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Manny Pacquiao is the star, but it's Chris Algieri who will move the needle (or not)

Kevin Iole
Boxing
Manny Pacquiao during the weigh-in at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas on April 11, 2014 on the eve of his fight against Timothy Bradley
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Manny Pacquiao needs help from Chris Algieri to put on a big fight. (AFP Photo/Joe Klamar)

On Monday, Manny Pacquiao will appear at a news conference at The Venetian in Macau, the first stop on a promotional junket that ends Sept. 4 in New York. The tour is designed to promote his Nov. 22 bout on HBO Pay-Per-View for the WBO welterweight title against Chris Algieri at The Venetian's Cotai Arena.

The trip will cover 27,273 miles and will include stops in Macau and Shanghai, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

It will be, as these things often are, a celebration of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao will need to prove his continued relevance, particularly since Algieri is largely an unknown. Unknown fighters tend to result in low pay-per-view sales, and while the full measure of success for the Pacquiao-Algieri show won't be determined by pay-per-view sales, it is still a huge factor.

Pacquiao remains a God-like figure among his countrymen in the Philippine Islands, as well as among those of Filipino descent living in the U.S. and around the world.

What should scare promoters, however, is the fact that there hasn't been the kind of mania surrounding Pacquiao among non-Filipinos during his last few fights as there had been previously.

Pacquiao burst into stardom in the early part of the previous decade. But when he began his dramatic climb in 2008 through the weight classes, shooting from super featherweight through super welterweight, his popularity became enormous. He was easily the most popular fighter around the world – easily – and was second only to Floyd Mayweather in the U.S.

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Chris Algieri, right, landing a punch against Ruslan Provodnikov in their June 14 fight, will play a key role in the success of the promotion for his fight with Manny Pacquiao. (Ed Mulholland/HBO)

Chris Algieri, right, landing a punch against Ruslan Provodnikov in their June 14 fight, will play a key role in …

He still remains hugely popular, but it's not quite as manic as it once was. The opponent matters more now than ever before.

And that's why the point of this trip ought to be introducing Algieri to the world rather than trotting out Pacquiao for photo ops and to allow him to bask in the glow of a cheering crowd.

Algieri is a fascinating man to speak with, and a quality boxer. As a heavy underdog on June 14 in the New York borough of Brooklyn, Algieri upset hard-hitting Ruslan Provodnikov to win the WBO super lightweight belt.

Algieri has two college degrees and dreams of being a doctor. He's a good-looking guy with an easy-going nature, who speaks well and has a natural charisma that endears people to him. He should be popular.

But as the tour embarks, he's not. He's largely unknown. There is a large majority of fans who aren't necessarily boxing fans, but who know fighters like Pacquiao and Mayweather and regularly buy their fights if they recognize the opponent. 

It's tougher to get a pay-per-view buyer to plunk down the money when the opponent is a virtual unknown, as Algieri indisputably is. 

Pacquiao's facing an unknown at a time when he needs more help than ever from the B-side to sell his fights. He started his climb in 2008 at 130 pounds, defeating Juan Manuel Marquez in an outstanding super featherweight title bout. He ended 2010 as the 154-pound champion after drubbing Antonio Margarito in one-sided fashion at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

But he hasn't scored a knockout since 2009. He's lost twice in the interim. And without the aura of invincibility or the designation as the world's most exciting fighter, he's less attractive of an option to a large segment of fans.

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Filipino boxing icon and Congressman Manny Pacquiao (Getty)

Filipino boxing icon and Congressman Manny Pacquiao (Getty)

Pacquiao, like Algieri, is a good guy who is agreeable with the media and exceptionally charitable to his countrymen. But he's a horrible interview who says next-to-nothing of consequence. If the media doesn't have the prospect of a great fight to talk about, Pacquiao's lack of eloquence makes selling the bout tremendously more difficult.

So the goal of this trip should not be for promoters to use it as a write-off to get the opportunity to stay in five-star hotels and eat at fancy restaurants. Their sole goal should be to increase Algieri's visibility and to convince a skeptical public he has a chance to win.

Pacquiao has all sorts of sessions planned with major media outlets, but none of it will matter if the tour ends and the overriding question asked by the public is, "Chris who?"

Pacquiao is without question the star of this show. But Algieri is the guy who can make the event a success or not. Convince people that he can win and that he's worth watching, and the sales will skyrocket.

But if the tour ends and the public remains skeptical, Pacquiao is looking at another dud of a pay-per-view. 

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