Interview by Scott Ploof
Photography by Emily Harney
“The Pride of Providence” Peter Manfredo Jr. (38-7, 20 KOs), who was one of the two finalists in the very first season of “The Contender” returns to action this Friday night at the Twin River casino in Lincoln, RI as he will take on fellow “Contender” alumni Walter Wright (14-3, 7 KOs) in the ten round super middleweight main event of “Unfinished Business” which is being promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment and Sports. Wright, who has been inactive since 2010, took this fight on two weeks’ notice when original opponent, Joey Spina (26-3-2, 18 KOs) had to pull out of the fight citing an injury. In this candid interview with FightNews, Peter Manfredo Jr. talks about his career accomplishments, his “Contender” experience, his family, Joey Spina, and his opponent on Friday night, Walter Wright.
As a professional prize fighter over the last twelve years, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment or most favorite moment your career?
Probably winning the (IBO) world title back in 2010 was my greatest accomplishment. I have had a lot of accomplishments. “The Contender” was a great thing for me as well. Popularity wise it kind of made me who I am, and gave me the opportunity in the boxing game. As both of us know there are not many happy endings in this game.
What fight do you feel to date was the toughest fight of your career?
There have been a couple of fights that I can think of. The guy who hit me the hardest was definitely Sakio Bika (31-5, 21 KOs), and the best skilled fighter that I have ever thought was Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) in Wales, England in front of 35,000 people.
Looking back eight years ago as a finalist on the very first season of “The Contender,” how did that experience not only help your career but also yourself as a fighter?
Well it was experience and exposure fighting in front of a bunch of people. Fighting guys like Sergio Mora (23-3, 7 KOs), who was a former champion himself. As the years go on, I was never the best fighter in the world but I always got better as I went on. When I lost I came back and I have gotten better and I learned. Throughout my whole experience, through all my years, I have had a great run. If it were all to end today, I would not take anything back. I had a great run. I have made it pretty far in this sport. I have built a nice career and a nice life for myself and now it’s just up to me to keep it.
You have fought in several high profile fights including Joe Calzaghe, Julio Ceasar Chavez Jr., and Sergio Mora amongst others. How has your experience at that level helped your career?
I guess being ready for anything. When I get to that level, I am calm and I know what has to be done. It just helped me to become the man I am, tough as nails. It made me a better person in life in general. It teaches you how to respect people and how to respect yourself, treat my family right, and do the right thing. If you do the right thing, good things happen to you.
Prior to winning a ten round unanimous decision victory back in November over Rayco Saunders, you had been inactive for a year and a half after being defeated by the previously unbeaten former WBC middleweight champion, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32 KOs). During that layoff, did you feel that your career was over at that time, or were you just taking a break from the sport?
I felt that my career was over. I did not want to do it anymore. You know I have been doing it all of my life. It was just something that I have a family and I want to be here for them. I want to have dinner at 5 o’clock with them and hear about their day in school, things like that. I wanted to be more of a family man and you can’t do it when you are fighting all of the time. I am going to work all day and then train at night. I am putting my wife through college right now, and in today’s economy, you cannot live on one income today. I got three kids and I got a household to keep up so I am going to fight right now until I can get her through school. Take one at a time, I don’t know how long I am going to go. I won the last one so I am doing another one now. Hopefully we can win this won on Friday and we will go from there.
How difficult has it been for you to maintain your training schedule, while at the same time having to also work a full time job and try to spend time with your family?
Very difficult but nothing worthwhile is going to be easy. Nothing is easy in life so in order to get something accomplished in life, you need to work hard. That is what kind of motivates me every day. I get tired of course after working a full time job, I want to go home, but I don’t. I say I want better things in my life. I want better for my kids and my wife and in order to do that, I have to go to the gym. That pushes me and motivates me to go to the gym and work that extra hard. Like I said you get out of life what you put into it. I go over there and do what I got to do and this Friday I come home with another “W”.
Is boxing a sport that you would encourage your children or other family members to take an interest in? Why or why not?
No never. During the great depression and things like me right now that need a little extra money, it’s a great, great sport for that. Somebody told me the best thing that I have ever heard, ‘You can always love boxing, but boxing will never love you back.’ Basically saying nobody cares, so at the end of the day, you can do what you want to do in the game. You can make a little money. It’s hard to live off that money because it is basically your livelihood. You can’t work a full time job and box so yeah can you make some money in the game? Yeah can you make some money in the game but you also have to live off of that too and live within your means. At the end of the road, there is no retirement, no pension, and no health care. I would rather see my kids get something like that. Go to college and if they don’t want to go to a college, and then maybe pick up a trade when at the end of the day at the end of the road, I will have a retirement, a pension, and health care. Would I encourage them to become a fighter? No.
What has been your motivation to resume your career?
Like I said I am doing it for money. I will have to get my wife through college. I look at it as God gave me a talent as being a fighter so I am going to use it until I can get her through college and use it for what I can.
