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Algieri vs Pacquiao: “I do belong here and I’m going to win this fight”

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CHRIS ALGIERI talks about his move from kickboxing to boxing, his Masters degree in clinical nutrition, his shock defeat of Ruslan Provodnikov and his desire to emulate Manny Pacquiao: “He was an unknown guy, came in fighting a known champ and wanted to be the man. I’m in the same position.”

 

For previously posted Chris Algieri interview, visit: sport-asia.com/algieri-vs-pacquiao-im-going-to-shock-the-world/

 

ON SWITCHING FROM KICKBOXING …

 

You only took up boxing at 23. How did you decide to change from kickboxing?

It was something I always wanted to do. I was training with my kickboxing coaches and I had brought up the idea of boxing and they had said, ‘A lot of our guys have tried that before and it’s a really tough business to get into. Don’t worry about it too much. Let’s stick with kickboxing.’

 

I was young, so I kind of got swayed away from it, but as I was going with kickboxing … it’s pretty difficult to find world-class kickboxing sparring partners on Long Island. I was fighting guys from all over the world, but I live on Long Island and there’s not a lot of money in kickboxing and I didn’t have the opportunity to travel for training, so we started working with a lot of boxers.

 

More and more coaches kept saying, ‘You know, you’ve got some boxing in you,’ because my hands were good when I was kickboxing. I think that planted a seed in my head, that I could probably do this, because I was working with high-level amateur guys, some pros and doing well while I was kickboxing. So, once I had accomplished all the goals that I had in kickboxing, it was just the appropriate next step.

 

Having switched to boxing, what have been the benefits of your kickboxing background?

I would say that kickboxing has helped me prepare for boxing the most in the fact that it’s a one-on-one competition and the lifestyle is very similar, so I’m used to training camps and developing and peaking for performance for a single event. It doesn’t matter how good you feel on Sunday, it doesn’t matter how good you feel on Friday, it’s about Saturday night – or in this case, Sunday morning (laughs).

 

That preparation and level of scientific approach and systematic approach towards fight night and performance has definitely helped me from my kickboxing career. Even if I’ve had 20 boxing fights, I’ve had 20 pro kickboxing fights first, so being at that high level and preparing for a single event has helped me more than anything.

 

Having won world titles in both kickboxing and boxing, what are the most obvious differences in terms of physical conditioning?

The endurance – boxing is much higher – and the speed, the techniques. I can throw three or four hand techniques in the time it takes to throw a single leg strike. And kicks are much harder than any punch could be. It’s unbelievable how hard guys can kick. I’ve been kicked by guys kickboxing … even the kicks I blocked made me feel like I was in a car accident.

 

It’s very, very different in terms of power and speed. Boxing is much faster and the endurance is much greater. They’re longer rounds. Kickboxing is two minutes; boxing is three minutes. That extra minute is a big difference. So that transition in the beginning was definitely something to get used to, along with the speed of the sport.

 

When you were young, who were your sports idols? Were they boxers, martial artists or from other sports?

Boxers, for sure. I grew up watching fights. Oscar De La Hoya was one of the first guys I saw fight. I was in the era when Mike Tyson was coming up and very popular. Roy Jones Jr was another guy who was a superstar when I was watching fights.

 

After watching the current guys, I started doing research after that. I started looking at guys like Sugar Ray Leonard, the middleweight era with [Roberto] Duran, [Marvin] Hagler, [Thomas] Hearns, and watching those old fights.

 

Then it went even further back in time and I was watching Sugar Ray Robinson, Jersey Joe Walcott, Joe Lewis, Rocky Marciano, the great Italian fighters like Rocky Graziano, all those middleweights. And then a lot of Sugar Ray Robinson; I dug his style a lot.

 

And then in terms of kickboxing guys, this guy right here (indicates coach Tim Lane). The first kickboxer I ever saw on TV was Tim Lane, years before I met him. The fight was unbelievable. It was a five-round fight; just a knockdown, drag-out type of fight. Tim ran out of the corner in the first round and dropped this guy with a left hook, ‘Wham!’ The guy went down and I was just like, ‘Oh, my god,’ and they were going back and forth, and I think he ended up losing on a split decision. That was a tough fight; a tough, tough fight. I saw that and I was like, ‘Man, that guy can fight.’ Eventually we started sparring together and now he trains me.

 

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“Once I recovered from the knockdown, I went right back to work, stuck to the game plan and I think ran away with the fight.”

ON RUSLAN PROVODNIKOV …

 

You earned your shot at Manny Pacquiao because of your split-decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov in June. How did you prepare for that fight and how did you recover from the first-round knockdowns?

We wanted that fight. The fight came up and it was a great opportunity and I jumped at it. We prepared very well. The training camp was the best of my life. In the first round, I made a mistake and I paid for it in the next 11½ rounds! Other than that, the game plan was set. I just started a little early, a little too aggressive in the first round and got caught against a very dangerous guy. But once I recovered from the knockdown in that round, I went right back to work, stuck to the game plan and I think ran away with the fight.

