Huntington's Chris Algieri is on the short list of possible opponents to face WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 22 in Macau, according to Top Rank Promotions vice-president of boxing operations Carl Moretti. Algieri vaulted from anonymity with his dramatic comeback from two first-round knockdowns to win a split decision over Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO junior welterweight title Saturday at Barclays Center.
Provodnikov is known as the "Siberian Rocky" for his brawling style, but it was Algieri who resembled the cinematic "Rocky" because of the way his right eye immediately swelled after the first knockdown and eventually closed over the final two rounds. But the 30-year-old former world kickboxing champion valiantly boxed his way to the title by winning eight of the last 11 rounds on the cards of two judges.
"The key with Algieri is how he got up from the two knockdowns and overcame the shut eye," Moretti said. "It added to the drama. His performance and his story put him in the sweepstakes of getting a Pacquiao fight in November. He'll be on the list."
Moretti and promoter Bob Arum will present their list to Pacquiao in early July. Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao four times, is on it but as a long shot, and Moretti declined to name other prospects. Algieri's upset on HBO received the third-highest boxing cable rating this year, and the fact he likely would attract coverage in New York for the pay-per-view show helps.
One question is how Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach, who also trains Provodnikov, might feel about Algieri's athletic boxing style. "We haven't seen that style with Manny, so, that is intriguing because you're talking about a guy who is on the outside and has a long jab and a long reach," Moretti said. "That's one of the things Manny will speak with Freddie about, but make no mistake, he's definitely in consideration."
Although Roach suggested a Provodnikov rematch is in order, Moretti said, "You don't hear a lot of 'robbery, controversy' talk going on. To me, that indicates a lot of people thought he did win."
There were two fights -- the first round that Algieri lost 10-7 on all cards and the final 11 rounds in which he clearly outboxed Provodnikov. The Russian said he was frustrated by the "runner," but when you consider Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) outpunched him, 993-776, and outlanded him, 288-205, he obviously wasn't running, but making Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs) miss.
Algieri's quick-witted decision to take a knee for the second knockdown in the opening round ultimately saved him. "It was a tactical error," Algieri said of the first knockdown. "I was mad at myself for making that mistake so early. It obviously damaged my eye and my nose quite a bit.
"I took a knee to gather myself. I was trying to figure out what was going on with my face because it was swelling so bad. I've never felt that before. I was concerned that me thinking about my face was going to cause me to get hit by a punch I didn't see."
The doctors kept asking Algieri about his angry eye, but his fitness prevented them from stopping the bout. "It looked like I was blind, but when you've got a guy bouncing and moving and controlling the pace and the other guy is tired, how are you going to stop a fight like that?" Algieri said. "Once the fourth round came, I was barely getting hit. Other than that first punch, Ruslan never hurt me."
In the final two rounds, Algieri admitted his eye was closed, limiting his offense because the absence of depth perception made it harder to hit Provodnikov. But defensively, Algieri's "intuition" let him sense Provodnikov's punches and avoid them.
Because judges don't always value boxing skills, Algieri braced for the worst when the scores were read. "I was confident I won but didn't think I was going to get the decision," Algieri admitted. "It was definitely a pleasant surprise. The right guy got it."
Now, it's time for Algieri to fulfill his dream as either the challenger to Pacquiao at 147 pounds or in defense of his own 140-pound title. "The sky's the limit from here," Algieri said. "It will be interesting to see where everything is going to fall."