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Algieri favors brain over brawn

It has been said there are two kinds of smarts in the world.

There are those who are book smart. They went to college, studied hard and learned about life in a classroom.

Then there are those who are street smart. They’re not highly educated, but when it comes to survival in the real world, they’re more than able to hold their own.

Chris Algieri happens to be both. The 30-year-old Huntington, N.Y., native has used his education to set himself up for life with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. And he’s not through learning yet. Algieri has plans to go to medical school when he’s finished with boxing.

But growing up on Long Island, he also learned how to not be played for a chump. He’s a tough guy who isn’t easily conned.

And when he steps into the ring Saturday halfway around the world in Macau, Algieri knows he must be tough and max out his boxing skills while using his intelligence if he has any hopes of beating Manny Pacquiao.

“You win a fight like this by being smart,” Algieri, the World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion, said of the 12-round fight from the Venetian’s Cotai Arena that will be televised worldwide on HBO Pay Per View. “You don’t let (Pacquiao) dictate how the fight’s going to be fought.

“When I beat Ruslan (Provodnikov) to win the title, I did it by controlling the fight after the second round. I used my boxing skills, and that’s what I have to do to beat Manny Pacquiao.”

Algieri beat Provodnikov on June 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., to win his first world title as a boxer (he’s a two-time world champion kick boxer). But had he not gotten a chance to fight Emmanuel Taylor in February, Algieri wouldn’t be in China, but possibly out of boxing and living in the basement of his parents’ home on Long Island and driving a Honda Accord that has more than 200,000 miles.

Algieri (20-0, eight knockouts) was basically fighting club fights near his home and getting little exposure. He was getting frustrated and threatened to quit. After all, he had his degree and a budding nutrition business.

Then his promoter, Joe DeGuardia, got him a fight against Taylor that ESPN was going to televise.

It was a dangerous fight for Algieri, one that probably would determine his boxing future. But he took it anyway and won a 10-round unanimous decision.

That led to the Provodnikov fight in June, and after beating him and winning the WBO belt, Algieri is getting his shot against Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs).

“I never doubted my abilities,” Algieri said. “It may have taken me longer to get here than most guys, but all I ever needed was a chance.”

The fight will be contested at a catch weight of 144 pounds, which Pacquiao’s camp insisted upon. Algieri, who is being paid $1.5 million to Pacquiao’s minimum of $20 million, merely shrugged at the stipulation.

“It’s never been an issue with me,” he said. “I’ve been on weight for the last couple of weeks.”

Algieri also managed his training well. He moved from New York to Las Vegas about a month before the fight, took up residence at the Palazzo and trained at the hotel in a space that once housed a Mexican restaurant and was converted into a gym.

On weekends, the public would be invited to watch him work out, helping grow his already sizable fan base and letting him promote the fight on his terms.

“It was perfect,” Algieri said. “Everything I needed to properly prepare for this fight, I had.”

Algieri has tried to remain true to himself during the promotion for his fight with the 35-year-old Pacquiao. He has an engaging personality, and, coupled with his good looks, has won himself legions of new fans.

He admits it has been a bit of a whirlwind experience given few knew of him before he beat Provodnikov. But he has no problem cashing in on his newfound fame.

“It’s zero to 100, and that’s just the nature of the game,” Algieri said of his popularity. “I’m not surprised by it. I’ve been watching this sport for years, and I’ve seen it with other fighters.

“I knew my time would come. I just had to stay focused and disciplined. If you work hard, good things happen. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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