The best decision Peter Manfredo Jr. ever made came outside of the boxing ring and had nothing to do with strategy or technique. Shortly after his loss to Sakio Bika in 2008, Manfredo’s second shot at a world title, “The Pride of Providence” — at the time, just 27 years old — figured it was time to start thinking about life away from the sport to avoid the pitfalls that had plagued so many retired boxers before him.
“I said to myself, ‘Forget this. I’ve got to get myself a job. I can’t keep taking beatings like this,'” said Manfredo, who returns to the ring Friday, May 13th, 2016 for the first time in two and a half years.
“Then what? Everybody loves when you’re winning. No one cares when you lose. At the end of the day, it’s you and your family and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to support your family. When you’re boxing, I don’t care how much money you make, you live within your means. It runs out!
“In boxing, there really aren’t many happy endings. There’s no retirement, there’s no health care, there’s no annuity. After you run out of your money, which you’re going to, what do you have?”
Manfredo (40-7, 21 KOs) didn’t want to find out, so he got himself a job working as a laborer for Laborers Local 271 in Providence, where he does everything from mixing cement to construction to breaking down job sites.
“Hard labor,” he said. “Physical labor.”
These days, he works for Lee Kennedy, Inc., a construction company in Quincy, Mass. The hours are long and the money’s good, but boxing is always on the backburner, except now it’s a trade, not a full-time job like it was during the halcyon days of The Contender.
As he prepares for his latest comeback, an intra-city showdown next Friday against “Mr. Providence” Vladine Biosse (15-7-2, 7 KOs) in the main event of CES Boxing’s “THE BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL” show at Twin River Casino, the 36-year-old Manfredo is brutally honest about his intentions.
His daughter is entering high school next year and he wants to build her a bigger room in his house, so he’s lacing up the gloves one more time for some extra pocket change. Rather than recycle the usual rhetoric about being No. 1 in the world or wanting to win a world title, which he probably would’ve fed us in his 20s, the older, wiser Manfredo tells it like it is. He needs the money, so he’s fighting again. Plain and simple.
“I am who I am. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not,” Manfredo said. “I know I’m not the best fighter in the world, but how many people are? You’ve got Floyd Mayweather, who is probably the best fighter in the world in this generation and you can only have one. I know I’m not that, but I’m not trying to be that. I just want to make enough money to support my family and get by and I think people respect me for that because they can relate to that.”
Even with a two and a half year layoff, “The Pride of Providence” remains as popular as ever, a box office draw unlike any other in New England, and he’s maintained his relevancy without having to force-feed lies to the general public. If his blunt honesty were a turnoff, it would’ve driven fans away by now. Instead, Twin River is expecting record numbers next Friday for the latest chapter in Manfredo’s growing legacy.
“It’s a humbling thing, that’s for sure,” he said. “People like me because, for one, I’m a good kid, and, two, I’m a real fighter. People want to come and spend that kind of money to see a fight, they want to see a fight. And when you see a Peter Manfredo fight, win, lose, or draw, I give you a real fight.
“I come to win every fight and I give you a fight. People like that. They see the heart and the reason I do it. I do it for my family. I don’t do it to be a world champion anymore. I’m not trying to be the best in Rhode Island. I don’t care about any of that. I do it just to make a paycheck and I do it for my family. People like that and they can relate to that. Maybe that’s why I always sell the place out.”
It helps, too, that he’s as sharp as ever despite the long gaps between recent fights. After retiring in 2011 following a loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Manfredo returned one year later for another run on the regional circuit, firing off consecutive wins over Rayco Saunders, Walter Wright and Rhode Island rival Rich Gingras.
Manfredo stepped away again in 2013 after stopping Gingras in the eighth round of their scheduled 10-round fight, only to announce another comeback in March. Originally scheduled to face undefeated Angel Camacho Jr., Manfredo now faces Biosse, an awkward southpaw whose style has forced him to adjust on the fly over the final two weeks of training camp.
“Now I have to change my whole game plan,” he said. “It only gives me one week to prepare for it because the week of the weigh in, you’re not doing much. You’re making weight and you’re kind of slowing it down a bit. Yeah, it throws you off a little bit, but it is what it is. I’m a fighter.
“My mind is still on the prize. Obviously, there are still going to be obstacles in your way. Being the professional I am, I’ve got the experience where I’ll be fine at the end of the day.”
In an ironic twist, Biosse once trained under the guidance of Manfredo’s father, Peter Manfredo Sr., but has now built his own legacy as an iconic figure in Rhode Island’s Cape Verdean community. Meanwhile, “The Pride of Providence” continues to serve as an ambassador for Italian Americans, particularly in the Federal Hill section of Providence where he was born and raised.
“I have all the respect in the world for Vla,” Manfredo said. “I like Vla. When Vla was turning pro, I helped him to turn pro. I thought he could make it. I thought he was pretty good. I encouraged him.
“As far as the name, ‘Mr. Providence’ versus ‘The Pride of Providence,’ I don’t even look at it like that. It’s a fight. At the end of the day, it’s a fight. I’m going in there to win and I know he’s coming in there to win and for that the fans are going to get what they want. They’re going to get a good fight and get their money’s worth.”
Win or lose, there’s no guarantee of additional fights or additional paydays for Manfredo beyond next Friday. The only sure thing is his life outside of the ring, his life in the workforce, which has allowed him to build a stable foundation for his family. He can’t fight forever, but as long as he has a career beyond fighting, he’s an example of brains overcoming brawn in a sport that often leaves its most beloved stars with broken dreams and empty pockets. Perhaps there are happy endings in boxing after all.
“I always wanted to work. I was always a hard worker,” Manfredo said. “As I was coming up, I was always influenced by my father just to be a fighter because he was looking to make a living off of me. He was just looking at his end.
“At the end of the day when I got older and I started having my own family, I woke up and I got myself a job and got myself in the union. It’s the best move I ever made.”