PAWTUCKET --- Fights don’t get any bigger or significant than the one Peter Manfredo Jr. has on Saturday night.
If the Manfredo’s Gym middleweight beats undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at Houston’s Reliant Arena, he will take home Chavez’s WBC (World Boxing Council) championship belt and be in line for a huge payday in the form of an expected title defense against former WBC champion Sergio Martinez.
The WBC belt would be the second world title for Manfredo, who copped the IBO (International Boxing Organization) championship last year at Mohegan Sun Arena, but this would be one of those major titles, one that easily rolls off the tongues of boxing and non-boxing fans alike.
But if Manfredo loses, it could be a while -- if ever -- before he lands another world title fight or be on the verge of receiving a seven-figure bout that would financially set him and his family up for life.
With his 31st birthday coming the Saturday after this fight and the anniversary of his 11th year as a professional boxer just passed, Manfredo knows that time isn’t on his side and went as far to say that if he lost to Chavez, he would exit the sport and concentrate on the next chapter in his life.
“This is it for me,” he noted. “It’s either do or die. If I lose, I’ll hang it up. I’ll walk away and have no regrets. And if I win, Sergio Martinez will pay off my house. It’s going to put me in a very good spot. This is definitely my chance, so I’m going to leave it all out there that night.”
Manfredo spoke about the past, present, and future during a break in a Friday afternoon workout at the Pawtucket gym, as he looked to burn off a couple of extra pounds and fine-tune a thing or two for his fight (which will be televised live on HBO) against the son of the former six-time world champion of the 1980s and early ’90s.
“I feel really good,” he added. “I’m looking good, I have a lot of energy, and I feel strong. But I definitely feel confident. Obviously, I say that all the time, but I feel that great.”
Manfredo, who is 37-6 (20 KOs), but 6-0 (4 KOs) since making his return to the middleweight ranks at the start of 2009, is taking on a tough customer in the 25-year-old Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs), who won his title on June 4 in Los Angeles with a 12-round majority-decision victory over Sebastian Zbik.
“This guy is good,” admitted Manfredo. “Everybody’s saying he’s overrated and this and that, but the kid still beat everyone they put him in the ring with. Obviously, he’s living off his father’s name and under his shadow and making a lot of money because of that, but the kid’s a good fighter.”
While Manfredo’s exceptional resume contains several fights against boxers who have won or fought for world championships, Chavez’s doesn’t pack the same punch that would wow the average fight fan.
“This kid hasn’t been to the big leagues yet,” offered Manfredo. “If you look at his record, he hasn’t fought any of the big names. I’m probably the biggest name he’s had thus far, besides the guy he fought in his last win.”
Manfredo and Chavez did fight and beat a common opponent during the past few years, Matt Vanda of St. Paul, Minn. But while Chavez beat him twice in 2008 via a 10-round split decision and a close unanimous-decision, Manfredo battered Vanda (then 42-9) for 10 rounds on Jan. 29, 2010 at Mohegan Sun to win the NABF (North American Boxing Federation) middleweight title.
“It took Chavez twice to beat Vanda and I beat him up pretty easily,” recalled Manfredo. “Of course, that was also a few years ago before (Chavez) went to Freddie Roach, so the kid’s gotten a lot better.”
Roach should be no stranger to those who have followed Manfredo’s career. He was his head trainer during his days as a super middleweight in 2007 and ’08. Roach will be working Chavez’s corner for this bout, and Manfredo has a good idea on what advice he will provide him on fight night.
“Freddie’s going to give him instructions on what to do, but the kid’s going to resort to what he does,” offered Manfredo. “He’s going to come forward and he’s going to try to bang and go for my body -- and he’s going to get hit. I’m going to get hit, I know that, I’m no deceptive genius, but neither is he. He’s going to show how tough he is because he’s 43-0 and he’s going to be stupid, and hopefully that works to my advantage.”
And if it doesn’t work to his advantage? And if he loses?
“Then that’s it,” noted Manfredo. “I don’t want to be one of these guy’s who going to fight for a name, a reputation, or a paycheck. I have a family and I want to be around for them. I want to be able to speak to my kids when they get older, and I want them to understand that you don’t have to take punches for a living to make money or to be a family man or a father.”
Manfredo, who left for Houston on Monday morning, wrapped up a rigorous training camp that began in the summer and saw him shed nearly 30 pounds and spar a ‘who’s who’ of some of the top boxers in New England. The work was hard, but the payoff could be great.
“It’s all going to be worth it at the end because I know my hands going to be raised at the end of the night,” added Manfredo. “I just feel it. I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time and I’m very confident. It’s going to be a war, and this kid, like I said, he’s a good fighter, but I feel I’m just as good, if not better.”