Manfredo’s back again!

Manfredo’s back again!

Former world champion boxer, ‘Contender’ reality TV star ends retirement on Nov. 23 at Twin River

LINCOLN – George Washington Duke, the boxing promoter in the 1990 movie “Rocky V,” delivered a memorable line in that film when he told retired Rocky Balboa, “People love comebacks.”

That being said, here’s a comeback that boxing fans across the region and beyond are falling in love with – Peter Manfredo Jr.’s return to the ring after a 3½-year retirement on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Classic Entertainment & Sports’ next show at the Twin River Event Center.

Manfredo, who trained for most of his amateur and pro boxing career at his father’s former Manfredo’s Gym on Conant Street in Pawtucket, will dust off a 40-7-1 (21 KOs) mark when he steps into the ring for a 10-round light heavyweight bout against Melvin Russell (11-7-2, 7 KOs) of Lloyd, Ky., which will be one of four fights that night aired live on the UFC Fight Pass stream.

Manfredo, who is best known for fighting on NBC’s “The Contender” reality television series in 2005 and capturing the International Boxing Organization world middleweight title five years later at Mohegan Sun Arena, will be exiting the retirement ranks for the third time in his career.

And the reason for his return to the ring is the same one he had given for the last two times he came back – the money.

“Boxing is my trade,” he said last Friday afternoon. “I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old, so it’s what I was raised to know. I want to take my family on vacation, my daughter’s graduating high school and going to college next year – where am I going to get the extra money? I have to do something.”

Like his last two comebacks, local fight fans have been thrilled with the news of his return, but his family has shared opposite feelings.

“My wife and kids don’t want me to do it because they obviously don’t want me to get hurt,” Manfredo added. “But like I explained to them, ‘This is what I know; this is what I do.’ And as far as the rest of my family, I don’t know. I’m sure they feel the same way, but I would believe they’re going to come (to Twin River) to support me.”

Manfredo, who will turn 39 on Nov. 26, announced his first retirement after suffering a 5th-round TKO to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in their World Boxing Council middleweight fight at Reliant Arena in Houston.

It was the third time he had lost a world title bout, and he was settling into his new career working for a laborer’s union, as well as a quiet life with his family and his three children living in Killingly, Conn.

But Manfredo’s retirement didn’t last long. On Nov. 29, 2012, he returned to action at Twin River to fight Pittsburgh’s Rayco Saunders. Fighting as a light heavyweight for the first time in his career, Manfredo handily defeated Saunders in the 10-round main event via unanimous decision.

Two more victories in as many fights followed at the Lincoln casino, including an 8th-round TKO of Lincoln’s Rich Gingras in front of a standing-room-only crowd on Nov. 22, 2013, that marked the 40th win of his pro career, and it was then when Manfredo quietly stepped away from the sport.

Two-and-a-half years later, the lure of another big payday attracted Manfredo back to the ring, and on May 13, 2016, he was back in the casino’s spotlight, taking on another Providence fan favorite, Vladine Biosse, but their main event ended in a draw.

That was Manfredo’s only fight that year, and when 2016 turned into 2017 and then 2018, it appeared that he was long gone from the sport, but ...

“Again, it’s my trade,” he added. “It’s what I know, and you do what you know and you’ve been taught. I’m a physical laborer, but I don’t know how to build a house or do anything like that, so how can I make extra money?”

Manfredo, who is currently working in Charlestown, Mass., has done most of his training at Lauzon MMA in Easton, Mass., the home gym of UFC lightweight fighter Joe Lauzon, but he’s also put in his running at Lincoln Woods’ hilly 2.5-mile loop, as well as received sparring at a handful of local gyms, including occasional appearances at the new Manfredo Boxing Sports Fitness on Douglas Pike in Smithfield.

Peter Manfredo Sr., who owns the Smithfield gym and has served as Manfredo Jr.’s trainer for the majority of his fights, won’t be working his corner next week. That role will go to Steve Maze, who is Lauzon’s boxing coach and a well-known mentor throughout the Bay State.

“I just need guys to help me,” Manfredo said. “No one’s going to teach me how to fight at the point of my life. I just need a guy who’s going to be there, tie my gloves, get me in shape, and hold the mitts for me, and basically, when I’m fighting, let me know what the other guy’s doing wrong so I can capitalize on it. That’s all I need.”

Manfredo will fight at 175 pounds and take on “a tough rugged guy” in Russell, who is 40 years old and has lost his last four fights (and six of his last seven). Russell started his pro career late in life, at the age of 34 in 2015, but posted an 8-0-2 record in his first 10 fights.

Returning to Twin River, the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, has certainly given Manfredo a bit of excitement. His record there is 7-0-1, and he highlighted the very first boxing show held at the Event Center on May 11, 2007, by knocking out Ted Muller in the main event.

“Even though I live in Killingly, Providence is still my home,” he said. “I was born and raised there, and to come back to Twin River and have all my family and fans all there – that’s the best – and I’m going to put on a show for them, as always. Win, lose, or draw, I put on a show.”

And win, lose, or draw, what does the future hold for Manfredo’s boxing career?

“I’m going to do this while I can,” he said. “I’m thinking of another fight after this, especially if I fight good and I look good. If I keep feeling the way I’m feeling now, why not?”

Tickets for the event are priced at $49, $79, $109, and $159 and available at Twin River, online at www.cesboxing.com or by phone at 401-724-2253. The doors will open at 5 p.m., and the first preliminary bout will begin an hour later.