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November 27, 2012

By Rob Soucy

“The Pride of Providence,” Peter Manfredo Jr. returns to the ring after a year's absence on Thursday night at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island.  Manfredo (37-7 with 20 KOs) faces Rayco Saunders (22-18 with 9 KOs) on a show promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s CES. After his one-year hiatus, Manfredo claims to be making a comeback that could see him fight a few times or one that could end immediately following his bout with Saunders. “I’m taking this one step at a time, and right now my focus is on getting a victory on Thursday night,” said Manfredo. “Of course I hear the rumors about a fight between 'The Pride of Providence' and 'Mr. Providence' (Vladine Biosse) but I’m not worrying about anyone but Rayco Saunders. Vladine and I are friends but business is business and that fight would make sense in the future.”

Manfredo has made good money in a career that has seen reality shows and world title shots, but his financial difficulties have been no secret. In fact, he talks about his comeback being as much about money as anything else. “I’m trying to support my family and boxing is what I’m best at,” stated Manfredo. “I’m not necessarily worried about fighting for another world title but I think I can make some decent money before I retire for good.” If Manfredo‘s career is to continue he must get past Saunders, who has proven that he won’t be an easy out. “Rayco Saunders has fought everybody in the 175-pound division, much harder punchers than me,” noted Manfredo. “I have to use my legs and box.  I am confident in the good shape that I’m in. I’m ready to go ten rounds.”

Saunders’ 22-18 record is very pedestrian but his level of opposition is not. Despite having lost four in a row, the 38 year-old Saunders has only been stopped once in his career and has gone the distance with the likes of Ismail Sillakh, Edison Miranda, and Isaac Chilemba. The fact that the contract weight for Thursday is 172 clearly favors Saunders, who has been a light heavyweight his entire career. It’s been over four years since Manfredo has entered a fight even weighing as much as 168, and he campaigned for quite a while at 154.  “I was very heavy when I started camp, probably about 196,” admitted Manfredo. “I thought 172 was a weight I could comfortably make and they (Saunders) agreed to it."

A win creates many possibilities for Manfredo but he hasn’t ruled out retirement. “If everything goes well on Thursday and I look good, it would be tough to walk away because there would be a lot of fights out there for me,” said Manfredo. “For example, I have been on Golden Boy and Daniel Jacobs’ radar for a while now but I’m not looking that far ahead.” Manfredo probably won’t get back to where his career already has taken him. He challenged for world titles at both middleweight and super middleweight with stoppage loses to Joe Calzaghe and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. However, the 32 year-old Manfredo has never lost to the level of fighter he faces in Saunders. “If I don’t win on Thursday night it’s over for me,” promised Manfredo.

It’s safe to say that all of the wars Manfredo has been in will indeed cut his career short, and he may not be in with the “right” opponent on Thursday night. Saunders is clearly bigger, stronger and will probably step into the ring as the better-conditioned fighter. Once thought to have a granite chin, Manfredo does not take a shot as well as he did earlier in his career.  Somehow, Manfredo must find a way to win. The fact that the fight is being held in his backyard will certainly help but Manfredo will need to box and stay away from getting caught.

“Every fighter walks into that ring knowing that he may not walk out,” said Manfredo. “That is the risk we take as fighters. Of course I believe I’m going to win but it’s that risk of losing much more than a fight that makes us unique.”

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