They call boxing the theater of the unexpected, and so it was in a 1,200-seat Long Island theater 14 months ago when an obscure fighter's sudden rise to the big time began.
Chris Algieri, a college-educated nutritionist who delayed a career in that field to continue his athletic interests, won a club fight at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, N.Y., collecting $17,000 in purse money.
Then in February, Algieri pocketed $25,000 at the same venue because
"I always told Chris, 'Your time will come, keep working, and we'll get out of the Paramount," said Joe DeGuardia, Algieri's promoter.
Earlier this week, Algieri arrived in Macao for his Sunday (Saturday night in the U.S.) World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight against
Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) knows that virtually all of Asia is rooting against him. He understands that his reliance on a good jab and superb conditioning are viewed as inferior assets in comparison to Pacquiao's power punching, speed and experience.
But you can't beat a good underdog story, and Algieri, 30, is basking in his for all it's worth.
The man daring to believe he can beat Pacquiao still lives in his parents' basement and drives a 2001 Honda Accord with more than 190,000 miles on it.
"Experience and intelligence are two different things," Algieri said. "He's got the experience, sure, but when it comes to intelligence and ring IQ and strategy … . Listen, I don't even have to be smarter to win the fight. We just have to have the right game plan executed. That's what wins the fight."
Algieri has struck many in boxing with his dogged confidence, regardless of the challenges he faces in the ring.
In beating Provodnikov, a former Pacquiao sparring partner, Algieri was knocked down twice — and had his right eye swollen shut — in the first round.
Keith Trimble, Algieri's assistant trainer, said his fighter's stirring rally "comes down to him being intelligent. He took a second, gathered himself … Look at what happened from the second round on. Once he started jabbing, I thought, 'We're good.'
"More people think he'll get knocked out in this one, but as he showed, he knows what to do. … He goes round by round by round. He's a different breed."
Algieri reported to training camp at 147-pound fighting weight and said he has devoted extensive time to strategy — a fight plan Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach expects to include plenty of evasive action.
"You have to be in phenomenal shape to beat a legend like Pacquiao," Algieri said. "I'm expecting him to come out guns blazing. If I stand there and let him throw, he'll throw blistering combinations all night long. I'm not going to be that guy.
"If I'm not slowing down, getting stronger as the fight goes on, it's going to make a big difference down the stretch."
Algieri is a 9-1 underdog at Las Vegas sports books, but he is determined to deliver the showing no one expects. At Wednesday's news conference, Algieri wore bracelets with stones that he believes bring him strength, confidence and a positive vibe.
"I embrace the energy," Algieri said before his final workout. "It's the best sport in the world, man versus man, [fighting with] what you were born with — your mind and your body. It's raw, brilliant.
"I love what I'm doing, I'm at the highest level. What's better than that? I'm a competitor, here to win. I'm not just here to be here."
Algieri boasts he can escape Pacquiao's efforts to cut off the ring, insists he can land body blows and block the champion's punches. "Most fights, I come out completely unscathed," Algieri said.
Pacquiao has chided Algieri's enthusiasm as the words of "a boy."
"He's never had a big fight, he's never lost, so he's confident," Pacquiao said. "When he experiences loss, he will feel that."
Algieri says "what matters is what's going to happen."
He will be paid upward of $1.5 million for the bout and with his purse money, Algieri opened a 401(k) retirement plan and is exploring purchasing a home in Florida. Although his father, Dominick, said Algieri is welcome to continue living at the six-bedroom home the father built himself in 1976.
"The sport is refreshingly like show business," Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum said. "Somebody comes from nowhere, gets a chance, becomes recognized, becomes a superstar.
"Great for the sport — a Cinderella story with some truth to it that gives a lot of hope to kids laboring in obscurity."