By Jake Donovan
As the trend of current TV fights indicates, a fighter’s skill level is only a small part of the equation in keeping his name in lights. There also has to be a backstory, as well as a reason to not only want to watch his fights, but to also keep coming back for more.
Chris Algieri is fortunate enough to be able to place a check mark next to each item.
The unbeaten junior welterweight is pulling off the improbable at the moment – succeeding in the pro ranks despite boasting no amateur experience and campaigning in a Long Island (NY) market that has long ago ceased serving as a boxing hotbed.
“It’s kind of dead out here,” says Algieri (12-0, 6KO), who hails from the same Huntington, NY hometown that produced former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney. “You tell people you’re a fighter from Long Island these days, and they look at you like ‘OK’ and just move on.”
Algieri is doing his part to change that.
His entire pro career to date has been spent in his home state, with more than half of his bouts having taken place in Long Island. After having twice appeared in nearby Melville, Algieri finally had the chance to play his hometown in his last fight.
A 10-round decision over tough-as-nails Bayan Jargal took place last November at the state of the art Paramount Theatre in Huntington, in a bout that marked his televised debut, airing via same-day tape delay on Azteca America. The venue replaced the Inter-Media Arts Center (IMAC), a three decades-long local treasure which shut down in 2009.
In came the Paramount, which seats roughly 1,650 people. Every seat was filled for Algieri’s homecoming bout, which also happened to serve as his biggest step up in class to date. The event was so successful that he returns home this weekend, where he headlines against Curtis Smith.
So far, so good for someone whose fight experience prior to turning pro took place in every other medium besides boxing.
A gifted athlete while growing up in Long Island, Algieri’s first means of defending himself came when he was 10 years while training in martial arts. By the time he was 16 years old, Algieri was a competing kick boxer and also captain of his high school wrestling team at St. Anthony’s.
As talented as he was in sports, Algieri always remembered to put the student in student-athlete.
The potent combination paved his way to pursue higher education at Stony Brook University, where he graduated with honors in 2007. He received his bachelor’s degree in science, all while becoming more established as an award-winning kick boxer and also serving as an assistant coach for the St. Anthony’s wrestling squad for three seasons.
Impressive credentials one and all, yet for someone as competitive and driven as Algieri, there’s always something more to accomplish.
With that came a master’s degree which he received after graduating from NY Institute of Technology, and is now studying to gain entrance in medical school.
After accomplishing as much as he felt he could in the world of kick boxing that included a perfect 20-0 record, Algieri decided to turn an old passion into a career, turning pro in 2008.
“I have zero amateur fights to my name, but my boxing passion goes way back,” says Algieri, who was introduced to the sport at an early age by his grandfather. “I remember him telling me how all of these fighters were. I played every sport but this is the only one that ever stuck.
“The first fighter I remember watching was Alexis Arguello. My grandfather talked about him all the time. I had volumes and volumes of tapes on Sugar Ray Leonard. Oscar de la Hoya is the guy from my time, watching him come through the ranks. Arturo Gatti - who didn’t love him.”
Algieri has a long way to go before measuring up to any of the aforementioned fighters, but already enjoys a cult status in an area dying for something to talk about in the way of credible boxing.
Of course, you have to know how to fight, which Algieri proves with each passing fight. How he fares on the road is something he will eventually have to answer. But for now, he’s loving the support, and his fans love the product they’re being given.
“I thrive on having my people around me when I fight. It’s good to have large fan support.”
He plans to feed on that emotion when he enters the ring this weekend, admittedly against an opponent with whom he’s not completely familiar.
“I know he’s a southpaw and a little bit older. He seems like a tough guy. I like to analyze fights, but not my opponents. You never know until the first round how it will be.”
If there’s something that Algieri’s opponents can come to expect, it’s to pack a lunch. With a 50% knockout ratio, the undefeated prospect has no problem digging in and making his presence felt.
At 5’10”, Algieri generally enjoys a significant height and reach advantage over most of his opponents in the 140 lb. division. Naturally, the jab is the key to his success, though also aiding the cause is a dedicated body attack and potent left hook.
Four of his past six bouts have went the distance, and Algieri lacks a knockout against anyone not already assumed to get got the moment the bout was signed. But he continues to find ways to entertain, which has already gone a long way towards restoring an old tradition.
“I want to bring boxing back to Long Island, but the ultimate goal is to become a world champion. I’m popular in Long Island and New York in general, but need to be seen nationally and advanced in order to be positioned to fight for a world title within the next couple of years.”
That’s where a serviceable promoter comes into play. Algieri decided to get hitched roughly 18 months ago, signing with Bronx-based outfit Star Boxing.
The two sides are still in the process of truly getting to know one another, but it’s clear that both are already holding up their end of the bargain. Promoter Joe DeGuardia keeps bringing the opportunities, and Algieri continues to bring the crowd.
“I’ve only been with them for 1 ½ years, but Joe is a good guy,” Algieri states. “He got me four main events and TV coverage. That was a motivating factor in going with them. I think Star Boxing can get me that opportunity.”
Given his lifelong track record, chances are that once led there, Algieri will quickly figure out how to handle the rest, giving the sport a brand new story to tell.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]