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Algieri with difficult task ahead of him against Spence

Errol Spence Jr(Photo credit: Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment) By Jeff Aranow: Chris Algieri (21-2, 8 KOs) has seen his career go from a high him beating Ruslan Provodnikov in 2014 to win the WBO light welterweight title to the low of him losing two out of his last three fights recently.

Algieri was seen a potential star after beating Provodnikov, but things have really turned for the worse for Algieri lately. On Saturday night, Algieri will be facing one of the best fighters in the welterweight division in Errol Spence Jr. (19-0, 16 KOs) on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Algieri is seen as a sacrificial lamb in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans, who have seen Spence fight and are very familiar with what he’s capable. For the fans who haven’t seen a lot of Spence, they’re picking Algieri to win the fight without knowing what he’s up against. The fans not familiar with Spence will get their eyes opened tomorrow night in a real way, as they experience firsthand how good Spence is.

Algieri, 31, is still a very good fighter despite his recent defeats at the hands of Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan. It’s not that Algieri has lost anything lately. It’s more a case of him fighting guys that were just better than him. Algieri hit the ceiling of his potential after his close win over Provodnikov.

When Algieri attempted to push passed that ceiling by going after better fighters, he was exposed as not being good enough to beat those fighters.

“I’m looked at as the veteran here, but I’m a young veteran,” Algieri said. “I have a ton of experience and I think that will propel me for the rest of my career. Spence hasn’t fought anyone. I don’t think he has fought a guy who has tried to win. To label me as a gatekeeper against someone who hasn’t made real fights isn’t really a fair distinction.”

The boxing world will see whether Spence is the real deal on Saturday. If he can’t beat someone like Algieri with ease, then it’ll be clear that he’s not the fighter that many people think he is. Even Floyd Mayweather Jr. believes Spence is the real deal, and the next big star in the sport. We’ll find out if Mayweather knows what he’s talking about or not tomorrow not.

If Spence has to struggle to defeat Algieri, then there’s no way he’ll be the next big star because this is a guy that was soundly beaten by Manny Pacquiao just two years ago. The way that Pacquiao looked last Saturday night, I think he would do the same thing to Algieri if the two of them were facing each other on Saturday night.

For Spence to be the guy that is the next star, he needs to beat Algieri in the same dominating manner if possible.

Spence hasn’t fought anyone good yet, but he does have Olympic experience from the 2012 Olympics, and he clearly is a very talented fighter. He fought well in the Olympics but was eliminated by a very good fighter in Andrey Zamkovoy from Russia, who in turn was beaten by a very skillful Serik Sapiyev from Kazakhstan. Surprisingly, he turned pro despite being an incredible talent.

As we saw in Spence’s amateur days, he struggles against fighters with good hand speed and mobility. If you look at Spence’s fight against Serik Sapiyev in 2011, Spence was given a boxing lesson by the Kazakhstan fighter. Granted, it was an amateur fighter and it’s quite possible that Spence would beat Sapiyev if they fought each other in the pro ranks now that Spence is four years older and sitting down on his shots a lot more than he did in the amateur ranks when he fought him. However, Spence doesn’t have great hand speed, and he still doesn’t seem to react well when fighters move around the ring.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten as much respect as I deserve throughout my career,” Algieri said. “I don’t know why, but it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, I go out there and perform. More often than not, I’m victorious. I think everyone knows that I’ll fight anybody. Spence is a guy people don’t want to fight, so they brought him to me.”

Algieri doesn’t have the hand speed or the ring movement of the guys that gave Spence problems in his amateur days. Spence has probably improved enough to beat the guys that defeated him in the amateur ranks if they had opted to turn pro. It would be interesting to see how Spence would do against those guys if they were in the pro ranks.

You have to assume that Spence’s body punching would take the wind out of those guys’ sails if they chose to bounce around the ring like they did against him. Algieri will almost surely be looking to use the entire ring all night long to hit and move to keep from getting hit by Spence. Algieri can’t just stand and have a dog fight against Spence because it won’t pay off if he elects to fight him like that.

Algieri doesn’t want to be seen as a gatekeeper by boxing fans, but that’s the way he’s going to be seen as until he shows that he can beat the top guys instead of losing to them. Algieri can’t afford to be seen getting beaten by the top fighters each time he steps it up a level because if he can’t beat the top dogs, then he’s clearly little more than a gatekeeper.

From looking at Algieri’s last fight against Erick Bone last December, it doesn’t look like Algieri has improved any since his losses to Khan and Pacquiao. He’s the same fighter that lost to both of those guys.

The only thing that’s changed is Algieri temporarily took a weaker opponent in Bone to get a record padding win. On Saturday night, Algieri will be moving back up against the A-level opposition in Spence and it’s very likely to go bad for Algieri unless the boxing experts are wrong about Spence.

Spence is a heavy favorite to beat Algieri on Saturday night. For the oddsmakers to be wrong, it’ll mean that they misjudged Spence’s ability. With so many people predicting a win for Spence, it’s going to mean a lot of people are going to be wrong with their predictions. It’s difficult to imagine a ton of people being wrong about Spence being the better fighter.

Algieri doesn’t have the hand speed to give Spence the problems that we saw from his amateur days. Algieri has decent hand speed, but he’d not blinding fast in the way that he would need to be for him to get past Spence in this fight.

“It’s the truth. It is. Prospect to contender, that’s a big leap, but you’ve got to go through it,” said Spence. “I’m a highly rated prospect. So that’s what I have to do to get to the top level. That’s what I’m going to do.”

If Spence wins this fight, he’ll be the new IBF welterweight mandatory challenger to champion Kell Brook. It would give the International Boxing Federation their first legitimately talented mandatory challenger in quite some time. The IBF’s last two mandatory challengers were very weak fighters in Kevin Bizier and Jo Jo Dan, which resulted in Brook easily beating both of them in embarrassingly easy contests. Those fights made the IBF look bad for ranking those guys at Number one with their organization instead of having a more talented fighter like Spence at number one.

If Algieri loses the fight, he’ll slip further into his gatekeeper role. He might need to acknowledge what he is because right now Algieri doesn’t seem ready to embrace his role. If Algieri loses to Spence, he can keep denying that he’s a gatekeeper, but at some point he’s going to need to come to terms with what he is. It could get worse for Algieri if he loses too many fights because he will no longer even be a gatekeeper type fighter. He’ll be a journeyman.

If Spence loses to Algieri on Saturday night, then he’s going to need to rebuild and figure out what went wrong. If Spence struggles with Algieri’s ring movement and/or hand speed, then he’s going to need to learn how to deal with these things in future fights because he’ll likely be seeing all of his opponents using the blueprint that Algieri created to try and beat Spence too.

It’s likely that the game plan that Algieri uses against Spence will be a barrowed one from amateur fighters Serik Sapiyev and Andrey Zamkovoy used against him in the past. Algieri isn’t as talented or as powerful as those two fighters, so it’s going to be hard for him to do the same things those fighters did to Spence. Also, Spence was only 21 and 22 when he fought those two Eastern European fighters in the amateur ranks. Spence has gotten stronger as he’s gotten older, and he’s more of a handful now than he was back then. Even if Algieri copies Sapiyev and Zamkovoy’s blueprint to use against Spence, it might not be successful.


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