IN four weeks time, on November 22 in Macau, little-known Chris Algieri will challenge one of boxing’s superpowers, Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino superstar has been accused of taking his New York opponent lightly, and a recent appearance playing basketball for the team he coaches has only heightened those feelings. Here, Pacquiao, along with coach Freddie Roach and promoter Bob Arum, responds to the criticism, and explains why he will vanquish the underdog.
FREDDIE ROACH: We have had a great training camp so far wit the workouts with Manny. Last time we began with four rounds and this time my first day in camp we went 12 rounds and Manny wasn’t even breathing. We have had a great start, probably the best start we have ever had and sparring has been going very well – we have over 35 rounds of sparring in so far and we have some great sparring partners (Viktor) Postol the number one contender in the world, Mike Jones who is a big 147-pounder and Stan Martyniouk, from San Francisco. All the guys are tall and I think some guys are better than our opponent, but we will see very soon.
Manny Pacquiao: Hello everyone and thanks for being on the call. I am excited again to fight against a tall opponent like Chris Algieri. I have fought tall guys like Algieri before so I know what it will be like when I get in the ring with him on November 22.
What is your biggest concern with Algieri?
FREDDIE ROACH: He is a pretty good mover. He moves pretty well and he is very defensive. He has a good jab – one of the best in h business — and he has a good left hand. His jab is his best weapon and it is something that we have to really take care of.
We saw you have been playing basketball in the Philippines. Does that take away from your focus? Does it benefit your training?
Manny Pacquiao: It does not affect my training because basketball is on Sunday and we do not train on Sunday. Basketball is also good for footwork and balancing. It helps a lot and that is why I am always in shape when I don’t have a fight because I am always playing basketball. Basketball provides me with great cross-training
Algieri has said he is very confident in being able to defeat you despite the difference in experience. Have you paid any attention to that?
Manny Pacquiao: I am aware of his feeling but I am also confident that I am going to win the fight. I know he is doing his best in training and I am doing my best in training so the fans are going to see a good fight.
FRED STERNBURG: FYI — Bob mentioned earlier that the basketball game he played last Sunday was going to be the only basketball game that Manny will play during training camp.
It seems as though Algieri has come from nowhere – is he a worthy opponent at this stage?
FREDDIE ROACH: Well Algieri did just beat one of the best punchers in the world. He got off the deck twice and he showed a lot of heart. He definitely deserves to be there It’s going to be a great fight. That’s why we are training so hard for this fight and that’s why we have such good sparring partners because we are not taking him lightly at all.
Manny Pacquiao: We are not taking him lightly for this fight and we are training hard for this fight because of what he proved in the Ruslan fight.
Do you plan to continue coaching the basktball team leading up to the fight?
Manny Pacquiao: No, right now I have an assistant coach and he will coach the basketball team. Right now I am focused on my training. After the fight I will come back to the team and be focused on coaching the team.
How was playing in the game and were you worried about being injured?
Manny Pacquiao: It was a good experience to play in a professional basketball game like that. I didn’t play long, I just wanted to help my team and that’s why I played. Professional basketball in the Philippines is very competitive and more importantly, we won the first game.
What was your feeling going into the first game?
Manny Pacquiao: I felt very excited and a little nervous because it was the first game and there were over 52,000 fans.
BOB ARUM: Well, I found out that he was playing before he played and I was not a very happy camper. Professional basketball, no matter the country where it is played, is a rugged sport and a player can turn an ankle very, very easily. These players in the NBA are fantastic physical specimens and yet they get injured all the time. An injury would have really wreaked havoc on the fight so I was not very pleased, but everyone has assured us – Manny has assured Freddie and Freddie has assured me that that’s it. After he does the fight on November 22nd, if he wants to try out for the New York Knicks, that’s OK with me.
The Knicks could use a point guard actually (laughter). Manny what do you enjoy more? Basketball? Boxing?
