Chris Algieri doesn’t mind if you call it a comeback. The former junior welterweight titleholder will make his long-awaited return to the ring Friday night at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, New York, when he takes on Angel Hernandez in the main event of a show that, according to promoter Joe DeGuardia, has been sold out for weeks.
For Algieri (21-3, 8 knockouts) this will mark his first bout after a 2½ -year layoff following a fifth-round knockout defeat at the hands of Errol Spence at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This will also be a return to 140 pounds for Algieri after having four consecutive appearances at 147.
Algieri was born and raised in Huntington, and the majority of his formative fights took place at the Paramount.
“It’s exciting to be back at the Paramount where it all began,” Algieri said. “I am looking forward to seeing all the people I haven’t seen in years. I feel at home there, and it’s going to be a great atmosphere.
“This is where I got my start and where my fans, friends and family can come see me fight. I can literally hear my brother screaming from the stands when I fight there.”
Both DeGuardia and Algieri said there were options to have Algieri appear on larger cards, but making a return to the Paramount made the most sense at this time. The pair settled some differences and signed a new long-term deal with the plan to challenge for a world championship at some point in 2019.
“The goal is simple,” Algieri declared at a press conference near the Empire State Building on Thursday afternoon. “I am not doing this looking for a payday or to be on TV only. The goal is win a world championship, and I believe I can do it again.”
Some will doubt that, but Algieri, a former professional kickboxer, is already an unlikely success story.
“I’ve always been learning on the job,” Algieri said. “I had zero amateur boxing matches. My first boxing match was my pro debut. My trainers were kickboxing trainers and we were just learning the business as we went along.”
Algieri has since hired Andre Rozier to be his boxing coach and Keith Connolly to be his manager. The common link is Daniel Jacobs, with whom Algieri has been in every camp starting with Jacobs’ bout against Gennady Golovkin. Jacobs hired Algieri to be his nutritionist and work his corner alongside Rozier.
“I have seen a lot that has opened my eyes and increased my boxing IQ,” Algieri said. “Back then, I wish I wasn’t managing myself. It was difficult to navigate the landscape and stuff outside of the training. It definitely bled into my game somewhat.”
Algieri said it was him who was responsible for negotiating the big-money fights and worrying about everything that goes on behind the scenes.
“If I had management that I trusted, I could have solely focused on my training, and who knows what would have happened,” Algieri said.
Algieri built his resume selling out club shows on Long Island until he earned the opportunity to challenge Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO title at Barclays Center in 2014. It was supposed to be a showcase bout for Provodnikov en route to a future date with Manny Pacquiao. After suffering two first-round knockdowns and a closed right eye, Algieri battled back to win a close decision and punched his own ticket to the Manny Pacquiao show.
Provodnikov would be Algieri’s last opponent at 140 pounds, where he has never lost a bout. Algieri ended up losing a one-sided decision to Pacquiao five months later in Macau, China, at 147 pounds.
Algieri had four bouts at welterweight and points out that he always came in under the weight limit. The professional nutritionist feels he is at his best at 140 pounds.
“I never wanted to move up from 140,” Algieri admitted. “The opportunities were there and they were huge fights against living legends, so I took them.”
The Provodnikov bout taught Algieri that he must stay true to the game plan at all times or the consequences can be dire.
“We had a great plan going in, but in the first round I saw an opening to get Ruslan and went for it,” Algieri said. “I got caught with one punch that changed the entire fight. I had to become more aggressive to right the ship where I can outbox him. I won’t make my mistake again.”
Algieri didn’t believe he would get the decision until he heard one judge call the bout in his favor. That’s when euphoria set in.
“My life didn’t change that much,” Algieri said. “I paid off my student loans and became debt-free, but other than that, everything was the same. Now, the Pacquiao experience that was a game-changer for me.”
Algieri remembers the seven-city press tour and the constant traveling as he embarked on a whirlwind experience that brought along more notoriety than he could have ever imagined. Following the loss to Pacquiao, Algieri was hungry to get a big fight and took on Amir Khan at Barclays Center, where he lost a unanimous decision but gave Khan all he can handle.
“When I signed the contract to fight Khan, I knew I could beat him,” Algieri said. “I remember calling my trainer, John David Jackson, into my room two days before the fight and telling him that I wanted to go right after Khan immediately.”
Khan walked away with the decision, but Algieri’s stock continued to rise through a unanimous decision win over Erick Bone six months later. And then, in April of 2016, he stepped into the ring with Spence.
“I didn’t know much about Spence at that time, but I realized right away in the fight he is legit,” Algieri said. “Although I had a knee injury and couldn’t move around the way I want to, I thought my experience would be enough to outhustle him. However, nothing worked for me that night.”
While Algieri placed his career as a boxer on hold, he brought his love for cooking and nutrition to the Daniel Jacobs camp and stayed as close as he can to the sport without actually being inside the ropes.
“I come from two cultures,” Algieri explains. “My mother is from Argentina and my father is Italian, and food is the cornerstone for our tradition.”
Algieri said that to this day, everyone in his family still cooks, and he loves that he can combine his education in nutrition with the sport that he loves.
“As long as it doesn’t get in the way of my own boxing career, I am still Team Jacobs all the way.”
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