Chris Algieri, the real-life Rocky, meets the guy who made Rocky real
It's not bad to be Chris Algieri these days. It may be a different story come Nov. 22 (Nov. 23 in China) when he is standing across from Manny Pacquiao in a boxing ring, but during the build-up to the fight, Algieri is having the time of his life.
A mundane news conference in Los Angeles suddenly became special for him when actor Sylvester Stallone, the creator of the fictional boxing character "Rocky," made a surprise appearance to greet Algieri.
Promoter Bob Arum heard that Algieri hoped to meet Stallone some day and he arranged it. It turned what would have been a run-of-the-mill news confernce, in which Algieri answered the same questions he's been asked for five months, into a memorable affair that left him smiling ear-to-ear.
"That was awesome," Algieri said. "Awesome. I mean, this guy is boxing to a lot of the fans. It was a lot of fun, it really was."
Algieri is kind of a Rocky character himself. For most of his career, he'd been scuffling to make it, never a big name, never getting much recognition, never earning any serious money.
He landed a June bout for the WBO junior welterweight title against Ruslan Provodnikov in June, and while few expected him to win, Algieri overcame two first-round knockdowns to win the belt.
That led directly to him getting the fight with Pacquiao. There was no logical opponent for Pacquiao to face in November, and Algieri is unbeaten, articulate and has a world title. He has a good story – he still lives at home with his family, has a bachelor's in health care sciences, a master's in nutrition and aspires to be a doctor – and he didn't mind playing second fiddle to Pacquiao.
Stallone, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport via his films, eagerly took Arum up on his offer to speak at the news conference because he likes Algieri's story.
"In my business, life imitates art, but in Chris' case, I think it's the other way around," Stallone said. "Watching Chris rebound from those two first-round knockdowns against Ruslan Provodnikov and outbox him the next 11 rounds to win the title was more than an upset. It was Rocky-esque. As for his fight against Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 22, all I can say to you, Chris, is great movies deserve great sequels, and I won't be the least bit surprised to see you give us one in Macau."
Algieri is clearly making the most of his time in the spotlight. He's training in The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, using a closed restaurant that the hotel turned into a gym to allow him to train. When he's done working, he cooks his own meals in the restaurant's kitchen and tweets photos of his food regularly. He's also considering writing a cook book.
He's also had time to hobnob with the celebrities who regularly come to Las Vegas. Last week, he tweeted a red carpet photo of himself with actress Eva Longoria.
Our host for #DiaDeMuertos @EvaLongoria with boxer @ChrisAlgieri pic.twitter.com/KEIADsbU52
— TAO Las Vegas (@taolasvegas) November 2, 2014
It's easy to tell from his Twitter feed he's having the time of his life. He flew on a private jet from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on Thursday for the news conference along with business manager Kevin Rooney Jr., the son of Mike Tyson's former trainer. He included the hashtags #jetsetting and #championlifestyle on many of his tweets.
If he defeats Pacquiao, he'll become a major star. Now, that's a long shot according to oddsmakers, who have him as a roughly 10-1 underdog. For the fight to do any business on pay-per-view, promoters are going to have to convince the public that Algieri has a legitimate chance to win.
A large contingent of American media is flying to China to cover the fight. It's a significantly bigger list than those who made the trek to Macau last year to cover Pacquiao's fight with Brandon Rios in Macau.
Perhaps all that coverage will make a difference in the pay-per-view outcome.
Algieri, of course, doesn't care what the naysayers think. He's believed all along he'd win and he's enjoying the ride immensely.
The moment of truth is still more than two weeks away, but Algieri is giving the impression he was born to win this fight.