"You never forget the face of the person who is your last hope."
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
There was this misty distance in her eyes as she said that. Almost as if speaking of dreams yet unfulfilled, but with the promise that she would only if given the chance. I imagine Chris Algieri wore these eyes as speculation grew that it was he who would face Manny Pacquiao in China this fall.
And I doubt he can forget the moment when hope was realized - or even that he sees Pacquiao as a last hope at all.
His gutsy, deep-water and epic survival of Ruslan Provodnikov, is a world away from this fight in magnitude, just like the host city of Macau is to Brooklyn. And so too is Pacquiao to Provodnikov.
The Long Island native didn't have far to travel in his odyssey with the mighty Siberian when he successfully (though painfully) matadored him at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Though the win was huge and obviously landed him this fight, it didn't make him a star. A win over the crowd and aesthetically pleasing Pacquiao would.
He began as an obnoxious 16-1 underdog against the unquestioned draw in this fight and iconic living legend. Now, those odds have been chipped down to 9-1, an indication that the promotion has done its job in creating competitive drama.
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As more time passes by, the feats of the eight division champion seem more and more mythical by the day. How a fighter from abject poverty in the Asian peninsula - who never won an Olympic medal, was able to capture imaginations across the globe will always be remarkable to me. That is, until you consider one thing.
Pacquiao has can't miss style.
Whether you're a serious fight fan and know of his enormous fame and ability, or just a casual observer that knows nothing about boxing at all who just happens to be around to catch his fight - he'll mesmerize you.
Everyone knows a special fighter when they see one, just like we all know a rare beautiful woman when we see her. Whether its catching a glimpse of gorgeous pop superstar Rihanna , or just a stunningly "random" woman in a black evening dress - heads will turn.
Pacquiao gets opponents and viewers alike familiar with the unfamiliar. He breaks all of boxing's conventional rules and makes textbook fighters look rather unconventional.
PACQUIAO VS. ALGIERI: THE BREAK DOWN
Only Juan Manual Marquez, who has one of the highest ring IQ's in the history of the sport, was able to somewhat solve Pacquiao's puzzling squared circle ensemble. But you wouldn't know it by looking at his face after each contest.
It only underscores the daunting task Algieri faces tonight.
Pacquiao moves in uncalibrated, rhythmic equations and features a game that's just beautiful to watch. The fact that its not just mere posturing and designed to strike your ass makes it all the more appealing, especially when you consider he's willing to get hit in order to hit you 3 or 4 times.
In reading some final projections on this fight from various writers, they seem to indicate that Pacquiao will be some sort of marauding stalker or merely a hunter, and I think they're so very wrong.
That's what Provodnikov was because that's essentially all he is. He doesn't give a damn about sticking his entire head in the oven, so long as he can see and smell the apple pie up close almost the whole way through.
Pacquiao finds a way to open and shut the door at different times throughout until its done.
The last time he faced someone with the skillset, height and length of Algieri was Oscar De La Hoya. Strangely enough, this is how I really see this fight playing out. Granted, Pacquiao is almost 6 years removed from that performance, with De La Hoya then being the 35 years he is now.
But Chris will be just about what Oscar was on the morning of November 22nd, and I don't mean that with disrespect. He'll be far more chiseled, but not nearly as nuanced as even that Oscar. He's just a very good boxer who's simply facing the wrong style and speed tonight.
He's going to take a severe beating.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________ THOUGHTS ON THE WEIGH-IN...
Just observing them at the weigh-in was fairly revealing. About 2 years removed from Marquez IV, look for Pacquiao to attack and strike Algieri without mercy. He looks sharp, has a very noticeable edge about him at a solid 143.8lbs. Algieri not only struggled with weight, but had the added burden of dealing with the fallout surrounding the attractive "spy"thrown out of Pacquiao's camp. He looks overwhelmed.
Its dimensions and space that will determine this fight and it all boils down to footwork - not hunting. .
You'll see that Chris will be all over the place in the ring; sometimes advancing Pacquiao himself - or sometimes in retreat. Every bad step he takes with his long legs will give Pacquiao's quick feet the time to position for strikes from angles he likes.
Every single bad miss from Algieri (and he'll have a lot of them), will make it that much harder for his long arms to get back in time to protect him from getting chipped up in ways he won't understand. They say seeing is believing, but he won't be able to see what's making him lose faith.
Marquez, in an interview with boxingscene.com, chimed in on Algieri's chances against Pacquiao.
"He barely has a chance to win. Algieri is strong and he's durable. He also has boxing ability as he's shown against Ruslan Provodnikov - but he doesn't have the style to beat Pacquiao, who has great speed and power. I believe that [Pacquiao] can win by knockout."
If Gandhi was around in the dressing room after his fight with Pacquiao, he'd tell Chris that there is more to life than increasing its speed. After careful consideration, the ever thoughtfully articulate New Yorker would respond with a smile...
"Go f*ck yourself Gandhi."