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Fighting His Way to the Top, Halfway Across the World

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Chris Algieri stands in the middle of Stony Brook football field with his boxing championship belt and Wolfie Seawolf and President Stanley

Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley Jr holds a replica of Aumni Chris Algieri’s WBO Junior Welterweight Boxing Championship Belt at the university homecoming football game.

Whether it was a black eye, a busted lip or a swollen face – it didn’t matter. Chris Algieri didn’t want his Stony Brook professors to get the wrong idea, so he had to be up front about his occupation and tell them.

“I said, ‘Just so you guys know, I’m a professional fighter and I may or may not have black eyes at some point during the semester,” Algieri ’07 said, recalling those introductory chats he’d have with each of his instructors after the first day of class. “They’d respond, ‘Ohhh. Yes, that’s fine.’ And then some of them would say, ‘Why do you do that?’

“I just didn’t want them to think I was a street brawler or a drunk,” he added, speaking after a workout and sparring session at the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy.

While in college, the Huntington native quickly climbed the ranks as a professional kick boxer, going undefeated and winning two world titles before graduating from Stony Brook with a bachelor’s degree in health care science. Algieri switched to boxing in 2008 – and still hasn’t lost a professional bout.

In June, Algieri, 30, earned the WBO junior welterweight title, defeating Ruslan Provodnikov, a powerful Russian nicknamed “The Siberian Rocky,” at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The fight, headlined on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark,” catapulted Algieri into a November 22 match against Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China, for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title.

Returning Home

Fresh off a whirlwind promotional tour that included stops in Macau, Shanghai, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Algieri returned to his alma mater Sept. 27 for Stony Brook’s homecoming football game and Wolfstock Festival, where he was recognized by the Stony Brook University Alumni Association as the Alumnus Fan of the Game.

“It was my first time back to campus since graduating,” said Algieri, who commuted daily to campus, either driving or riding the Long Island Rail Road. “There was a little bit of a tingle – a surreal kind of feeling.”

Algieri met with other alumni during pregame festivities, and prior to kickoff was presented an official Seawolves football jersey from President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., and a game ball from Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron during an on-field presentation. 

At halftime, Algieri returned to midfield to present a replica of his championship belt to Dr. Stanley. He also announced his intentions to establish the “Chris Algieri Championship Lifestyle Scholarship” at Stony Brook.

“I had a partial academic scholarship at Stony Brook, and it helped me tremendously,” he said. “I paid my own school bills and I took out a lot of loans. For me to be able to do something to help a student financially get through college would be very special.”

Emotions at homecoming ran high the entire day for Algieri, who attended the event with his parents, brother, grandmother, nephews and other family and friends.

“The drive to the campus was what really hit me – going down the streets I took to get to school. It really brought me back,” said Algieri, who graduated with honors from Stony Brook. “As a commuter – other than my freshman year when I took the LIRR to campus – I drove every day to Stony Brook.”

Algieri remembers needing to take the 6:39 a.m. train from Huntington in order to make his early-morning biology classes.

“Those were tough commutes, especially when it was cold and snowing,” he said. “I always wanted to live on campus, but I had to be home to train.”

Aside from his time in the classroom, what kept Algieri on campus during his school years were the study groups. 

“I remember having a lot of fun with my classmates in study groups,” he said. “I spent a lot more time in those group study sessions than I did just hanging out on campus.”

Despite his success in the ring as a world-champion kickboxer during school, Algieri attended class in relative obscurity. “I was a two-time world champion, undefeated, fought everybody from all over the world in every weight class around – and no one on campus knew who I was,” he said. “No one in the country knew who I was.”

Battling His Way to Future Success

It is perhaps a bit ironic that Algieri – who also holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from New York Tech and plans to some day attend medical school – is mastering a sport where success depends on hurting your opponent. 

“The academics in school weren’t really too fond of the boxing, to tell you the truth,” said Algieri, who used the purse from his last fight to finish paying off his student loans. “They thought fighting was silly and that I was going to hurt my brain.

“I don’t scoff at them, because it is dangerous. That’s why I prepare the way I do. That’s why I work as hard as I do. And that’s why I fight the way that I do,” Algieri continued. “I’ve had 40 professional fights. But I don’t look like I’ve had 40 fights. It has to do with the style, the way that I fight. And the fact that I’m always in shape.” 

The proud Stony Brook alum said “nothing has ever given me the same spark or passion like fighting.”

“Do I have to do this? No. Could I stop yesterday? Yeah,” said Algieri, 20-0 as a boxer. “But I don’t want to. I’m young and my body feels good. And until it doesn’t, I’ll keep going.”

In the meantime, Algieri said he is working hard to make the most of his time as a boxing champion.

“Being a professional athlete is not just about the training. There are a lot of other things involved. Especially if you’re a boxer. A boxer isn’t a businessman. He is a business,” Algieri said. “I’m building my brand through sponsorships, social media, my website and interviews with the news media. 

“There’s a small window for an athlete to make extra money. And any money I can make outside of getting punched in the face is a good thing,” he said.