 

Were you always confident you would turn it around after what happened in the first round?

I was, other than the fact I was afraid the doctors were going to stop me. I felt very confident and comfortable the way the fight was going, especially as it went on. If they would have stopped it, that would have been the end of the fight because it was from a legal blow, so that was my concern. I knew I was winning that fight. I knew I just needed to either stop him or get to the end.

 

Your right eye looked pretty bad.

Yeah, it looked horrible (laughs). I was able to see pretty much fine for many of the rounds. Towards the end of the fight it started to really, really close up and I was having difficulty seeing, but at that point in the fight, I felt I was in complete control. It became even less of a factor, even though I couldn’t see out of the eye.

 

"Manny is a legend, but not that long ago, Manny was in the position I’m in now."

“Manny is a legend, but not that long ago, Manny was in the position I’m in now.”

ON MANNY PACQUIAO …

 

So when did you start preparing for the Manny Pacquiao fight?

My entire life (laughs). People ask me, ‘When did training camp start?’ Well, it never stopped. My training camp has been this entire year. I’ve had a busy year with big fights against tough opponents and I’m not the kind of guy who takes much time off in-between fights. I don’t blow up, my weight stays pretty constant and I stay in shape. I don’t do that necessarily to prepare for any given fight, but because I’m a professional. This is my job. My job is to be fit and to be a consummate boxer.

 

How does it feel to be fighting such a boxing legend?

I don’t look at it that way. Manny is what he is and he is a legend, but not that long ago, Manny was in the position I’m in now. He was a relatively unknown guy and he was fighting in the US against a world champion, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. That was the first time I ever saw Manny. He was an unknown guy and he came in fighting a known champ and he wanted to be the man. I’m in the same position. So I don’t think about Manny and that he’s a legend because that would put me in a position like I don’t belong here. I don’t have that mindset. I do belong here and I’m going to win this fight.

 

Along with Pacquiao’s speed, what do you think are his other strengths?

The main thing for me to think about is his experience. The guy’s got tonnes and tonnes of experience at a world-class level. He’s probably dealt with any situation that could possibly occur in any boxing match. Other than the obvious speed and aggression and combination punching and his footwork, the number one thing that would concern me would be his experience.

 

In terms of his speed and footwork and the things that everyone thinks of when they look at Manny, I’m not so worried about that stuff because for me, the thing that I feel is the great equaliser in boxing is the jab. I don’t care what you’ve got, I don’t care how strong you are, I don’t care how fast you are; a good jab and a good mind can neutralise anything, so in my mind, that’s the game plan.

 

Do you think you’re catching him at a good time in his career, say compared to maybe three or four years ago?

It’s possible, but I’m not approaching it like that. We’re not going to know that until the fight. I can’t conceivably sit there and think, ‘Well, I’m getting an older Manny …’ and then have that false sense of security and then he comes out and he’s the Manny of old, so I’m preparing for the best Manny Pacquiao there ever was. I think of the guy when he fought Ledwaba (in 2001), when Manny started with a million punches and shot out of a cannon for a whole fight. That’s what I’m preparing for.

 

"The main thing for me to think about is his experience. He’s probably dealt with any situation that could possibly occur in any boxing match."

“The main thing for me to think about is his experience. He’s probably dealt with any situation that could possibly occur.”

Last November, Brandon Rios said he trained with really fast sparring partners to try and match Pacquiao’s speed. However, after the fight, he admitted he should have trained with even faster people, having been surprised by just how quick Pacquiao was. How are you guys trying to cope with that?

In terms of choosing sparring partners, I leave that to my coaches. Tim Lane has been in Las Vegas for the majority of the camp and he was researching guys. He did the same thing for Ruslan. He goes out and watches my potential sparring partners and he picks and chooses the best guys available.

 

At the same time, I’m a fast guy, too, so I’m not as concerned as someone like Brandon Rios, who’s really not known for speed. I mean, there’s a big gap there. With me, I don’t foresee that big of a gap in speed.

 

Were you surprised that Manny didn’t knock out Rios?

I sparred with Brandon several times, in 2012, and became pretty friendly with him and he’s a tough guy, so not putting him away is nothing to scoff at.

 

Have you spoken to him since?

I’ve talked to the coaches over there and they’re all excited because they know what I can do. They’ve seen it first-hand in the gym every day for probably about a year or so.

 

When you spoke with Rios’s camp about their experience at The Venetian Macao, did they brief you on what it’s like to spend the week here – bearing in mind his camp had an altercation with Freddie Roach?

I was a little concerned about the travel and what everything was going to be like here, especially the food, since obviously that’s such a major thing in my training camp. But I spoke to some of the guys at the Rios camp and they said no one really had a problem with the travel. The hours are different, of course, but no one had a problem with jetlag too badly. Food was fine, anything they needed they got, so that really eased my concerns about that. And now that I’ve been here I’m not concerned at all. The travel was not bad at all. I feel very comfortable sleeping here. The food that I’ve been getting has been all good.

