By Thomas Gerbasi
The Chris Algieri story keeps adding chapters. Literally. On June 4th, Long Islander releases his first book, The Fighter’s Kitchen, allowing him to add author to a list of titles that includes world boxing champion, college grad, and nutritionist to the stars.
What’s next, Broadway?
“Why not,” he laughs. “Maybe Hollywood. Let’s get right to it.”
Don’t rule it out for the 35-year-old, who has never been content simply with what’s happening now.
“Honestly, everything in my life has been about parlaying, taking what I’ve done and been able to achieve and going on to the next thing,” said Algieri. “I’m always looking forward; I’m that kind of guy. I’m goal-oriented and performance-based and I’m just thinking about what’s the next thing, what’s gonna keep me excited, what’s gonna keep me moving forward? And that’s just the way I’ve kind of been my entire life.”
It’s worked for him, and it would work for any of Algieri’s fellow fighters, as too many in combat sports focus on today and not tomorrow. And when a career in the ring is over, it’s often a rough time for an athlete to figure out what’s next. So Algieri makes sure that when he’s around the up and comers, he lets them know that starting to plan for the future isn’t a bad thing.
“When I talk to the young guys, absolutely,” he said. “Not as much to my peers. When you’re in the same place as somebody else, you don’t want to give them too much advice on what they should be doing with their lives. But with the younger guys, I feel like there’s a lot more ability to be bold and give them an idea of what’s next. All the young guys I talk to, I tell them to go to school, even if it’s just one class. Those credits never go away, and you can possibly do something you can use later. There’s also the discipline; there’s just so much you can do with it. There’s one thing about my degrees – you can never take them away. They’re there, I earned them, I have them, my plaque is on the wall, the knowledge I learned is in my brain, so it pays dividends forever.”
All good stuff, and kudos to Algieri for doing it right in this toughest of sports. But the reason we are talking to him this week really has nothing to do with the future, at least not anything past Saturday night, when he faces Tommy Coyle on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz undercard at Madison Square Garden. And despite a couple appearances at the MSG Theater, this will be the first time in his 26-fight career that he will compete in the big room, and yes, that’s a big deal.
“I’m standing in front of MSG right now,” beamed Algieri during this interview last Friday. “It’s huge. It feels like home, feels comfortable and this is a dream come true. I’m 35 years old, I’ve got 26 fights and I’m still breaking new ground. That’s the beautiful thing about boxing.”
If Algieri sounds like he’s figured it all out during this latest run in his career, that appears to be the case, and while he hopes to secure a shot at WBO champion Maurice Hooker, he’s been patient on the road back that began in late-2018, a year and a half after a fifth-round stoppage loss against Errol Spence.
“I feel like I needed to get some fights under my belt, I really did,” said Algieri, who has beaten Angel Hernandez and Daniel Gonzalez in the two bouts since his return. “The Hernandez fight went really well and everybody was like, ‘You’re back, let’s get into a big fight.’ And I said, hold on, I need to get a couple fights under my belt, get some real camps in, get focused on me, get back to that life. As much as I live the lifestyle of a fighter, training camp’s different. Training for big fights is different. You really have to be a hundred percent focused and in it, and that’s why you have training camps, real camps where you go away, real camps where you really focus on the task at hand. Now I feel like I’m back, I’ve had a great camp for this one, and it’s exciting again. I feel like I’m right back in the mix. I’m really looking forward to this fight on a huge card and whatever’s coming next in my career.”
There’s that looking to the future thing again, and Algieri is guilty as charged. But all the good things going on at the moment and on the horizon aren’t his motivators.
“It’s honestly not,” he said. “It’s icing on the cake, really. I’m here because I’m passionate about it, I still like to train, I still like to fight. I’m a fighter by nature; I’ve been doing this for more than half of my life as a professional at this point. This is what I do. The other stuff, these other opportunities, it’s icing on the cake, it’s extra. I’m here because I want to be here.”
Last November, before his fight with Hernandez, I asked Algieri what he missed during his time away and he talked about those moments in the ring just after the final bell tolled. Now two fights into his comeback, have those feelings changed at all?
“It’s still there,” he said. “But I’m actually starting to realize that I really like the few minutes before the fight too. (Laughs) It’s that edge and that tingle and the crowd while I’m walking out, and it’s definitely different doing it with the gloves on rather than being in the corner like I have been with Daniel Jacobs the past couple years. Walking out is one thing, but when you’re walking out with those gloves on and you’ve got your coach in front of you and you’re bouncing up and down and you’ve got that initial sweat going, it’s a whole different feeling.”