Algieri is set to receive a seven-figure payout for his bout with Pacquiao, 35, the Filipino boxing legend who has won 10 world titles in eight different divisions. Pacquiao is one of the two most renowned names in boxing – the other being Floyd Mayweather, the WBC and WBA welterweight champion.

While Algieri fondly recalls how he and his opponent got along during their 11-day press tour to promote their fight (the highlight being the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game), the Stony Brook alum said “the nastiness” for Pacquiao is there.

“I don’t have to hate him. But training camp is all about focusing on the task at hand, which is to destroy that man,” Algieri said. “He’s standing in the way of what I want. I don’t have to dislike him. What I want is past him. I got to go through him. It’s the only way to think about it.”

Stony Brook University

November 17, 2014

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Alumni Profiles

SUNY Students and Alumni Take on Sochi

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SUNY at the Winter Olympics. cross country skier in background.

One thing that SUNY has an amazing opportunity to do is brag about our outstanding alumni and all of the amazing accomplishments they achieve using their SUNY education!

All across the state, SUNY students are encouraged to excel both inside and outside of the classroom. For many students, sports training and competition become a significant part of their experience and can take them to great heights! With the 2014 Winter Olympics in full swing, we’d like to take the time to recognize some of our alumni who have represented Team USA at the winter games:

Not only do SUNY alums participate athletically in the Olympics, but they also work behind the scenes in televising the games. For example, Jim Carr of Carr-Hughes Productions and a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate, is a television entrepreneur-producer who consistently produces the Olympics and other international events for major networks like ESPN and CBS. We previously talked with Jim about his experience producing live sports television. Also, Stony Brook University alumni and producers Bedel Saget and Al Bello are covering the Olympics and have produced spectacular sports footage for the New York Times.

If you know of any SUNY alumni who we haven’t acknowledged here, please leave a comment with their name below and we’ll be sure to give them the recognition they deserve!

SUNY students on Team USA, including Ashley Caldwell of Empire State College, a competitor at the 2014 winter olympic games.Best of luck to Team USA and all of our supporting SUNY students and alumni!

 

Lesley Adewunmi

Written by Lesley Adewunmi

Lesley is a former graduate student assistant in the Office of New Media of the State University of New York. She earned a Master’s in Public Administration at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College in Albany, NY in spring 2014.

February 10, 2014

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Alumni Profiles

Erin Hamlin ‘11 Contender for “Best of U.S.” at 2014 Winter Olympic Games

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Vote Erin Hamlin Best of U.S. Sochi 2014

Bronze-medal-winning Erin Hamlin ’11, SUNY Empire State College, is in the running for Female Olympian of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Hamlin is the first American ever in to win an Olympic medal in luge singles competition.

“I came in with no expectations, which was huge,” said Hamlin. “Training started to go really well and I got comfortable on the track early in the week. I started having pretty solid runs and so I thought this (winning a medal) could happen.”

Team USA is holding the contest on their Facebook page and Hamlin’s entry can be found at: http://bit.ly/1cdnIg9. Supporters can vote every day until March 17.

Erin Hamlin ’11, replies to questions at a press conference immediately after winning a bronze medal in luge, women’s singles, at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo/USA Luge

Erin Hamlin ’11, replies to questions at a press conference immediately after winning a bronze medal in luge, women’s singles, at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo/USA Luge

The other contest categories are: Male Olympian of the Games, Team of the Games, Moment of the Games and Fan of the Games. Winners will be announced during the “Best of U.S. Awards Show,” April 7, on NBC.

The 27-year-old of Remsen, N.Y., earned her associate online through Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning. A three-time member of the U.S. Olympic team, Hamlin also is a former national and world champion.

“I had a great experience with everyone I worked with at Empire State College,” said Hamlin. “It was the first college situation that was affordable and easy to manage while training and competing. Renee O’Brien was my advisor and mentor, as well as photography professor, and she helped me adjust classes and worked with my busy schedule, so I could complete my degree as efficiently as possible. As a proud New Yorker, I was very glad to have a state school program that fit my lifestyle.”

Hamlin was not the only member of the Empire State College community competing at the Sochi games.

Bronze-medal-winner Erin Hamlin ’11, and U.S. Olympic Teammate Ashley Caldwell ’14, both earned their SUNY Empire State College degrees online through the college’s Center for Distance Learning. Hamlin is the first American ever to win a luge singles Olympic medal. Caldwell finished 10th in women’s aerials. Photo/Erin Hamlin

Bronze-medal-winner Erin Hamlin ’11, and U.S. Olympic Teammate Ashley Caldwell ’14, both earned their SUNY Empire State College degrees online through the college’s Center for Distance Learning.

Twenty-year-old student Ashley Caldwell, a two-time member of Team USA, competed in women’s aerials and placed 10th at the games.

“It was surreal to see Erin win an Olympic medal yesterday,” said two-time Olympian and Empire State College student Ashley Caldwell. “I’m extremely happy for Erin.”

She has completed all requirements for her B.S. in business, management and economics, with a concentration in finance, and graduates this spring. Like Hamlin, Caldwell earned her degree online through the college’s Center for Distance Learning.

