By Thomas Gerbasi
Chris Algieri knew he wasn’t done with boxing after his April 2016 loss to Errol Spence.
“I think a lot of other people thought I was, but I always knew I was coming back,” the Long Islander chuckles. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Algieri never lacked for will, and now the 34-year-old has found his way, with his first bout in over two years coming against Angel Hernandez at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington on November 30. It’s the rare comeback that wasn’t met with groans, as Algieri can still be a threat in the 140-pound weight class where he won a title in 2014 and where he’s never lost as a pro.
“140 was always the plan anyway,” said Algieri, who fought his last four bouts at welterweight. “I only went up because of the opportunities and the fights that were there. I never weighed 147; I was always a couple pounds under. And I didn’t really have to cut weight like guys normally do because I don’t get that heavy in between fights. ’47 was more of an opportunity thing than a necessity. So coming back down to 140, where I think my style and my body is better served, is the right decision at this point in my career.”
Those welterweight opportunities took Algieri from local kid done good to the international scene in the space of months back in 2014, as he followed up his upset win of Ruslan Provodnikov at 140 pounds with major fights against Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Spence. He lost those three bouts, with only a win over Erick Bone in 2015 interrupting the streak, and by the Spence fight, Algieri needed a break for his body and his mind.
“I was fighting killers back-to-back-to-back and it was a rollercoaster of emotions,” he admits. “Traveling around the world for the press tour for the Pacquiao fight, being the ‘overnight sensation’ after the Ruslan fight to immediately fighting Amir Khan (after Pacquiao), I think I needed to recharge the batteries a little bit. I also had a knee injury that I was dealing with in my last two camps and that really gave me some issues in the Spence fight. I had knee surgery immediately after that fight, so not only did I need to have some spiritual, emotional and psychological healing, I needed some actual physical healing, so this time off was beneficial in a lot of ways.”
The biggest benefit of his time away was his movement from fighter to nutritionist and coach, a service he performed for middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs, among others. It allowed Algieri to see life from outside the ropes while still staying close enough to his sport.
“It’s allowed me to see more camps, to be in more camps, to be around more of these athletes and learn more about the sport from the inside out,” he said, referring not just to training, but to fight night, where he got a view of boxing that he never had before.
“I’ve been in Daniel Jacobs’ corner the last four fights,” Algieri said. “Watching the fight from the couch at home or watching it from the stands, and watching it from the corner are very, very different things. So my Ring IQ and my eye for what’s going on in the action is definitely very keen at the moment. That’s actually helped me quite a bit and has given me a different understanding of the sport. I came to the sport relatively late compared to most of the guys that are at the highest level, so I’ve always been on a crash course to learn as much as I possibly can.”
Algieri is a quick learner. Beating Provodnikov in his 20th pro fight proves that. And after being thrust into the fast lane after winning the title, he went through the School of Hard Knocks, but he was still standing. But he wasn’t going to move forward until the time was right. And after his knee surgery, it wasn’t right.
“I didn’t think about boxing,” he said of his time post-surgery. “I didn’t go to boxing gyms, and even when I was able to move and start working out again, I was still staying out. I didn’t really want to go to a gym.”
But while working with Jacobs as the Brooklynite prepared for Gennady Golovkin in 2017, Algieri started to get the itch.
“That re-lit some fires,” said Algieri, who caught the eye of Jacobs’ manager, Keith Connolly.
“He (Connolly) saw me in the gym and how hard I was working,” Algieri recalled. “He said, ‘You still got it. You gonna fight again?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ That was my decision there.”
Connolly is now in Algieri’s corner, and the fighter is working with promoter Joe DeGuardia again. At the end of the month, the journey starts anew. Algieri can’t wait, but he will be more patient than perhaps he’s been in the past.
“I was always self-managed throughout my career, which is probably why I took so many of the fights that I took,” he laughs. “I said ‘Yes’ to everybody. But now I have a team around me that can focus my career in a specific direction and I thoroughly trust those guys. I trust Keith and he’s always coming back to me anyway, so we’ll make the best decisions as we go.
“It’s different,” Algieri continues. “I’m not the guy I used to be. This is the next chapter of my career. I’ve always been a smart guy, but I need to use that intelligence on the outside rather than just on the inside of the ropes.”
Despite that difference, some things won’t change for Algieri, like the feeling he gets when it’s fight night.
“I always say that my favorite part about a fight is a little bit after the fight,” he said. “You’re still in the ring, your opponent’s still in the ring too, and you can really relax for the first time in months. You’ve been training for something, for one moment for so long, and you can bask in that. I always feel like there’s an odd silence, even though the place is usually on fire in terms of the crowd. I miss that feeling. That thrill of victory, the proverbial agony of defeat, that feeling, that’s it right there. Being in that ring, there’s nothing like it. That squared circle has got a hold on me.”