Manny Pacquiao: I am enjoying boxing, but my favorite sport outside of boxing is basketball. That’s why I go to the basketball court – my cross training is basketball to keep in shape between fights. I also like basketball.
Algieri was knocked down twice by Provodnikov. It seem like this may be the first time you can get a knockout. What do you think about that?
Manny Pacquiao: We cannot go into the fight thinking about the knockout. A knockout will not change the result of the fight as long as we get the win. What we are trying to do right now is to get the focus in training and for the fight that people want to see. Chris Algieri is a very dangerous fighter and we are taking nothing for granted in this training camp.
FREDDIE ROACH: We brought in some big sparring partners – Mike Jones is a really big puncher and so forth and Manny is doing really well with him and he’s hurt him a couple times in camp and he’s shown good power so far and he has shown the intensity that I want. When he hurts somebody he opens up on them and finished him. I told him if we hurt a sparring partner we just get another one. Training camp has been going really well and we have great sparring partners for this fight.
How bad do you want to see a knockout?
FREDDIE ROACH: I would love to see a knockout. I think at 147 he is a little smaller than most of the 147-pounders out there. We have to feed him five times a day for him to make that weight. This fight is at 144 and I think his power will come back. I see a knockout coming for sure.
Manny, are you hungry for a knockout?
Manny Pacquiao: I am still hungry and I am doing what I did before – what we did in Wild Card training in Hollywood. That’s what we are doing right now and it is good. Sparring and hitting the mitts and plyometrics so it is good.
Bob, a good knockout may add to marketability. Where do you stand on that situation?
BOB ARUM: Where do I stand on that situation? If someone goes up to the plate to hit a home run, he has less of a chance hitting a home run than a guy who goes up to the plate just to meet the ball. If the knockout comes, the knockout comes. But to go out and look for a knockout and to ignore other aspects of the fight, particularly against an intelligent fighter such as Algieri would be folly. Now if he gets a knockout, that’s great and absolutely increases the marketability, but you don’t go out there looking for the knockouts because if you do, you have less of a chance of getting it if you fight your normal fight.
What is the rational of going back to Macau after fighting in USA?
BOB ARUM: HBO I am sure they never said they would never go back to China, and besides, who are they to say anything when it is my money, it’s Manny’s career and we are fighting in probably the best location in the world which is in Macao in the Cotai Arena, which is a tremendous place to watch a fight live. It’s really too bad that someone like yourself is not coming over to see why it is so desirable to see a big fight in the Cotai Arena in The Venetian Macao resort. Now, with that being said, half of the boxing card, which features fighters like Zou Shiming will be on the card. They said to me they wanted Manny to fight there once a year – so obviously if Manny fights twice a year, he fights there in the fall and in the spring, he fights either in the United States or some other place.
Did you ever think to say to Manny ‘Please concentrate on boxing only?’
BOB ARUM: No, that’s the way it happens. Manny said he was going to play in the opening game for his team, I didn’t say anything because Manny had decided that he wanted to do that and now it’s done. Once that happened I had a talk with him and he agreed that he wouldn’t do it any more till after the fight. That’s how it works when you are dealing in an environment with all adults.
Have you ever considered adding to the contract that you cannot do risky things and basketball is a risky thing?
BOB ARUM: Some of our fighters are motorcycle guys and did a lot of crazy things so there we definitely put it in the contract. But with Manny, you are absolutely right. We have a different kind of relationship, one built on a mutual respect and mutual trust and so we wouldn’t put it in the contract because of the fact we feel he will do the right thing.
Since we are talking about basketball a lot. Who do think is better at basketball – you or Floyd Mayweather?
Manny Pacquiao: (laughing) I don’t want to say myself, but Freddie said me.
What is a reasonable number for the PPV in your opinion?
