PAWTUCKET — In a perfect world, Peter Manfredo Jr.’s No. 1 reasons for returning to boxing after a full year’s retirement would be to satisfy his longing to win another world championship or to simply rekindle his love for the sport, which he has spent roughly four-fifths of his life competing on the amateur and professional levels.
Instead, Manfredo’s No. 1 reason for returning to boxing is simple and to the point. It’s the reason why he wants to keep putting food on the table and providing a roof over his family’s heads.
“I’m doing this for the money,” Manfredo said matter-of-factly on Wednesday on his way to Manfredo’s Gym for a late workout. “I’m not worried about a championship, I’m not worried about a ranking, I’m not worried about anything. I’m doing this for my family. I need money for my family.
“It’s kind of like the old school days. This is why people fought. It’s a trade, and this is my trade. God gave me a talent and I might as well use it. I’m not the best at it by all means, but I can compete with the best of them. And I proved it. I’ve been to the Super Bowl a bunch of times.”
Manfredo won’t be going to the Super Bowl in his next fight, but the Twin River Event Center promises to have a championship-like atmosphere and an energetic standing-room-only crowd on Thursday, Nov. 29 when he takes on a tough customer in Pittsburgh’s Rayco Saunders in the 10-round main event of “The Pride Is Back” show, presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.
The last time fight fans saw Manfredo in the ring was on Nov. 19 at Reliant Arena in Houston in a world championship fight televised on HBO. Unfortunately, no good news came out of the bout: Manfredo absorbed a fifth-round TKO loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the World Boxing Council (WBC) title.
After the fight, Manfredo announced his retirement, and for nearly nine months, he stayed far away from the sport as he devoted his time to his wife, Yamilka, and his three kids and worked for a laborer’s union, Local 271, in Providence.
“At the end of August, I was working at Brown, (doing) construction for the laborer’s union, and I got laid off,” recalled Manfredo, who turns 32 the Monday before the fight. “I remember collecting a little bit and you only collect so much money a week. It was tough to live on that, especially with one income. I’m putting my wife through college, I have three kids and a household, and I knew Christmas was coming and this and that, and I said, ‘You know what? I have to fight again.’ ”
The news of Manfredo’s return to the ring excited most of his fans, but received mixed feelings from his family.
“My wife’s not thrilled about it, but she understands that I have to do what I have to do,” remarked Manfredo. “I explained to her that I can’t put any more on her plate. How can I put her to work when she’s taking care of three kids, bringing them to school and then picking them up, cooking dinner every night, and then going to school two nights a week?”
While his wife was understanding, his father, Manfredo’s Gym veteran trainer Peter Manfredo Sr., didn’t support the decision, and because of that, Manfredo Jr. had to reach out to his trainer from two of his most successful years as a fighter (2006 and ’07) to return to his corner.
“My dad didn’t want me to fight, but I have to do what I have to do,” said Manfredo. “I knew I’d have to come back with Freddie (Roach), so I was in California at Freddie’s [Wild Card Boxing] gym training for seven weeks. When I came back, my father still helped me out in the gym, but when I fight later this month, I’m going to have Freddie’s assistant, Ernie Zavala, working my corner. Freddie’s going to be working with Manny Pacquiao for his fight, but Ernie’s worked with me throughout my camp, so I’ll be in good hands.”
Manfredo (37-7, 20 KOs) will need to be in good hands when he fights Saunders (22-18-2, 9 KOs), who enters the bout with four straight unanimous-decision losses, but to fighters with a combined record of 61-2-2. He also fought for the IBF North American light heavyweight title on March 31 and battled for the WBC U.S. National Boxing Council and Continental Americas light heavyweight titles earlier in his career.
“I’m fighting a guy who doesn’t have the best record in the world, but this guy’s got 40 fights and he’s tough,” said Manfredo. “He’s only been stopped once in his career. He just fought last month, and he’s fought four times this year already and went the distance each time with guys who are a lot bigger than me.”
Manfredo will also be fighting as a 172-pound light heavyweight for the first time in his career, a far cry from the greatest night of his boxing career back on May 22, 2010, when he won the International Boxing Organization world middleweight title at Mohegan Sun Arena as a 159-pounder.
“When I was retired, I was nice and fat,” he said with a laugh. “I was 195, 196 pounds and very happy. But 172 is the weight limit for this one. It’s the heaviest I ever fought and that’s only because I was obviously a lot fatter than I am now. You have to remember that I didn’t do anything after the Chavez fight. I didn’t go back to the gym because I thought I was done. Then I decided I had to come back and do it for my family. I came back and I went full boat for two months, and I got myself in good shape.”
While fighting at 172 in a concern for Manfredo, so is the fact that this will be his first fight in over a year, the longest stretch of time in his 12-year career that he’s been inactive.
“That’s the only nervewracking thing about this,” he admitted. “But I know I’m prepared. I know I’m ready. And Marlon Starling -- one of the best fighters ever -- once told me, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen in a fight? You get in a fight.’ I know I’m going to get into a fight on the 29th, and hopefully, I come out the victor, and not just the victor, but hopefully one that looks good (winning).”
And after this fight, what’s next?
“I dont know,” said Manfredo. “I dont know. I’m planning on taking it one fight at a time. And I’m planning on going back to work. I have to keep my healthcare up and all that because my family needs that and that’s more important to me right now than anything else. There’s really no happy endings in boxing; there’s no retirement, there’s no pension, there’s no nothing.
“I’m kind of lucky I got into this union trade back in ’08. I did my apprenticeship and now I’m a journeyman making decent money. Hopefully, I’ll have a pension someday and I can support my family. That’s the only thing that matters to me.”