MACAU (AFP) – A rejuvenated Manny Pacquiao will look to make short work of Chris Algieri Sunday to defend his World Boxing Organisation welterweight belt and raise his chances of a showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
Few believe the eight-weight world champion, oozing confidence and surrounded by a 300-plus entourage in Macau, will be seriously troubled by Algieri.
“Algieri will be overwhelmed by Manny’s speed straight away,” predicted Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach on Friday. “Manny deep down really wants to win by a knockout.”
His 30-year-old American opponent (20-0) is a capable and likeable former kickboxer from Long Island with a Master’s degree and an ambition to be a doctor.
In June, he got up from the canvas twice in the first round to shock Russia’s formidable light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov and take the WBO belt on a split decision.
Now he says he wants to pull off an almighty upset and end the fabled career of the 36-year-old Filipino icon and congressman from Sarangani province.
“Manny’s going to be put to sleep, go home and then retire,” Algieri’s trainer Tim Lane told reporters Friday.
The last man to make such a bold prediction was another American, Brandon Rios, at the same venue a year ago. Rios was then destroyed by a masterclass in boxing, speed, agility and power from “Pacman”.
Pacquiao, who once described Algieri as just an “okay” fighter, remains dismissive of his challenge.
“I know my opponent is excited to win, but I won’t let that happen,” he said at the Venetian Macau venue.
“He’s got a good jab, a good left hand,” said Roach of Algieri. “But once we take that away he’ll be lost. Manny’s been exploding on me with the counter-punch. He’s punching really hard.”
Pacquiao, whose record stands 56-5-2 with 38 KOs, had a mixed build-up in which he made his professional basketball debut in the Philippines league last month.
But he says his intense training camp has helped him regain the aggression and power that put away world-class adversaries such as Oscar de La Hoya, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley in his younger days.
“Manny wanted to go back to the old workouts with more heavy bags, more strength, less mitts,” said Roach. “He’s punching a lot harder I feel and his punch rate has gone up.”
Only by stopping Algieri will Pacquiao prove the fearsome “fighter of the decade” in the 2000s is back, two weeks before his 36th birthday.
If he does then a potential $1 billion megafight with Floyd “Money” Mayweather may become closer to reality next year.
Pacquiao and Algieri will fight for the WBO welterweight (147lb) title at a catchweight limit of 144lb.
A host of celebrities will be ringside as promoter Bob Arum aims to show Saturday night pay-per-view audiences in the United States that Chinese territory Macau is growing to rival Las Vegas as a fight venue.
Hollywood superstars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already confirmed they will be there. On the undercard they will see another screen star.
Chinese double Olympic gold medallist flyweight Zou Shiming (5-0, 1 KO) had a cameo role in the recent “Transformers 4” blockbuster movie and he will take on Thailand’s Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (27-0, 12 KOs) in a final eliminator for a world title shot.
Kwanpichit is an uncanny Pacquiao look-alike – dubbed ‘mini-Manny’ by the media – and Zou will be hoping that the similarity applies only to the Thai’s looks and not his punching power.
Two other world title fights complete the pay-per-view card.
WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (2-1, 1 KO) and WBA super lightweight champion Jessie Vargas (25-0, 9 KOs) will defend their titles against Thailand’s Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (52-1, 33 KOs) and Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (31-3-1, 23 KOs) respectively.