Ryan Songalia

Chris Algieri: Pre-med grad, kickboxing champ, turned boxing prospect

Chris Algieri gets a lot of questions pertaining to his boxing career. “When are you fighting? And who is it against?” Perhaps the most relative question isn’t “When” or “Who”, but “Why?”

An unbeaten junior welterweight, Algieri (14-0, 7 knockouts) looks to advance his mark this Saturday at the Paramount Theatre in his hometown of Huntington, Long Island, N.Y. against Raul Tovar (10-5-1, 4 KOs) in an eight-round assignment. The event will be Algieri’s fourth consecutive appearance at the venue, which will be promoted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and also feature fellow popular New Yorkers like Cletus Seldin (7-0, 5 KOs) and Emanuel Gonzalez (10-0, 7 KOs).

Yet while boxing has thus far been a successful venture for him, another life path awaits him afterwards. The 28-year-old Algieri holds a pre-med undergraduate degree from Stony Brook University and recently obtained his masters degree from New York Institute of Technology.

The only barrier standing between Algieri and medical school are the MCATs, or the medical college admission test. Yet Algieri is holding off for now, acknowledging that pursuing medical school and a pro boxing career would be close to impossible.

“Medical school can wait,” said Algieri, who at 5-feet-10 is exceptionally rangy for the 140-pound class. “I don’t want to regret not putting everything into boxing now.”

Algieri says he doesn’t know which medical field he’d like to specialize in, but says he’s leaning towards cardiology because it directly correlates to fitness. He says that after his own fighting career, he’d like to work as a ringside doctor, keeping close to his boxing ties. With a brain that promises to earn him a sizable income in the future, it isn’t unreasonable to wonder why he’s keen on subjecting it to punishment.

For Algieri, boxing is a new venture entered into just five years ago without any amateur experience. Fighting is nothing new to him, however, as he previously held kickboxing world titles at 147 and 154 pounds, having gained recognition from the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) and World Kickboxing Association (WKA) as their champions.

Only Troy Dorsey, who briefly held the IBF featherweight title in 1991 after a successful kickboxing career, was able to successfully make the transition at the highest level.

“I accomplished all the goals I set out for in kickboxing,” said Algieri, explaining why he switched to hands-only combat. “Kickboxing is not as popular, and you can’t make as much money. It didn’t make sense for me. I was always in a boxing gym anyways and my style was more suited for boxing, so it was an easy transition.”

When asked if he had to fight the impulse to kick his opponents in a boxing match, Algieri just laughed it off. “I get asked that all the time, it’s very difficult to kick with a cup and hip protector.”

Algieri’s inexperience is reflected in his quality of opposition so far, as none of his last six previous opponents leading up to this fight had been coming off of a win before facing Algieri.

As Algieri begins to flirt with ten round bouts and the next level of his progression, he has followed in the footsteps of fellow New Yorkers Peter Quillin, Paul Malignaggi and Danny Jacobs and taken his training out west to California, where he has worked with rising young trainer Roberto Garcia in Oxnard, Calif. Algieri is still being trained by Keith Trimble and Tim Lane, the men who initially turned him pro, but Algieri says that Garcia’s experience and knowledge have helped him immeasurably.

“I always think of this quote, ‘To be successful, find your comfort zone and get as far away as possible,’” said Algieri. “Back in New York, I was sparring with the same group of guys from Brooklyn and Long Island. It’s no knock on those guys, but I needed a different look. Robert asked around about us, we made the move and I think so far it’s been a great decision. We may look back and see that this was the best decision of my career.”

For this, his second camp in Oxnard, Algieri worked as a sparring partner for Marcos Maidana, the Argentinian knockout puncher with a 31-3 (28 KOs) record who held a title belt at 140 pounds. Maidana was supposed to

“He was actually doing good,” said Roberto Garcia, who had witnessed the 8-10 round sessions. “Anyone standing in front of Maidana is gonna have trouble because he puts tremendous pressure on you and hits hard, but Chris was doing it, lasting the rounds, also landing some good punches. He did a great job sparring.”

If Garcia had one criticism, he says that Algieri often opts to stand in front of his opponents and fight instead of using his height and fighting from a distance. When pressed about whether he thought Algieri had the goods to make it to the top, Garcia cited Algieri’s focus on the sport as an asset that will help.

“Boxing is not an easy sport, everybody knows that,” said Garcia, a former champion at super featherweight. “The best prospects have failed at times. As I told you earlier, with his dedication and his mental preparation, he can make it big. He’s very smart inside the ring and outside, he’s prepared for everything and his dedication is something very few fighters have.”

Algieri feels he is ready to step up in the near future and fight on national television. His promoter Star Boxing has promoted many of the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights events in recent years, and Algieri’s stablemate Jason Escalera is scheduled to headline an HBO Boxing After Dark card against Edwin Rodriguez on September 29.

“I’ve been demanding it because I need national exposure, and [DeGuardia] has promised me we will have tv dates soon,” said Algieri. “That’s why I like working with Joe, he does get TV dates and he’s in the mix. I’m popular on Long Island but I want to be popular across the world.”

When asked for comment, DeGuardia stated, “We expect to bring him to national TV soon,” adding “he has the image we seek, and it is a pleasure to promote him, in and out of the ring.”

DeGuardia knows a thing or two about the disadvantaged circumstances that usually breed boxers, having spent time as the Bronx Assistant District Attorney before turning to boxing promotion. Algieri intends to prove that not all boxers must come from that background to find success in a prizefighting ring.

“I’m not like other fighters trying to escape where I came from,” said Algieri. “I box because I like to box. I love the sport, I grew up watching with my grandfather and my love for it has only grown. I’ve seen a lot of the inner workings of the sport. I’m a student of it and I really still have a passion for it. I do this not because I have to, but because I want to.”

 

 

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at songaliaboxing@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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