- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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This should not come as any surprise to anyone: Peter Manfredo Jr. is coming out of retirement. Shocking, right?
The scrappy brawler from Providence, R.I., parlayed his time on the first season of “The Contender” into multiple big opportunities but he never won any of those fights. He always gave a big effort and usually was in fun fights, but he never beat any of the quality opponents he faced.
Joe Calzaghe stopped him in the third round of a super middleweight title shot in 2007. Later in the year, Manfredo let a win against former titlist Jeff Lacy slip through his hands with a poor finish. Sakio Bika, a serious contender, blasted him out in three rounds in 2008.
Finally, last November, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. smashed him in the fifth round of a middleweight title bout. When it was over, Manfredo, 31, announced his retirement.
Now, a year later, Manfredo (37-7, 20 KOs) is back and nobody should be surprised, especially given his own admission to financial problems, even though he made good money from “The Contender” and the bigger fights he has had.
Promoter Jimmy Burchfield announced on Wednesday that Manfredo would make his return against Rayco Saunders (22-18-2, 9 KOs) of Pittsburgh on Nov. 29 at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I. They will meet in a scheduled 10-rounder at a contract maximum weight of 170 pounds.
“I didn’t want to go out with the loss I had,” said Manfredo, who returned home this week after six weeks in Hollywood, Calif., with trainer Freddie Roach. “I want to end my career with a win. My dad [and trainer Peter Manfredo Sr.] ended with a loss. My uncle ended with a loss. I want to change that.”
Manfredo said that even if he beats Saunders, it would not necessarily mean another retirement.
“I’m taking it one fight at a time,” he said. “My father doesn’t want me to fight again. He doesn’t agree with it, so I knew if I had to do it, I’d have to do it with Freddie.”
Manfredo, a married father of three kids, has been trained by his father, Peter Manfredo Sr., for most of his career. But Roach trained him during his best days in 2006 and 2007. Roach was also in the opposite corner when Chavez blew him out. Manfredo thought it was best to return to Roach and avoid the conflicts his fighting again would cause if his dad was in the corner.
“Getting me in great shape, being away from my family and being in camp and making me sharper with the pads -- everything about Freddie works for me,” Manfredo said. “I always loved being with him since the first time I was with him. That’s why I went back. I told myself I needed to be with a trainer who was going to make me work. With Freddie, if you have a bad day in camp, it ends that day. With my father, if you had a bad day it would carry on to the next day, the day after that, and the day after that.
“This is hard -- [my father] has been my trainer since I was five. He got me into the game. I’m not sure if it’s harder because he’s my father, but I don’t think you can mix business with pleasure. We clash heads all the time. I think we’re better off apart when it comes to boxing. I still love him. He’s always had my back.”
The obvious reason for Manfredo’s return, besides not wanting to go out on a loss, is money. He works as a laborer for the Local 271 union in Providence while also training because he blew what he earned in the ring.
“I need the benefits and the health care and the pension,” Manfredo Jr. said. “There aren’t many happy endings in boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson died broke. Joe Louis died broke. Muhammad Ali has Parkinson’s. Knowing that, my goals are different.
“When I first came up, yeah, I wanted to be a champion. That’s why you fight. When you have a wife and kids, it changes. Now I want to support them.”