LINCOLN — In the days leading up to his main event fight on Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.’s “Pride & Power” card, Peter Manfredo Jr. referred to himself as a boxer who was “past his prime” and dearly hoped to bring back “the Peter Manfredo Jr. of old” one more time.
Not only was Manfredo facing a very tough super middleweight in Lincoln’s Rich Gingras, but he also dedicated his fight to one of his good friends, Cranston’s Gary Balletto, the former EBA and IBU lightweight champion who was paralyzed from the waist down following an accident at his home in July.
But Manfredo was able to “turn back the clock” this past weekend and give an exceptional performance, one that resulted in an eight-round TKO -- and the 40th victory of his superb career -- in front of an energized SRO crowd at the Twin River Event Center.
After ruling the sixth and seventh rounds of the scheduled 10-round bout, Manfredo (40-7, 21 KOs) put an end to the edge-of-your-seat fight by landing a lethal left hook on Gingras, which came immediately after he made good on a right uppercut. Referee Joey Lupino, sensing that enough was enough, stepped in between the fighters at 1:33 of the round and waved off the fight, and as Lupino held back Manfredo, Gingras stumbled backwards into his corner, but Lupino raced over to catch him before Gingras’s cornermen could get to him.
“That one was definitely for (Balletto),” offered Manfredo, who paid tribute to Balletto (who watched the bout ringside) by sporting Balletto’s tiger-striped trunks with Balletto’s name stitched across the waist. “I felt good. I was nice and relaxed in there, and I finished the night the way I wanted to.”
However, Gingras, who fell to 13-4-1, nearly finished the night five rounds earlier with what would have been the ninth stoppage of his career, as he delivered a vicious right hook to Manfredo with a little over a minute left in the third. The punch sent Manfredo reeling backwards into the ropes and quickly brought Gingras’s large gathering of fans to their feet, screaming loudly for their fighter to finish off Manfredo. Gingras tried to grant their wishes by unleashing a barrage of punches at Manfredo, but Manfredo covered up against the ropes and withstood the abuse before the bell ended the threat.
“He knew what he was doing,” offered Gingras. “He just covered up and weathered the storm -- let me gas myself out -- and he recovered. A lot of thoughts go through your mind when you’re in the ring, and I was frustrated. I was more frustrated than anything else. I was saying (to myself), ‘I had him, I had him, I lost my chance,’ and then it felt like I was starting all over again.”
“He rocked me,” Manfredo said of Gingras’s punch. “Those are the ones you don't see and those are the ones that get you. I was a little wobbly, but I survived.”
Both fighters took their fair share of punishment in an action-packed fight that clearly delighted the sellout crowd, but Manfredo doled out a little more than Gingras, especially with his left hook, which initially made its mark midway through the second round when one drew blood from the corner of Gingras’s right eye.
“I could have been a little faster, a little sharper, and there were times I stood in front of him a little bit,” admitted Manfredo. “But you could see the experience level. (Gingras) is still up and coming, but I have that experience. I know how to set the pace. I know how to keep these guys away from me. I still have some power, and I’m still pretty quick.”
In addition to his superb third round, Gingras also had a strong start to the first, and again, used some combinations to keep Manfredo against the ropes on multiple occasions. Gingras also landed some powerful shots over the fourth (despite getting another cut above his left eye) and fifth rounds, but again, the night belonged to Manfredo.
“He’s strong, he’s a strong kid, but he’s too slow,” Manfredo said of Gingras. “I knew I had the better skill. I just had to use that and I had to get my legs going again, and that helped me get the job done.”
Manfredo, who turned 33 three days earlier, was asked afterwards if he planned to fight again in the near future, and “The Pride of Providence” was unable to answer the question.
“Who knows?” he replied. “I just want to take it one step at a time. This is my trade. Electricians, they go and do side jobs, and me, I’m a laborer whose side job is boxing. If the fans want to see it, if I can do it, if I need more money for my family, then I’ll do it. I just hope the fans got what they paid for tonight and they loved (the fight). If they did, then that means I’m still doing my job.”
In addition to the Manfredo-Gingras showstopper, there was plenty of highlights in the show, and none was more heartwarming than Balletto’s first appearance at Twin River since his accident. Balletto, who was joined by his family, received a long standing ovation from the crowd as he was recognized before the main event by CES president Jimmy Burchfield, who presented Balletto with a citation from Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
While Manfredo honored Balletto with his trunks, four-time women’s world champion Jaime Clampitt stepped into the ring with a black “Balletto Strong” t-shirt as she fought in the co-feature against Dominga Olivo of Brooklyn, N.Y. and in the final fight of a brilliant career that began in 2000 and stretched over the next 11 years.
The Warwick lightweight, who was fighting for the first time in three years, closed out her career in style with an unanimous-decision victory. Clampitt dominated the early stages of her six-round fight with Olivo (8-9-1), and despite receiving a nasty welt on her forehead in the fourth round that swelled over the final two rounds, she took the fight by scores of 59-55, 58-56, and 58-56 to finish with a 22-5-1 (7 KOs) record.
A pair of Providence fighters also secured four-round victories on the undercard. East Providence High alumnus and middleweight K.J. Harrison-Lombardi raised his record to 4-0-1 with an unanimous-decision triumph over Mike Rodriguez of Springfield, Mass., as he ruined Rodriguez’s pro debut by notching a 39-36, 39-36, 39-36 win, and light middleweight Publio Pena (2-0, 1 KO) was a close split-decision winner over Antonio Marrero (0-2) of Hartford, Conn. Pena was a 38-37 winner on two of the judges’ cards, while the third judge ruled Marrero a 38-37 victor.
Cranston heavyweight and fan favorite Arthur Saribekian, who was returning to boxing after being away from the sport for more than a decade, suffered a second-round knockout loss to Jesse Barboza of Hyannis, Mass. in the night’s special attraction bout. After a ho-hum opening round, Barboza (7-1-1, 5 KOs) went to work on Saribekian (23-5-1, 18 KOs) in the second and put away “The Armenian Assassin” with a brutal right hook at the 1:15 mark.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24