Despite being a heavy favorite in his fight with Chris Algieri on Saturday, Manny Pacquiao is no guarantee to get the 57th win of his career. The challenger has yet to lose a professional boxing match, and he could present problems for the much smaller Pacquiao.
An extra five inches on his reach will be to Algieri’s advantage, and his defensive skills will give him a chance to pull off the upset. PacMan was upset twice in 2012, and he’ll need a strong fight to avoid the same fate in Macau, China.
According to trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao plans to knock out Algieri.
"He wants to prove to everyone that he can still punch," Roach said, via Newsday. "That's why he went to the catchweight at 144. He's never been a puncher at 147. He's only knocked out two welterweights. That's why the drop in weight. We feel good at '44."
Publicly, Pacquiao has stated that he’s not looking for a knockout, and it might not be in his best interest to go for the early-round victory. If Pacquiao follows the correct gameplan, he should be able to retain his welterweight championship with or without a knockout.
Understanding his opponent's strategy is important. Algieri will likely look to utilize his jab against Pacquiao, and avoid as much punishment as he can. Algieri has never lost a fight, and his success has come from frustrating his opponents with a steady stream of blows and movement. If Pacquiao can turn the fight into a brawl, he’ll give Algieri little chance to win. The chances of a brawl, though, are slim. Algieri is a quick boxer, who is skilled at dancing around the ring and making his opponent chase him. He will avoid going toe-to-toe with a hard puncher like Pacquiao, just as he did in the late rounds in a win against Ruslan Provodnikov.
Pacquiao handled Timothy Bradley fairly easily in their April title fight, but Bradley had his most success when he was moving and utilizing his jab. PacMan still has enough power that he’ll put Algieri in serious trouble if they trade punches, but catching up to Algieri might be the biggest challenge.
Even at 35 years, old, Pacquiao still possesses great speed, to go along with his power. The Filipino icon also has his illustrious reputation as a premier boxer going for him. Algieri could be forced to take more chances than he has in previous fights should this bout go to the scorecards. Landing combinations will allow Pacquiao to build points, and weaken Algieri for the later rounds of the fight. Patience might be the key. Should PacMan hold off on being too aggressive, he may bait Algieri into exposing himself to combinations.
Pacquiao wants to prevent Algieri from constantly moving, and taking control of the fight by cutting off the ring and getting his opponent up against the ropes. While that’s easier said than done against a smart fighter like Algieri, Pacquiao will look to utilize his quickness and put the challenger in a difficult position to avoid getting hit.
“You don't want to be against the ropes against Pacquiao,” Bradley told ESPN. “His footwork is like no other in boxing. He throws punches while he is moving."
Algieri hasn’t even been in a third of the fights that Pacquiao has fought. PacMan might not have the knockout power that he once possessed, failing to record a knockout victory since 2009, but his years of experience in the ring could allow him to out-box the 30-year-old. One solid punch from Pacquiao could put Algieri on the canvass, or at the minimum help Pacquiao win a crucial round. Pacquiao is often brilliant at finding openings to land a hard blow, and his craftiness might be necessary to avoid an upset.
Few boxers have the combination of skill and experience of Pacquiao, and Algieri will find out firsthand when the two meet in the ring.