 

In terms of fighting with Freddie and Manny, that’s just not going to happen. Manny’s an extremely humble guy. He’s a world champion, I’m a world champion, so there’s no need for us to butt heads. I have no animosity towards Freddie and neither does my coach or my team. He actually showed us around the hotel the first night we got here (in August). We’re not going to be at each other’s throats.

 

What about being the underdog? You’re potentially walking into a large crowd, most of whom will be supporting Manny. Does that affect your preparation?

I think if I was not the underdog, I’d be a lot more uncomfortable (laughs). My last three fights, I’ve been the underdog. I got a lot of heat before the Ruslan fight. If I wasn’t strong mentally, that probably would have affected me for that fight because it was even worse than this fight, to tell you the truth. I had no one giving me a chance. It didn’t bother me then and I don’t expect it to bother me now.

 

In terms of walking into a very pro-Manny crowd, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem either. The fans here seem to be very respectful, from what I understand. I don’t expect to be getting sodas thrown at me when I’m walking into the ring or anything like that. It is what it is. I’ll be prepared for it. I’ll probably start mental training, visualising what it’s going to be like walking into that ring, so I don’t foresee a problem.

 

"My training diet is my diet. That’s just the way I eat. I like the way I eat."

“I don’t train to get in shape; I train to get better.”

ON NUTRITION …

 

We don’t know many boxers who have a Masters degree in clinical nutrition. When you finish boxing, is that the direction you see yourself heading in?

There’s definitely life after boxing and it’s not that far off. For me I’ve always had an affinity towards healthcare and medicine. Nutrition came a little later in my education background because it was actually related to my fight training. And then I realised at a young age, that what you ate affected how you felt, how you performed, how you looked, so I was very interested in that and wanted to understand why. I’m the science guy; when I was growing up, science was my thing.

 

I wanted to understand why the foods I ate made me feel the way I felt, so that led me to study nutrition. Then it all coincided with my healthcare-related goals because nutrition is such a huge part of healthcare and I think it’s going to become even more of a factor in medicine and treating the sick.

 

And I’ve always wanted to help people. So I think with my unique skill set and my education, after boxing I’m going to have the opportunity to help a tremendous amount of people with my knowledge base and my ability to reach more people now, with events like this and becoming more well known on the world stage.

 

How has your knowledge of nutrition helped your boxing career?

I think it’s helped tremendously, partly because of what I was saying about always being in shape. My training diet is my diet. That’s just the way I eat. I like the way I eat. People always ask me all the time, ‘Do you ever cheat?’ Yeah, whenever I want to.

 

I like the way I eat and I don’t have to be super restricted during training camp. People always remark because I post a lot on my social media. I eat hamburgers during training camp. People are always amazed by that. I’m like, ‘Why not?’ If I want to have a hamburger, I’m going to have a hamburger.

 

So I think it’s helped dealing with the training lifestyle and the stresses that are related to training and never worrying about your weight or making the weight. Joe [DeGuardia] asked me, ‘How’s your weight?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know; it’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.’ It’s one less thing to worry about.

 

Can you tell us more about your diet?

I avoid processed foods, of course; staying hydrated is important; lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. More and more research has shown that being closer to almost a plant-based diet is better for health across the board. Not that I don’t eat meat and fish. I do, almost daily. It’s also related to my output. I train very hard, I train year round, so the needs that my body has is greater than someone who is more sedentary. So I’m able to factor all of that in and understand that what you put in is what you put out.

 

Does having regular fitness and good nutrition give you an advantage compared to some fighters who ‘blow up’ between training camps then almost fast to make weight?

For sure. For sure. For the most part, I think it’s helped me because my learning curve has been faster. I don’t train to get in shape; I train to get better. So my training camps are specifically to perform and to get better and learn techniques. It’s not about getting in shape or losing weight. I think a lot of guys have these extended training camps trying to make weight and they’re spending the entire camp trimming down rather than learning or getting better.

 

You fight at your natural weight?

Yeah, exactly. I’m going to weigh something similar to what I am right now. I don’t have that extra stress on the body during training camp, so I can really focus my mind on the task at hand and the skills that we need for fighting. Also it makes me a young 30. I’m 30 years old, but I’ve been in shape my whole life.

 

After boxing, are you still planning to become a doctor?

To go to medical school has been my goal for my whole life. My grandfather who got me into boxing told me never to be a fighter and to go to medical school. He was an engineer and a very intelligent man, and he really stressed school and how important that was. So for me, that’s just always something that’s been on the plate.

 

It just goes with everything I’ve been interested in in my life and just the direction that my life has been going in terms of the nutrition, medicine and science, and also just wanting to help as many people as possible. It’s a logical next step after my boxing career. And my brain is still hungry. I still want to learn, I still want to pursue my education and I still feel pretty sharp – boxing hasn’t taken too much out of me (laughs).

 

Note: Interview held in Macau on August 25, 2014

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