Macau: Nine months ago, American Chris Algieri was fighting in a venue holding less than 2,000 spectators, but on Sunday he enters the big time when he challenges eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao for the WBO welterweight title at the Venetian Macao.
The 30-year-old Algieri, has been billed by promoters as the `real-life Rocky` because of his rapid and improbable ascension to world title challenger, is not overawed by his situation.
"Yeah, it`s cool, but it doesn`t faze me," he told reporters in Macau this week ahead of his clash with Pacquiao in the 15,000 seat arena in the former Portuguese colony.
"I`ve literally seen this in my mind for a long time. And now it`s here, it isn`t I made it; it`s, this is where I`m supposed to be."
Algieri earned his title shot the hard way.
Nine months ago, his bout with Emanuel Taylor was headlining at a 1,555-seat venue in his hometown of Huntington, New York.
That unanimous points decision victory gave him an opportunity against Russia`s WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov in June.
Despite suffering two first-round knockdowns and having to fight with a swollen right eye, Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) prevailed via a 12-round decision to set up the Pacquiao clash.
Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) recognised that Algieri, who holds a Masters degree and is contemplating attending medical school, could see the fight as a potential springboard, in much the same way his own 2008 victory over Oscar De La Hoya helped transform him into a global name.
"I will not let that happen," the 35-year-old Pacquiao said.
"My time is not over yet. I`m not predicting a knockout, but I`m looking for a good fight and looking to prove I can still fight."
That is about as close to `talking trash` as Pacquiao will allow himself, but his voluble trainer Freddie Roach was far more willing to dismiss Algieri`s chances.
"He`s in way over his head this time," Roach told Reuters.
"Manny`s really on top of his game right now and he`s looking really good. He can`t wait to get in the ring with this guy and show the world he`s a better fighter."
Undaunted, Algieri insists that he had the ability to beat Pacquiao.
"We`re not worried about what Manny`s going to do, we`re focused on what I`m going to do.
"And if I fight my fight, I win."
The bravado only elicited a snort of derision from Roach.
"They`re trying to make out like Algieri is the next Rocky," he said. "But this isn`t a movie."