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On Sunday, Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao will defend his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title against Chris Algieri at Cotai Arena in Macau. Is Algieri an easy opponent for Pacquiao, as many observers believe? Will the unbeaten American fighter give "Pac-man" a run for his money? And could Pacquiao finally get the elusive knockout win after five long years?
Here are three expert takes and predictions for the bout this weekend.
JC Manangquil, boxing manager and promoter:
This fight is interesting as everybody knows that Algieri is so much taller and uses his jab very well, which happens to be his key weapon in the fight. The only way Algieri is going to win the contest is if he uses his distance, jab, and footwork.
Algieri's reach will be effective against a shorter man, but I don't think he has the footwork to keep Pacquiao off, which means he has very small chance of avoiding Pacquiao's barrage of punches.
You can't beat the best fighter in the world with just a single weapon. Algieri doesn't have the power to make Manny think before he attacks with combinations.
Manny will have some trouble closing the distance with Algieri in the early going, so the fight figures to be competitive for a few rounds. After that, as good as Manny is, he will get his proper offensive distance and attack Algieri on the ropes.
Manny will take over in the middle rounds, then completely dominate in the late rounds. Unless Algieri has a Plan B.
PREDICTION: Pacquiao by decision if not by KO/TKO
Mark Villanueva, boxing advocate and founder of Mark Villanueva Boxing Academy:
As the fight draws closer, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Christopher Mark Algieri can't fight any other way even if he wanted to. At least not at this vital point in his career.
There won't be any surprises in Macau, or a need for Manny Pacquiao to install a Plan B once the fight progresses. Algieri will fight practically the same way he fought Ruslan Provodnikov, Emmanuel Taylor, Jose Peralta Alejo, and all the boxers he defeated before them. Most boxing fans think he doesn't deserve a shot at Pacquiao. Chris Algieri seems like a bright kid. As he transitions into the big leagues, taking the biggest challenge against the Filipino champion he will do what he does best, the best way he knows it — stick and move.
But there's a bigger reason behind his fighting style.
The American boxer lacks punching power. He needs to draw fighters in. He learned from fighting Provodnikov that he can get knocked down quite easily. Going toe-to-toe with Pacquiao will end up with him getting destroyed in one round. No master's degree needed to derive to that conclusion.
I see Algieri trying to dictate the pace early in the fight with more jabs. It worked against Provodnikov, but Manny does way more head movement. He can suspend Algieri's jabs with his right arm pawing (which Manny doesn't do) or go under it and pop over the top with a hook. He could slip it and go to the side, too.
One fault I see is how Chris Algieri halts dead on his track to defend against body shots. That is what I forecast Pacquiao doing early, to pin Algieri down and slow his movement. If Algieri pauses, as he usually does to cover up, Pacquiao could spin around him and overwhelm him with all sorts of shots from different angles.
In the end, Manny Pacquiao will be too much for him.
PREDICTION: Pacquiao by late round KO.
JM Siasat, sportswriter:
Contrary to general belief and misconception, Chris Algieri won't be an easy fight for Manny Pacquiao at all. Other than Algieri's age, height, and reach advantage, he has the style that could spell trouble for Pacquiao all night long.
I've heard chatter that Algieri's height won't be a factor since Pacquiao has experience fighting taller guys such as Oscar De la Hoya and Antonio Margarito. Personally, I think it would be still be a factor.
While Pacquiao definitely has experience fighting taller guys, he has yet to encounter a tall fighter who will actually jab, box, and move inside the ring. De la Hoya was too drained to make a fight out of the Pacquiao bout; his physical condition was at its poorest in his legendary career and would have been beaten by lesser fighters that night.
Margarito on the other hand, is a face-first brawler who has no defense and technique. Add to that the fact that two fights before Pacquiao, Margarito went through a career-changing beatdown at the hands of Shane Mosley. Then, in his very next fight, Margarito immediately looked mediocre against an unheralded journeyman in a 10-round contest.
I can't reiterate this enough, Algieri isn't anything like De la Hoya or Margarito. His height can trouble Pacquiao. Algieri will box circles and use his jab to frustrate Pacquiao. When profiling a contest, we always have to take into consideration that styles make fights.
Pacquiao has a history of getting frustrated against moving fighters, shorter ones if I may add. Just imagine the frustration that a young, tall, volume-punching and jabbing Algieri can give the Filipino icon.
Another factor is Algieri's right hand. As history has shown, Pacquiao's kryptonite has always been defending and avoiding the right hand. Not only does Algieri throw punches and combinations all night, he also knows how to unleash his right hand from different angles — a strength that most writers overlook.
As proven in the Provodnikov fight, Algieri is capable of taking a punch, recovering, and adjusting within a fight. While I honestly think that Provodnikov has heavier hands than Pacquiao at this point, Manny has more weapons in his offensive arsenal. If Pacquiao can somehow drop the challenger, I'm pretty confident that Algieri can rise up and continue the fight.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, will throw punches in bunches and create angles to hit Algieri. The Filipino phenom is known to have a tough chin, an overwhelming advantage given that Algieri don't pack power in his punches. It is almost certain that Pacquiao would have neither respect nor second thoughts when coming in to attack the challenger.
Algieri's lack of power he makes up for with volume punching and excellent conditioning, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough against an elite fighter like Pacquiao.
At 35 years old, Pacquiao proved in his last fight against Timothy Bradley that he still belongs among the boxing elite. But while he still seems to have plenty of gas left in the tank, it's also obvious that Pacquiao is not the same fighter he used to be four or five years ago.
Turning 36 next month, Pacquiao's dreaded speed and power — the tools that elevated him to pound-for-pound status — have declined. Even so, Pacquiao's experience level and dedication in training is still a notch above most fighters in boxing, to the point that it makes up for his whatever decline he has had over the years.
I see Pacquiao getting frustrated in this fight, because he is bound to get hit with jabs and right hands multiple times. Still, I believe, that Pacquiao's undying relentlessness and chin will carry him through in a fight that would be tougher than he and his fans expected.
We are not in 2010, Pacquiao is past his prime, and I'm not living in the past. Nevertheless, I pick Pacquiao to win this fight but not without Algieri finally earning his much deserved respect.
PREDICTION: Pacquiao by decision (115-113 or 116-112)