In the Main Event on Friday night from the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI, you will be facing fellow “Contender” alumni and quarter finalist Walter Wright. You were originally scheduled to face Joey Spina before he suffered an injury and had to pull out of the fight. Have you had to change your strategy and training now that you’re facing a different opponent?
It is kind of hard to do that with only two weeks prior notice to get ready for the fight. All I know is it is going to be a “Contender” fight. He was on the show and I was on the first season, so we kind of know what it is like, that you have to be ready for anything. I guess that goes with the sport. Can I change up my style? I was getting ready for Joey Spina, who is a big strong guy who throws hay makers, and now this kid is a swift little boxer. Am I able to adjust? Yeah I mean I have to because we are professionals. I will adjust, I will be fine, and I am in great shape. This Friday night obviously it was a different opponent that I was expecting to fight, but the job will get done.
What are the changes have you made in your game plan to fight Wright, now that Spina is out due to injury?
Yeah I would out-box Spina. I am going to have to out-box this kid too. Spina was going to be a little easier because I will run him into shots a lot easier and this kid is a little smarter. So I will just have to use my head a little more, not rush in, and be patient with this kid. It is just about being more patient.
Do you feel that fighting Wright will be a more difficult test for you than fighting Spina?
Of course, definitely a different challenge because like I said I was getting ready for one particular guy in Spina. We have bad blood and he has been asking me for the longest time for a rematch. He actually came up to me after my last fight when I was coming out of the ring and asked me. When you get ready for one particular person and then two weeks before the fight, pulls out. It definitely was not an injury. He just did not want to fight. That is the bottom line he is afraid and now I have to get ready for somebody else. Like I said I am a professional, it happens, what are you going to do? You suck it up and stay mentally strong and do what you got to do and that’s come out with a win.
Spina has been asking me for a rematch ever since our first fight. He said he broke his hand. If you watched the first fight I hit him with a right hand and he started to shake both hands and he didn’t even know which one to say was broke. He didn’t know what to do. It was just another excuse just like this fight. He must have heard I was looking good in the gym and whatever, and all of a sudden he got into an ambulance, his heart was palpitating, and beating too fast. Alright so what take a day off, if you’re in that good a shape, take a day off and come back strong. They are just excuses ya know, fighters fight and he obviously is not a fighter.
Although you have not been able to train for this fight with the legendary Freddie Roach, how has your training camp been going into Friday night?
It has been going good. I have been working with Steve Maze, who is actually a good friend of mine, and usually works my cuts. He also trains me and was helped me with a lot of one on one for the past two months and it has been great. I am in good shape and pretty sharp right now. I feel good so I know it will work out right for me.
How much do you know about Wright going into the fight?
I know that he has been inactive for the past couple of years I know that. But I don’t go by that, if you can fight, you can fight. I am sure he is in shape because anyone who would want to take a fight if they are not ready and not in shape. I am sure he is in shape and I am planning to go ten rounds. I am not looking for a knockout. I am going box this kid and hopefully my skill outlasts his skill and I can come out with the “W”. What do I know about him? I know he is a much better boxer than Spina was, the one I was expecting to fight so, he can box, it’s a different style but I think I will be fine at the end of the day. I think this is the heaviest he has ever fought so I am sure that I will be the bigger man.
Even though Wright hasn’t fought in a bout in almost three years, he has worked with fighters like James Kirkland as a sparring partner. Do you feel that Wright will display some ring rust in this upcoming super middleweight match-up?
I am hoping. You know I don’t know. I mean like you said he has been in there with James Kirkland and has been in there with top guys, so I am sure he won’t take a fight if he didn’t think he could win it and that he was ready. I am thinking going in there that he is going to be at the top of his game. Like I said that is why I trained hard like I did and I will be ready. So I am going in there thinking he is the best Walter Wright he is going to be.
Is there an extra special motivation for you when you’re fighting in front of your hometown fans in Rhode Island?
Well I mean I don’t think there is any extra motivation, but it is definitely comfortable fighting here. I get to go to my favorite restaurants and eat and carb up before the fight. I know I have my family and friends there cheering me on and I go into the dressing room where I am so familiar with this place. It feels good and I just think it is more of a comfort zone than anything else. I am very comfortable here, I am confident, which is always a very good thing, and if you put both of that together, it makes for a good night.
Do you have any predictions for the outcome of the fight?
A win. Just a win. I don’t know if I am going to knock him out. It would be nice too but I am not go for a knockout or look for it. I think he has been only stopped once and that was his pro debut. He is no sucker, he is pretty slick, but hopefully the inactivity and all this other stuff catches up to him so I can get him out of there, but I am not looking for it. I predict a win.
Do you have any other words for your fans here on FightNews?
I would just like to thank them all of all their time and support throughout the years. We are going to at it again and hopefully we get the “W” in this one and maybe go at it again. I am going to take it one at a time like I said. Stay in school that is the best thing. Stay in school and get a job with a retirement.
Tickets for “Unfinished Business” are $40.00, $60.00, $100.00 and $150.00 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.twinriver.com, at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7 p.m.