The transformation Chris Algieri made in just three months under new trainer John David Jackson was like something out of George Shaw's "Pygmalion." Algieri unveiled the aggressive new style crafted for him by Jackson and took the fight to Amir Khan in a fashion that had the Barclays Center crowd of 7,372 chanting his name at times in their Premier Boxing Champions welterweight fight Friday night.
Algieri (20-2, 8 KOs) didn't win. The judges gave a 12-round unanimous decision to Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) by two scores of 117-111 and one of 115-113. But the Greenlawn fighter did something equally important -- he proved he belonged in company with the top-class welterweights in the world.
Despite winning the WBO 140-pound world title over Ruslan Provodnikov last June at Barclays, Algieri's ability was in question after Manny Pacquiao knocked him down six times last November in Macau. But after winning several early rounds and forcing Khan to backpedal for the second half of the fight to preserve his shot as the potential next opponent for Floyd Mayweather Jr., Algieri earned new respect in the boxing world.
"If you don't think I belong, then, you don't know boxing. Simple as that," Algieri said when asked what the outcome did for his career.
Following the Pacquiao loss, Algieri broke from longtime trainers Tim Lane and Keith Trimble, who had been with him since his kickboxing days. They remain close, but Jackson took over in February.
From the start of training camp, Jackson harnessed Algieri's naturally aggressive nature and tailored a plan to pressure Khan. Switching from his previous defensive style in camp was one thing, but executing it in the 22nd boxing match of his life took courage.
"I was thinking the same thing myself," Algieri admitted. "If I'm trying a whole new style, especially one that's aggressive and defense isn't the first priority, against a guy with fast hands who is a good puncher when I'm coming off a loss, I guess it's ballsy. It worked out, but it didn't work out."
Khan admitted he was caught off guard by Algieri's aggression and was forced to change his approach in mid-fight. He stayed outside, threw combinations that landed without much effect and held when Algieri landed his power shots.
"He stopped trying to hurt me, and he actually was just trying to steal rounds," Algieri said. 'I was frustrated with the holding and not being able to work on the inside. I kept telling the ref, 'I'm punching. He's holding.'"
Describing the transformation that took place under Jackson in camp, Algieri said, "I must have scored four or five knockouts in camp. The first day I worked with John, he said, 'Wow, you can punch. I knew it.' He also said, 'You have great reactions. You don't use them. You don't have to be moving around the ring. Move your head, catch punches, and fire off them.'"
Jackson was pleased with the outcome but wished he had more time with Algieri before such a big fight. "Chris was willing to sacrifice his style, and he did it in the fight," Jackson said. "He got the victory in defeat. He showed he's a way better fighter than people thought."
Promoter Lou DiBella, who handles PBC shows in New York, said, "Algieri is a good fighter, and he proved it tonight. You will see him back in this building. He's got a home here."
Algieri can't wait to get back in the gym with Jackson for what he called "improvement season." As for the opportunities that lie ahead with PBC, Algieri said, "I always said I was willing to fight anybody at 40 or 47, and all the top guys are here [at PBC]. So, I'm here."