this poisoned promise of an olive branch to team Algieri early on, but clearly Algieri didn’t ever have any intention of taking it.
With Provodnikov, Algieri didn’t have the clout or the opportunity to enact much mental game outside of the ring on The Siberian Rocky (which ironically is the very myth and name that Algieri stole in vanquishing Provodnikov and as the crueler blow has employed to greater useful effect himself). However, within the ring, Algieri, after suffering what could have been a debilitating knockdown craftily used superior boxing and the mental carrot of his busted eye and ring somersault to lull Provodnikov into chasing the illusion of an easy win via KO - only to lose the whole “can’t lose” fight in the bargain. Now, Provodnikov, previously on the professional fast track, is stuck fighting 40 year olds in Siberia. In much the same way, with regard to the pre fight activities for the press, early on Algieri lulled team Pacquiao into the belief that as the respectful newcomer to the elite class, he couldn’t possibly have ulterior motives in the “nice” gentleman to gentleman things that he did with Pacquiao in between appearances. “ Yeah we had little games,” Algieri recalls. “ We played pool, we bowled…. we had batting practice then we went to ESPN Deportes. They had a basketball shooting game.” Was it chance that in each and every one of these competitive athletic games Algieri was the winner? Perhaps. Was it chance that everybody around the world who wants to know about it now knows about it? Not likely.
The frothy icing on the cake with regard to the then unlikely Algieri appearing dominant over a less adequate Pacquiao was Freddie Roach allowing himself in Los Angeles to be portrayed as Algieri’s docilely submissive “patient” in agreeing to publicly accept a medical stone necklace to help with his Parkinson’s disease in what became a public spectacle solidly placing Algieri in the spotlight to a cowed Manny Pacquiao who watched from the shadows to which he had been relegated rendered in one stroke as nothing more than a passive bystander. These are all things that when amassed together as Nov 22 looms that have worked well to undo the myth of Pacquiao and commensurately give Algieri the subtle aura of superiority – with the unforced aid of none other than team Pacquiao themselves. Surely Bernard Hopkins in reviewing this is envious of Chris Algieri in being able to pull off these mental game antics in a way so masterful that it contains a component that even Hopkins could never master – retention of innocence and relatability. But to hear Roach tell it, this is a guy who is in over his head. Over his head like a fox, maybe.
Though much has been made of comparing Algieri to the protagonist in the boxing classic, ROCKY, the more apt movie that comes to mind with Algieri vs. Pacquiao is the 1950s film classic ALL ABOUT EVE. In that movie, Eve Harrington, a young seemingly innocuous fan sidles up to her idol Margo Channing, played by the iconic Betty Davis. In an insidiously precise almost invisible personal and professional assault, Eve systematic dismantles her icon bit by bit using all of her might to turn all of Ms. Davis’ allies, friends and fame against her, ultimately taking on Ms. Davis’ identity and surpassing it as the newer brighter star. Guess who Mr. Algieri is looking good to play in the all male reprise of this movie classic?
Maybe once Algieri and Pacquiao take their places in the ring, Pacquiao will do what logically given precedent he should do, and annihilate or at least seriously stop Algieri in his campaign to retain World Championship. However if he doesn’t, Pacquiao had better be prepared to hear someone else appropriate his title as not only Provodnikov’s previous moniker of Rocky, but also “the people’s champ.”
Algieri; Man vs Myth
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photos by Kylie Krabbe
November 14th 2014