Last November, Peter Manfredo Jr. stood in the middle of the ring at Reliant Arena in Houston following a knockout loss to world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and announced his retirement.
Times have changed. Almost a year has passed since he challenged for the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight title. Now Manfredo Jr. is back in Rhode Island – back home where it all began 12 years ago – preparing for his latest comeback attempt under the guidance of his longtime promoter, Jimmy Burchfield Sr.
“The Pride Of Providence” Manfredo Jr. (37-7, 20 KOs) will return to the ring Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 at Twin River Casino against Rayco Saunders (22-18-2, 9 KOs) of Pittsburgh, Pa., in the 10-round main event of “The Pride Is Back,” presented by Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports. Saunders recently fought for the WBC Continental Americas light heavyweight title and has also fought for the WBC U.S. National Boxing Council (WBC USNBC) light heavyweight title.
“I didn’t want to go out with the loss I had,” said Manfredo Jr., who returned home this week following six weeks in California with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who, coincidentally, trained Chavez Jr. in his win over Manfredo Jr. “I want to end my career with a win. My dad [Peter Manfredo Sr.] ended with a loss. My uncle ended with a loss. I want to change that.”
Manfredo Jr. has no idea where this latest journey will take him – “I’m taking it one fight at a time,” he said – but he’s making sure he goes out on his terms with the right team in his corner, which is why he’s reunited with Roach, who trained Manfredo Jr. during the prime of his career between 2006 and 2007, instead of working with his father, who introduced him to boxing at the age of seven and trained him for the majority of his career.
“My father doesn’t want me to fight again. He doesn’t agree with it,” Manfredo Jr. said, “so I knew if I had to do it, I’d have to do it with Freddie.
“Getting me in great shape, being away from my family and being in camp and making me sharper with the pads – everything about Freddie works for me. I always loved being with him since the first time I was with him. That’s why I went back. I told myself I needed to be with a trainer who was going to make me work.
“With Freddie, if you have a bad day in camp, it ends that day. With my father, if you had a bad day it would carry on to the next day, the day after that, and the day after that. This is hard – [my father] has been my trainer since I was five. He got me into the game. I’m not sure if it’s harder because he’s my father, but I don’t think you can mix business with pleasure. We clash heads all the time. I think we’re better off apart when it comes to boxing. I still love him. He’s always had my back. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
With Roach in his corner, Manfredo Jr. scored back-to-back knockout wins over Joey Spina and Scott Pemberton before challenging Joe Calzaghe in Wales for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight title. Roach also trained Manfredo Jr. for his 2007 bout with former world-title challenger Jeff Lacy.
“That was me at my best,” Manfredo Jr. said. “It kind of reminded me of how Chavez Jr. was when he beat me. He was at his best. If that fight had happened two years ago, I would’ve killed Chavez. Since he’s been with Roach, he’s become a better fighter. He had [Sergio] Martinez out in the 12th round [on Sept. 15] and Martinez is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.”
The desire to finish his career on a positive note is undoubtedly a motivating factor in Manfredo Jr.’s comeback, but the overwhelming desire to support his family – his wife, Yamilka, and their three children – is much stronger.
“I’ve been offered a fight already – six-figure payday – but I turned that down,” Manfredo Jr. said. “This will be my first fight in a year. We’ll see how I make out. It could be my last one. Who knows? I want to take it one fight at a time.”
Manfredo Jr. also works as a laborer for Local 271 in Providence, which helps him support his family outside of the ring, so he will also be challenged with the task of juggling both careers as he focuses on his comeback.
“I need the benefits and the health care and the pension,” Manfredo Jr. said. “There aren’t many happy endings in boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson died broke. Joe Louis died broke. Muhammad Ali has Parkinson’s. Knowing that, my goals are different.
“When I first came up, yeah, I wanted to be a champion. That’s why you fight. When you have a wife and kids, it changes. Now I want to support them.”
Win or lose, Manfredo Jr. will finish his career with Burchfield, the same promoter who helped him launch his career more than a decade ago in Rhode Island. The symmetry is comforting for Manfredo Jr., who has a lot on his plate moving forward, but plenty of motivation as he builds toward a triumphant return.
“Jimmy has always been there for me,” Manfredo Jr. said. “I look at him like family. He’s ‘Uncle Jimmy’ to me. When I need something, he’s always there. When I called him and told him I wanted to fight again and do it back home with him, he said, ‘No problem,’ even after all we’ve been through.
“All my kids will be at this fight. This is where I’m comfortable. This is where I belong.”