MACAU - From the moment promoter Bob Arum tapped him on the shoulder and offered the chance of a lifetime to fight for Manny Pacquiao's WBO welterweight title, Greenlawn's Chris Algieri has lived the dream.
Jet-setting on the global promotional tour, rubbing elbows with "Rocky" creator Sly Stallone, regaling the world boxing media with the improbable tale of a suburban kickboxer who cheered Pacquiao on TV and dreamed he could be like the eight-division world champion. Now Algieri is fully invested in the dream, judging by a level of confidence that is not supported by his modest record.
But when Algieri (20-0, eight KOs) stands across from Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) just after noon Macau time (11:15 ET Saturday night) in Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao resort, the dream will dissolve into a reality show the likes of which seldom has been seen in boxing. Talk about the moment of truth, a veritable neophyte squaring off against the great Pacquiao.
Tim Lane, who co-trains Algieri with Keith Trimble, said Friday: "No one has ever known or seen anything like Chris Algieri . . . Chris Algieri has given us goose bumps, and he's about to give the world goose bumps when they see what happens."
Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, and all the critics who have deemed the bout a gross mismatch roll their eyes at the notion of an ex-kickboxer scoring boxing's biggest upset since 42-1 long shot James "Buster" Douglas took the "Iron" out of heavyweight champ Mike Tyson with a 10th-round KO in 1990 in Tokyo. Asked Friday if it hurts Algieri that his entire corner consists of former kickboxers, Roach said, "Yes."
Of course, those same kickboxing guys beat Roach-trained Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO light welterweight title in June to get the Pacquiao shot. "I think he's still a little bitter," Trimble said, "because Chris beat Provodnikov."
"This is a real fight, and I know he's understood that from the beginning," Algieri said of Pacquiao, "which is why I'm sure he's well-prepared."
Pacquiao and Roach take Algieri so seriously that they insisted on a 144-pound catchweight, three pounds below the division maximum. When Algieri, who has a master's degree in clinical nutrition, weighed in at 144.2 pounds -- 3.2 ounces over the contracted weight -- it created a small tempest early Saturday.
Algieri actually ate a breakfast of eggs and coffee before the weigh-in, knowing he was below 144. When he came in over at the weigh-in, he came back 45 minutes later and was 143.6. Pacquiao weighed 143.8.
"I'd rather eat and feel good than starve myself and make weight," Algieri said. "This is no big deal."
Roach delighted in Algieri's misstep at the weigh-in but said Algieri has Pacquiao's full attention.
"I think Manny is hungry for the first time in a long time," Roach said. As for his constant trash talk, downgrading Algieri's skills, Roach said his aim wasn't to get in Algieri's head. "I need to get in Manny's head,'' he said. "Get Manny to fight the right fight."
Pacquiao's greatest advantage will be at the opening bell when Algieri experiences his overwhelming speed for the first time.
"I'm expecting him to come out guns blazing," Algieri said. "In the beginning of a fight, it's hectic, herky-jerky, trying to establish control. It's the wild, wild west."
Algieri must weather the first three or four rounds while establishing his jab, five-inch reach advantage and movement.
If he can control the pace and throw a high volume of punches, his superb stamina might wear Pacquiao down.
If Pacquiao doesn't stop Algieri early, Roach's Plan B is to rely on Pacquiao's jab, which helped him stop another tall opponent, Oscar De La Hoya. "If we can take Algieri's jab away and use ours more effectively," Roach said, "that will be the key to the fight."
Roach expects Algieri to run inside the 22-foot ring, but he understands Algieri isn't afraid to scrap. "If you get Algieri in good position and start exchanging, he will throw back," Roach said. "He is brave. You saw with Ruslan, he has guts. That might get him into exchanges and help the fight."
Or maybe, if Algieri can time his power punches later in the fight, he could turn the tables on Pacquiao. "I think I will surprise him," Algieri said. "I think I'm going to surprise a lot of people."
It's the dream Algieri hopes to make his new reality.