BOB ARUM: I think we did quite well going back to last November – we did 475,000 buys for the Brandon Rios fight. For a fight that took place outside the country, I thought that was a great number. Now, with Chris Algieri getting the type of publicity that he is getting, which we never had before, for example, I don’t remember ever before, ever, and I am sure in the Ali days it was different, but I don’t remember recently a fight getting an article in The New Yorker magazine (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/breaking-bread). This one was in last week’s New Yorker. For example, if you watch FOX Business News, where Algieri has been on numerous occasions, which fighter they knew better – Chris Algieri or Timothy Bradley – they would ay Chris Algieri. So while it’s true among fight fans Algieri may not be as well known as an established guy as say Tim Bradley among the general public, more of the general public do now know Algieri than they do most fighters. Chris has definitely crossed over. Therefore, I think we are going to do number akin to what we did in a Tim Bradley fight which is anywhere between 750,000 and 900,000.
Lomachenko is on the card and most of us say Walters the other night in Carson on HBO – what is the possibility of Lomachenko, if he wins, fighting Walters?
BOB ARUM: For me, I would think Walters, who did extraordinarily well on Saturday beating Donaire and I have always thought Lomachenko is a special talent and one of the greatest fighters around so it would be silly if they didn’t fight sometime next year. Lomachenko is fighting only his fourth professional fight and he’s fighting Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo of Thiland, with 51 wins and one defeat – he lost eight years ago to Chris John and of his 51 victories, 33 of them have been by knockout – so Lomachenko has his work cut out for him, so believe me, this fight on November 22 is hardly a gimme. Piriyapinyo deserves his No. 1 ranking so that should be a very good fight. So yes, if Lomachenko is successful, I would anticipate a fight with Walters sometime next year.
It seems like Manny has had a bit of a revival, what do you attribute that to?
FREDDIE ROACH: His conditioning and training is going very good and training here in General Santos makes things real comfortable and we have a really nice gym here and his family is here and his home is here so I think he is really at ease with it because he doesn’t have to worry about his family. We have great sparring partners. This is the best group of sparring partners we have EVER had and they are going to be getting him on top of his game.
What has Postol done for him in the gym?
FREDDIE ROACH: Postol’s got a great jab and he’s tall, taller than Algieri and he’s rated No. 1 – a legitimate No. 1. He’s very smart. I see Manny having a little trouble with him and it’s more of a thinking match out there – he’s the right guy at the right time. He really makes Manny think which is what Algieri will do also and that’s what we’re getting ready for.
Freddie mentioned that his sparring partners were better than Algieri. Could you elaborate?
FREDDIE ROACH: Postol is a little taller (5’11”) than Algieri and he has a better left hand than Algieri but you know Mike Jones (6’0”) is pretty tall also. I think we’ve got the best sparring partners we could possibly get for the fight.
Do you see that as a slight against Algieri that he may not be as good as his sparring partners?
FREDDIE ROACH: Well, you know Postol is the No. 1 contender and Algieri is a world champion – they are both great fighters. Sometimes the truth hurts.
BOB ARUM: The point, George, is you can’t get better sparring partner for Algieri than Postol. Postol has all of the physical attributes that resemble Algieri.
Freddie, during the Ruslan fight you kept asking for Ruslan to throw the uppercut. Do you see that as something to exploit in this fight?
FREDDIE ROACH: I think Ruslan’s style created that. It depends how the styles mix together so I can’t really guess at that yet. Ruslan got caught up in looking for that one punch KO instead of going through the combinations. I think if it a very competitive fight and a very close fight, I think that Manny Pacquiao is more experienced and a better fighter than Ruslan at this point. Unlike Ruslan, Manny knows how to finish what he starts.
You mentioned he will have his power back for this fight…why do you think 3 or 4 pounds makes a difference for KO power?
FREDDIE ROACH: When you are fighting a 147-pounder and you only weigh 135 yourself or 140, you are in there against much stronger guys and Manny only has two knockouts as a welterweight and he has a lot of knockouts at 135 and 140 and the thing is this is a catch-weight of 144, and if he feels good at 144 we may go to 140 again. At 140, he will be a better puncher than at 147 because the guys are smaller and not as strong.
