After fighting the likes of Errol Spence and Manny Pacquiao earlier in his career, Chris Algieri said he is now a more educated fighter ahead of Saturday’s bout against Conor Benn.
The 37-year-old has traveled from south Florida to face Benn at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England, Saturday as he attempts to revive a career that once saw him share a ring with the world’s best welterweights and super lightweights.
“Back then I was younger and dumber,” Algieri told ESPN. “Now, I’m smarter and a lot more physically stronger. I’m more comfortable in the ring now than I was when I fought those guys.”
Algieri (25-3, 9 KOs), who is from New York but trains in Florida, won the WBO world super lightweight title via a split points win over Ruslan Provodnikov in 2014, then got knocked down six times in a unanimous points loss to ring legend Pacquiao for the WBO welterweight title later that year.
Algieri also lost a points decision to Amir Khan in 2015, before Spence, the current WBC and IBF welterweight champion, and ESPN’s No. 2 in the division, stopped him in five rounds in 2016.
Since that last setback, Algieri has taken a slow route back to the top with four wins in five and a half years and his last fight — a dominant 10 round points win over Mikkel LesPierre in August — ended a period of 26 months without a fight.
“2020 was a lost year because of the pandemic,” Algieri told ESPN. “We came out of the gate for 2021 looking for fights, but I still had to wait to get one. But I’ve been working hard, I never stopped during COVID and was working hard in the gym, and I’m going to show to everyone I’ve still got it.”
Algieri is confident his enthusiasm and experience, as well as the guidance of trainers John David Jackson and Derik Santos, will be enough to beat Benn and move closer to the division’s elite of Terence Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), the WBO champion, Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), and unbeaten Vergil Ortiz (18-0, 18 KOs).
“What keeps me boxing is the same reason that brought me to the sport all those years ago,” Algieri told ESPN. “I just love it, I love the training, I love being in the gym and as long as I get up every day and feel like that I will still do it. If I wake up one day and I don’t feel like training or being in the ring, then I’m done. But that hasn’t happened.
“I spar the young, tough kids and the drive is still there, so why not? I’ve always said that if I don’t see myself at the top, fighting the best, then I shouldn’t be doing it. I believe I can fight with the best, whether it’s at 140 or 147.
“I’m a young 37-year-old. I don’t feel 37, look it or act it. I’m still outworking the younger guys in the gym and not much has changed with my volume and delivery.”
This year has thrown up some shocks in boxing, and Algieri hopes to add his name to that list and end the unbeaten record of prospect Benn, whose father Nigel was world middleweight and super-middleweight champion in the 1990s.
“Some of those shocks have been US fighters knocking off the Brits,” Algieri said, referring to Terri Harper getting stopped by Alycia Baumgardner in November, and Jamel Herring ending the career of Carl Frampton also by stoppage in April.
Benn (19-0, 12 KOs), who grew up in Australia and Spain but is now based in Essex, England, is full of confidence after a hot run of form that has saw him dispatch Colombian Samuel Vargas inside a round in April and then earn a unanimous decision over Mexican Adrian Granados in September.
The 25-year-old is now ranked at No. 5 by two world governing bodies, and No. 7 by another.
“There’s been a lot of hype and build up in his [Benn’s] career has been curated carefully,” Algieri said. “This is a huge step up for him. I’ve not seen a lot of resistance from those other guys he has fought, so it’s hard to get a true assessment of him.”
On the same bill as Benn-Algieri, Ireland’s Katie Taylor (19-0, 6 KOs) defends her four world women’s lightweight titles against Kazakhstan’s Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8 KOs).
Taylor, 35, has outpointed Jennifer Han and Natasha Jonas in title defenses earlier this year and is ESPN’s No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter, so is not expected to encounter much difficulty.
Victory this weekend will set up the potential of a big fight for Taylor against Amanda Serrano (41-1-1, 30 KOs), 33, of Brooklyn, New York, via Puerto Rico, in 2022.
Serrano, the WBC and WBO world featherweight champion, faces Spain’s Miriam Gutierrez, who lost to Taylor on points just over a year ago, in Tampa on Dec. 18.