It was a quixotic quest that Chris Algieri and trainers Tim Lane and Keith Trimble set out upon six years ago. They were aliens from the martial arts world with designs on making a boxing champion out of a suburban college kid whose first bout was his pro debut at the age of 24.
When they first ventured into traditional boxing gyms in search of sparring partners, Trimble recognized the rampant disdain for his "pretty boy" fighter. "Chris looks like a European model," Trimble said. "They think, 'Kickboxer? Yeah, I'll spar with him.' Afterwards, every single time earlier in his career, it was 'How did you do in the Gloves?' He gained everybody's respect real fast."
Of course, Algieri never had amateur bouts in the Golden Gloves because he was busy winning two world kickboxing titles. But his first love always has been boxing, and since that's where the money and fame were, he turned pro in 2008 and enlisted the help of Lane and Trimble, both of whom he met as a kickboxer.
Lean years of club fights
For five lean years, they worked the club boxing scene until Algieri made his breakthrough with two improbable upsets earlier this year over contender Emanuel Taylor and WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov. Now, they will realize the dream of a lifetime on Nov. 22 in Macau, China, where they will be in the challenger's corner opposite WBO world welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.
Recalling the beginning of his partnership with Lane and Trimble, Algieri can't help but smile at how far they've come. "We had no clout," Algieri said. "We were nobodies. We were 'karate guys.' That's what everybody said. 'Karate guys.' So, that time was tough. We just couldn't get fights."
A bond despite diversity
The three of them came from widely divergent backgrounds, but what they shared as part of the martial arts subculture formed a bond of unstinting respect for each other and determination to see things through together. Lane was the first to enter Algieri's life around 2001. He was a professional kickboxer working under Long Island trainer Robert Mauro, who recommended his 17-year-old amateur student Algieri as a sparring partner.
When Lane found Algieri could stand up to the beatings, they began working together on a regular basis. "We spent the next two years sparring," Algieri said. "And we spoke very little. We'd step in the ring, nod heads, warm up and just go at it. Eventually, we started conversing a little bit . . . We come from different walks of life, completely polar, but we've learned a lot from each other."
Lane describes himself as a "redheaded stepchild," who was born in Germany and raised in Virginia -- mainly by a state-run juvenile detention center in his teenage years. "I got into a lot of trouble," Lane said ruefully. "I was sent away for juvenile life. I went in when I was 14 and got out when I was 19. Whenever I got faced with an obstacle, I would turn to my violence. That's all I really knew."
When he got out of the detention facility, Lane said he "hid in the gym" and worked to become a pro kickboxer because he could channel his anger into beating people up while getting cheered and paid for it. He came to New York to seek his fortune and wound up living in an alley behind Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn for a month, spending most of his waking hours from about 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the gym.
When the gym closed, Lane said, "I would go behind the gym and wait for things to settle down and just squat down right there -- not lying down -- but pretty much squatting down. When it was raining, I would go on the subway and fall asleep."
A trainer at Gleason's eventually offered Lane a chance to stay in a room at the Polo Grounds housing project. "That sounded beautiful," Lane said. "I figured 'Ralph Lauren, Polo.' So, I get up to 155th Street in Manhattan, and it was a little different than what I expected, but it was great. It kept me hungry and kept me focused. I stayed there for about a year."
As he gradually became more successful and stable, Lane moved to Long Island and took a job teaching in a Glen Cove gym while he continued his pro kickboxing career. "I started teaching and getting my life back together piece by piece and getting healthy again," Lane said.
"About a year or so into that, I met Chris. Really, I've learned more from Chris than he's learned from me. I taught him how to do some things in the ring, but this guy knows how to live. He's taught me how to be a better human being.
Training under Trimble
For the last four fights of his kickboxing career, Lane was trained by Trimble. It was toward the end of Algieri's kickboxing days in 2007 that he took Lane's suggestion and began working with Trimble at his Bellmore Kickboxing Academy.
Trimble had a New York amateur super cruiserweight kickboxing title on his resume, but he had been an established trainer for a decade when he met Algieri. His current stable includes UFC fighters Gian Villante, Costas Philippou, Alp Ozkilic, Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LeFlare. He also trains Brooklyn heavyweight boxer Adam Kownacki (8-0, 8 KOs), who recently signed with well-known boxing manager Al Haymon, an adviser to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Like Lane, Trimble achieved his current success only after considerable struggle as a youth. A native of Glen Head, Trimble grew up playing lacrosse and football, but maturity issues and repeated clashes with his coaches led to a series of failures.
"I never stuck around," Trimble said. "I regret things. I went to Stony Brook, Nassau Community College, Hofstra. I played, but I quit. I left Stony Brook and went to Nassau and had issues there. I was going to walk on at Hofstra, and I hurt my shoulder in the summer and left school."
Trimble said he had "a million street fights" while working as a bouncer at various bars. One night, a man he had ejected came back looking for him with a gun. That was where Trimble drew the line, slipping out of the bar never to return to that line of work.
Looking back, Algieri could not have found a more suitable pair of trainers. Lane is based in Las Vegas now, but Algieri said it's as though his trainers share the same brain when developing a fight plan and communication never has been an issue. There's no room for an entourage because the "karate guys" rely strictly on their tight circle of friendship and respect. "Tim and Keith are my family members," Algieri said. "They're big brothers. We don't have a contract, never have. It's a handshake agreement. We figure it out as we go. We have no problems. We decide how everyone is paid fight by fight. They know I'm not going anywhere.
"We all have this very positive outlook and approach. We all feel it and live it, and the energy is good. Everyone is happy where we are. Everyone sees what we're going to do. People ask why I'm so confident. It's because my whole team is confident."