MACAU - In a strange and miraculous way, the enormous swelling that closed Chris Algieri's right eye in the last four rounds of his upset victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in June is the reason he's here in China getting set to fight WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao Saturday night.
The injury easily could have cost Algieri the Provodnikov fight, but the fact that he survived such a devastating situation resulting from a first-round knockdown is what made an unknown fighter from Greenlawn compelling enough for a pay-per-view event with Pacquiao.
However, a feeling that the situation was mishandled is the reason highly respected cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran arrived Wednesday in Macau as the newest member of Team Algieri.
Duran was hired by Tim Lane -- who along with Keith Trimble trains Algieri -- to replace veteran cutman George Mitchell. "It's not that someone was fired, but we hired a friend of mine who is well-versed in the corner," Lane said. "Chris needs to have the best around him, so Keith and myself decided to go with Stitch."
Mitchell declined to comment about being replaced as cutman but predicted Algieri will beat Pacquiao.
Like Lane, Duran is based in Las Vegas, and he spent four days a week in training camp wrapping Algieri's hands and developing a bond with him. So the cutman's arrival in Macau fresh from working heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's corner last Saturday in Hamburg, Germany, was a cause for celebration.
"I'm like the final piece of the puzzle that came today," Duran said after Algieri's final workout. "Now he's going to feel secure and go out there and do his best."
Asked what he would have done to control Algieri's swelling eye after a crushing shot from Provodnikov, Duran said he knows Mitchell and is sure he did all he could. "Whenever you have orbital damage like that, it's very hard to work with," Duran said. "It's going to swell to a certain point. If you get air into the mucous membranes, it's going to blow up. That's why they tell fighters, 'Never blow your nose.'
"But that's something you definitely want to keep under control. Basically, you have to either pack it in ice or use the Enswell and try to maneuver that pocket out of there, but that's a tough thing to do. What I do is preventive maintenance. I told Chris, 'My job is to have you look as handsome going out as you do coming in.' So I'm going to be icing him down after every round."
The Enswell is a metal tool cutmen keep in the ice bucket and use between rounds as a cold compress.
Officially, Algieri was knocked down twice in the first round by Provodnikov, but the second time, he actually took a knee to give his head time to clear and to assess the damage to his eye. Trimble said he'd never seen an eye turn purple and swell as quickly as Algieri's did.
"I give Tim, myself and Chris credit between rounds," Trimble said. "Nobody panicked. But I'll be honest. When I walked back down to my seat, I was like, 'Crap, this is what everybody said was going to happen. Is he going to fall apart now?' But there was never any panic in him, which made myself and Tim not panic. He didn't even complain about the eye."
Winning with one eye completely closed during the final four rounds, Duran said, was a "tremendous accomplishment" by Algieri because it's so much harder to see punches and avoid them. Undoubtedly, Pacquiao plans to start even faster than Provodnikov with the intent of scoring a similar result, but Duran will be prepared.
Swelling is caused by a pool of blood that accumulates beneath the skin from hard punches. "You minimize it by closing up the capillaries underneath so they don't leak anymore," Duran said. "Then you've done your job. You might move it a little bit, but it's always going to come back.
"The plan for Saturday is to minimize that. I'll have plenty of Vaseline and keep the ice on him and keep the Enswell on him whenever the time comes."