MACAU (Reuters) - Confident and unbeaten, WBO light welterweight champion Chris Algieri believes his strong jab can nullify the speed and power of boxing great Manny Pacquiao and propel the New Yorker to legendary status.
The American faces easily the sternest test of his six-year professional career when he steps into the Macau ring on Nov. 22 against Pacquiao, winner of world titles in eight different weight divisions, for the Filipino’s WBO welterweight crown.
The two men squared off at a promotional event for the bout in the Asian gambling enclave on Monday with the 1.78 meter American towering over Pacquiao and he will need to use his longer reach to keep the ‘Pac Man’ at bay come fight night.
“That’s why the number one thing that would concern me would be his experience,” the 30-year-old Algieri told reporters.
”In terms of his speed and footwork and the things he does that everyone looks at when they think of Manny, I‘m not so worried about that stuff, because what I feel is the great equaliser in boxing is the jab.
“I don’t care what you 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 neutralize anything.”
Algieri picked himself off the canvas twice in the first round of his last bout in June against Russian Ruslan Provodnikov on his way to a split decision victory that improved his record to 20-0 with eight knockouts.
The American showed great heart in edging Provodnikov in the New York bout but it remains unlikely that the wily Pacquiao would allow such mercy.
The Filipino returned to winning ways with unanimous decision victories over Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios in his last two outings that proved he can still trouble the best of the welterweight division even at 35-years-old.
While Algieri acknowledged the talents of Pacquiao (56-5-2), he said he was ready to follow in his footsteps.
“Manny is what he is, he is a legend,” Algieri added.
”But not that long ago Manny was in a position I‘m in now. He was a relatively unknown guy and he was fighting against the world champion. He came to the U.S. for the (Lehlohonolo) Ledwaba fight (in 2001). That was the first time I saw Manny and he was an unknown guy.
”He came in fighting a known champ and he wanted to be the man. I‘m in that same position. So I don’t think about who Manny is and he’s a legend, because that would put me in a position where I don’t think I belong at. Not yet.
“I don’t have that mindset. I do belong here and I‘m going win this fight.”
Before Pacquiao takes on Algieri he has a tax battle to overcome with the Filipino congressman in a dispute with his government, who claim he owes them money.
The fighter insists he has already paid the required money on his bouts in the United States to the American authorities. It is a dispute that is likely to go longer than 12 rounds and could interfere with his Algieri preparations.
“I‘m not bothered, you know, I‘m not bothered of this problem because I never hide, I didn’t hide something from the government,” Pacquiao said on Monday.
”I pay my taxes in the States, and they have to honor, the Philippines has to honor I‘m paying taxes in America.
“The biggest challenge for me is to fight another tall guy. And of course, I have to, I have to use my speed and footwork for this fight.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien