By Daniel HICKS
MACAU (AFP) – Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on Monday dismissed his next opponent, undefeated American Chris Algieri, as merely an “okay” fighter as the build-up began to their upcoming contest.
Pacquiao (56-5-2) will put his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title on the line against 30-year-old former kickboxer Algieri (20-0) on November 23 when the Filipino icon returns for his second fight in the southern Chinese gambling haven of Macau.
Despite Algieri wresting the WBO light welterweight title in a big upset against the tough Russian Ruslan Provodnikov in a controversial split decision in June, it was clear that Pacquiao does not feel his opponent can cause another shock.
“I saw his fight with Ruslan,” Pacquiao told reporters at a press conference to announce the November card. “He took a lot of bad punches from Ruslan but he’s tough.
“He can box. I’m not saying he’s really good but he’s not bad. He’s okay,” Pacquiao added.
Pacquiao and Algieri were in Macau on the first date of a whirlwind six-city promotional tour that will move on to Shanghai, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said he had concerns over Algieri’s height and reach – he is 5ft 10in (1.77m) compared to Pacquiao’s diminutive 5ft 6in – but little else, believing that Provodnikov had beaten the New Yorker in June.
“It surprised me because I actually think Ruslan won that fight. (Algieri) got beat up a little bit,” said Roach.
“Algieri has a good reach advantage and we’re going to have to get past that and his jab. That will be our biggest problem. We have ways to do that.”
Pacquiao admitted the lithe, athletic Algieri would be a different prospect to slower, but durable, Brandon Rios, whom ‘Pac-Man’ comprehensively outpointed in the same Cotai Arena venue in November last year.
“The biggest challenge for me is to fight another tall guy. I have to use my speed and footwork for this fight,” said Pacquiao.
Algieri admitted he blundered in getting caught early in the fight against the Russian, but said he would learn from it.
“First round I made a mistake,” said the New Yorker. “Paid for it for the next 11-and-a-half rounds. Got a little too aggressive too early against a very dangerous guy.”
Meanwhile Roach seemed a little worried by Pacquiao’s many distractions out of the ring—he is a politician and congressman, and also is embroiled with a long-running dispute with the Philippines tax man.
And now the latest extra-curricular activity is becoming player-coach for expansion team Kia Motors in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA).
On Sunday Pacquiao, at 35, became the oldest player to be drafted in the PBA, when Kia picked him in 11th spot.
Roach said he just had to accept it, but that when it comes to the serious end of training for the next fight, he had made a deal with the hoops-mad Pacquiao.
“We came to an agreement that four weeks before a fight he will stop playing because of injuries. We negotiated that deal a long time ago.
“He’s always busy. I don’t think it’s a problem.”