Since you are fighting close to Hong Kong, have you been monitoring the events that have been taking place there and what is your opinion on that?
Manny Pacquiao: The fight is in Macao; it is not in Hong Kong. There is no problem in Macao. The problems are in Hong Kong so it will have no effect on the fight.
What are your general thoughts on those events taking place in Hong Kong?
Manny Pacquiao: It’s hard to give a comment about that because it is a big issue. If I were to give a comment about that first I would have to study about what the people want and what the government wants so it is hard to give an educated comment, as a politician. So maybe I will say now, I will not comment.
How effective is Algieri’s jab?
FREDDIE ROACH: He has a great jab. The jab is the best punch in boxing – guys like Virgil Hill and Larry Holmes won world titles with the jab, so it’s something we really have to concentrate on. We have to take that jab away from him and we have a game plan on how to do that and we are working on that every day and that’s why Postol was brought in, because he has a very good jab like Algieri. Now, he is a little bit taller than Algieri and has a longer reach but it gives a good idea about what to expect in the fight.
Algieri noticed Bradley was going for the knockout after seeing what Marquez did with the right over the left. Have you done anything to alleviate that?
Manny Pacquiao: It’s not the first time it has happened to me like that in the Marquez fight. They have tried it and I know what I am going to do for this fight. We started hard and we practice hard in the gym – different styles and different strategies and I believe we can use it in the fight. So there is nothing to worry about that. They are going to watch that fight and review that fight and I will be ready.
When you are against a guy with a long reach can you get inside without exposing yourself too much?
Manny Pacquiao: I think I have a way if he throws a lot of jabs. I can move faster than him so I don’t need to worry about that.
FREDDI ROACH: The thing is Manny s a lot faster. Algieri has some speed but he is not as fast as many Pacquiao.
Was there a point in the fight where you thought Provodnikov underestimated Algieri?
FREDDIE ROACH: Well he was in against a big puncher and he got off the canvas twice after knockdowns. It is a tough thing to do. His eye was really damaged in that fight. Ruslan is a big puncher but he just got caught up looking for that one-punch knockout and I think that was the downfall in that fight for us. I think Manny is a much more experienced fighter and a much more technical fighter, throws a lot more combinations and is a lot faster. He’s not as big as a one-punch knockout artist but Manny can hurt you when he wants to. Manny is also a great finisher and as I said before, Manny always finishes what he starts.
Does it help you, the fact that you were in Provodnikov’s corner for that fight?
FREDDIE ROACH: No, I don’t think so because Manny and Ruslan are such different fighters. Manny’s will be a whole different fight and seeing him up close and watching tapes and so forth and I have been watching kick-boxing matches also. He’s a tall guy and he comes to fight and that’s what we are getting ready for.
If Chris Algieri wins this fight, what could his future hold?
BOB ARUM: Firs let me put it on the legal level. If Algieri wins the fight, there is a provision in the contract that he must give Manny Pacquiao a rematch. So if he does pull off the upset and wins, I’m sure Manny would want revenge so that would be Algieri’s next fight. Then we would have to see what develops along the line. But Algieri is one of the most confident fighters that I have run across. He has convinced everyone he has spoken to, because he believes it himself, that he is prepared to give the fight of his life against Manny. He is very intelligent. He knows what he’s doing in the ring and this is going to be a very competitive fight.
BOB ARUM: Commercially, if you beat somebody like Manny Pacquiao, particularly someone as media friendly and so crowd friendly as Algieri, he would instantly be a huge attraction in the sport of boxing.
Manny Pacquiao: Thank you everyone for this interview and I want to thank all the fans that are going to watch the fight on pay-per-view .
FREDDIE ROACH: We have to hit the road at 5 am. Good Night!
BOB ARUM: I get to sleep a little later so I can sit here and talk to you guys for hours but I’m not going to do it so good-bye.