Amir Khan vs. Chris Algieri: Chalk and cheese
In its current perplexing state that leaves the fans, experts and participants alike scratching their heads on a day-to-day basis, boxing delivers peculiar cases such as the two men set to do battle this Friday evening. Amir Khan vs. Chris Algieri is the main event of this weekend’s “Premier Boxing Champions” card on Spike TV and, while their styles in the ring are similar, their stories so far couldn’t be more different as they find themselves in the same position at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Since being hoodwinked by a blind right hand from Danny Garcia in 2012, the last three years for Khan, 30-3 (19), have been both unblemished and disfigured. Flawless in the fact that he hasn’t lost in his last four fights in that span of time and distorted with the notion that all of those fights had barely any risk involved for the highly regarded boxer out of Bolton, England. Dominant wins over Carlos Molina, Julio Diaz, Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander in succession have done very little for his cause to grow as a fighter who was already distinguished. Much of that time during those three years for Khan, 28, have been overshadowed by his shameless lobbying to be called upon in the Floyd Mayweather Jr. sweepstakes.
While he disregards the fact that Mayweather simply doesn’t hand the stake over to those who ask politely, Khan’s career has become muddled and it continues to be after every passing year in which he is only a seasonal player in the Mayweather lottery. Forced to concede to Manny Pacquiao this past May, Khan had perhaps his closest crack at “Money” but it was nothing more than a tease. In an unprecedented attempt to give the fans a choice in who he faced next, Mayweather put out a poll in early 2014 between Khan and Marcos Maidana to let the voices be heard, democratically. Despite winning the poll that, in hindsight, was click-bait for his Mayweather Promotions website, Khan was played for a fool after Floyd made a mockery of the whole deal by choosing Maidana instead.
Perhaps Khan should have taken heed to all the lampooning Mayweather has done his entire career before he celebrated winning this “poll” on Twitter. He got teased like an eighth grader being charmed by a high school freshman. Now, whenever Khan speaks openly about boxing and the business that surrounds it, he fumbles at you like another freshman pulling at a panty girdle. Some may call it confidence in himself, some naive, but Khan stays stuck like a stick in the mud as he continues to try to get his date to the prom, while letting go of the possibility that he can be the main attraction himself. There’s one thing Khan got from Mayweather after the whole ordeal and that was Al Haymon’s business card – or maybe it was the other way around. Two months after the announcement of Floyd’s opponent, Khan signed a deal with the famed adviser and Mayweather’s right-hand man got himself another high-profile client (poached and played yet again, this time on the down-low).
Khan’s abilities in the ring have never been questioned but his decisions outside of it have. There’s another welterweight titleholder available for Khan and it would certainly be his biggest fight to date in terms of drawing power. Fellow Brit and 147-pound IBF beltholder Kell Brook called Khan out after his knockout victory over Jo Jo Dan last March. The fight between the two could quite possibly draw a stadium crowd and would certainly be a huge pay-per-view fight in Europe. But in most cases, the fights that make the most sense typically don’t happen (just like a fight between Khan and Mayweather). Oddly enough, Brook also fights this weekend against Frankie Gavin after his call to face Khan wasn’t answered. Brook’s PPV fight in London will likely be the memorable one of the weekend and the crowd at the O2 Arena, when compared to the Barclays Center, will speak for itself.
Contrary to Khan imploring for the big mega-fight he most certainly craves, his opponent on Friday, Chris Algieri, got the sport’s closest equivalent without the brouhaha. Algieri, 20-1 (8), had perhaps the most successful year in 2014, in terms of where he started it. Headlining for the first time on a nationally televised card on ESPN2 in February and ending 2014 fighting Manny Pacquiao on pay-per-view, Algieri has been mystifying to many, considering they had never heard of him before. Hailing from Long Island, NY, Algieri, 31, was identifiable with many Americans breaking into their 30s, mired by student loan debt and living in their parent’s basements. Yet, it was tough for fight fans to hop on his bandwagon likely because his presence felt force, and his pretty-boy persona really doesn’t work without a shitty attitude. There’s really nothing bad to say about Algieri, the person, and, despite not being a huge threat, the kid can box and he’s shown he has some heart.
The catalyst for Algieri’s success was a controversial split decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov last June. In hindsight, the nod in his home state of New York shook up the boxing landscape more than initially thought as he parlayed it into a Pacquiao fight last November and inevitably halted Provodnikov’s momentum. Algieri overcame two first-round knockdowns by the hard-hitting Provodnikov, doing so with one eye, as it was closed by a perfect left hook on the first knockdown. Never did he return the favor to hurt the Russian but Algieri paraded around him from then on, sticking out an accurate jab and sucking the life out of the fight with his mobility. Although it was disputed, the performance by Algieri is commendable, considering the circumstances that unraveled in the opening round. Perhaps beating a fan favorite in “The Siberian Rocky” rubbed people the wrong way about Algieri and his getting a shot at Pacquiao just confirmed their dispositions.
Algieri was pampered like a bride-to-be before the fight with Pacquiao in Macau, China, as his training camp for was set-up in the lavish confines of the Venetian Macao in Las Vegas (quite the upgrade from your parent’s basement). Perhaps a strategic move by the Pacquiao team, with the help of Top Rank Promotions’ Bob Arum, to open up the Venetian doors, give Algieri unlimited amounts of avocado with access to the kitchen and help Algieri coin the “#ChampionshipLifestyle” hashtag. As expected, Algieri was outclassed by Pacquiao after getting sent to the canvas six times in a wide unanimous decision loss. His only shining moment of walking to the ring to Eric B. and Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique” was overshadowed by his then-trainer Tim Lane’s impeccable timing of letting everyone know Chris would be “Let out of the cage.” Maybe the soft-hitting Algieri was set up for Pacquiao to look great on the brink of fighting Mayweather the following spring but we didn’t know that in the moment. Nonetheless, Algieri got the payday of a lifetime and is still a viable name in boxing.
Stylistically, both Khan and Algieri are similar in the fact that they are technically sound boxers. Both like to establish themselves with a jab and use every inch of the squared circle to show off their athleticism. However, not even the experience against Pacquiao can prepare Algieri for the speed of Khan, who is still in his athletic prime and arguably quicker than the “Pac-Man” in terms of hand speed right now. As the underdog, Algieri finds himself in the only role he has ever known and coincidentally he also fills the role of what has been a Khan opponent the past three years – a steady fighter who isn’t a knockout threat. In other words, cubic zirconia that can’t even cut the glass in Khan’s chin. Algieri has upgraded since the loss to Pacquiao by hiring a new trainer in John David Jackson and getting rid of any cage in which he’s been bottled up. It won’t be a slugfest and expecting thrills in this match-up would be a mistake for the viewer, that’s unless one marvels at footwork.
The consensus is correct when saying Khan is the class fighter when compared to Algieri. Not only does he have a tough opponent in front of him, Algieri also has the troublesome task of being the B-side of a match made by Haymon (if you want to think positive, Algieri’s undefeated in New York!). There’s always room from a shocking upset in the squared circle of truth but what wouldn’t be shocking is another outclassing of Algieri like we saw in November. As for Khan, even an impressive win over Algieri doesn’t exactly put him in the running to face Mayweather – who claims he is fighting only once more before he hangs up the gloves (again). It’s commendable for Khan to want to test his wits against the best in the world but it’s a bit hypocritical when one tries to travel the smoothest road to get there. Sometimes fighters have to just go with the flow, fight often and let the big fights come to them instead of chasing others around aimlessly. With a little bit of luck, it seemed to have worked for Algieri and with more skill in his cause, it can happen for Khan too.