“With online learning at Empire State College, I could do my homework on the plane to Russia, on the way to the gym, in between training sessions, late at night, early in the morning and on days off,” said Caldwell. “Online learning at Empire State College allowed me the flexibility I needed so that I could still pursue aerials and also pursue my education, which has always been high on my priority list.”

A native of Ashburn, Va., Caldwell was a competitive gymnast for 11 years before she watched Olympic skiing on TV and thought it would be “totally awesome” to try aerials. After only three years of training, Caldwell made the U.S. Ski Team at a selection event in the beginning of the 2010 season and then went on to have an outstanding rookie season.

Later that year at the age of 16, Caldwell claimed top 15 results in her first three World Cup competitions. She finished 10th at the Olympics and claimed a silver medal at the U.S. National Championships, a feat she repeated in 2011.

Then, in December of 2011 and again in 2012, Caldwell sustained serious injuries to both her right and left ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments). Overcoming both injuries, she earned a silver medal in women’s aerials at the World Cup competition held Dec. 15, 2013 in Lake Beida, China, on her road to Sochi.

 

Cover image: Screenshot from U.S. Olympic Team on Facebook

Empire State College

Written by Empire State College

February 28, 2014

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Alumni Profiles

Rising UFC Star Paves His Way to Success In and Out of the Ring

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AljamainSterling

It’s 6:00 a.m. and while many people in his town of Uniondale, New York are still fast asleep, Aljamain Sterling is up to start his day. He drives over to Uniondale High School where he teaches part-time until school is dismissed around 2:30 p.m.  At 3 p.m., he heads over to the school gymnasium to coach varsity wrestling before jetting out at 6 p.m. to make it to a jiu-jitsu or sparring class. And if he hasn’t crashed yet, he attends a kickboxing class at 7 p.m.

No, Aljamain isn’t your average teacher or wrestling coach. In fact, he is an undefeated MMA fighter in the UFC.

Aljamain began his path to the UFC when he transferred from Morrisville State College to SUNY Cortland as a physical education major with the mindset to wrestle. While at Cortland, he became a two-time Division III All-American wrestler. “My main reason for going to school was so I could wrestle,” says Aljamain. “It was my motivation.”

He is currently 9-0 with one win in his four-fight deal with UFC. And now, the pressure is on more than ever to defend his winning streak.

It was at Cortland where Aljamain was then introduced to mixed martial arts, or MMA.

“When I went to Morrisville, I went to school with the light heavyweight champion right now from New York, Jon Jones. He was training in Cortland and told me to come down to the gym.”

After training alongside UFC superstar Jon Jones and going on to win several Cage Fury Fighting Championships titles, Aljamain has proved he was ready to advance to the big leagues: UFC.

“My manager got a call for a short notice fight because one of the opponents got hurt,” Aljamain recalls getting the bid in February to fight in the UFC. “I wasn’t in the best of shape at the time because it came sooner than I was (expected to fight), but I was able to just get it down and perform at a high level”

Aljamain Sterling stands with raised hands  in the octagon at Cage Fury Fighting Championships 10 in July 2011

Aljamain Sterling stands with raised hands in the octagon at CFCC 10 in July 2011

He is currently 9-0 with one win in his four-fight deal with UFC. And now, the pressure is on more than ever to defend his winning streak.

“They (UFC) were cutting guys after two consecutive losses, sometimes three, and if you’re very lucky you get a forth shot,” says Aljamain. “But if you keep winning, they usually renegotiate.”

In order to stay in the heat of the competition, Aljamain maintains an intense training schedule even while teaching high school physical education part time.

“I try to train twice a day,” he says. “If I’m lucky I get to have run in between classes, or go to circuit lifting, or I can sneak out and head over to a jiu jitsu class.”

Even after the most hectic, ceaseless days, Aljamain remains dedicated to his lifestyle. “It’s the life I chose. I think it’s worth it for what I want to do.”

In the long run, he sees both teaching and wrestling as long-term goals.

“I look at teaching when it’s all said and done – I mean I can’t fight forever – that’s going to be my fall back plan.”

And as for MMA, “I think I’m going to have a lot of years to come. I’m smart with my training. I don’t beat my body up, so hopefully I have some longevity there. And it will be worth it.”

Aljamain is aware that his passion for MMA comes with unexpected risks and injuries, which drives his motivation to train hard and stay on top of his game.

He stresses that, when he was a student athlete, the secret to success was to be ambitious, but always be prepared for anything. This vigilance and commitment have led him to his success he has achieved today in and out of the ring.

The best advice I can possibly give is to give it 110% but at the same time make sure that you have your ace in your back pocket. Make sure you have a fall back plan. Because, you know, you’re only young for so long. So chase your dreams, go get it, and don’t let anyone tell you no.

 

 

Olivia Santo

Written by Olivia Santo

Olivia is a former student assistant in the Office of New Media for the State University of New York. She is an undergraduate direct and interactive marketing major with a minor in economics at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY.

March 25, 2014

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