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November 29, 2012

By Rob Soucy

Is the Pride of Providence in top shape?

On Thursday at The Twin River Casino in Rhode Island, Peter Manfredo Jr. returns to the ring for the first time since his 2011 loss to Julio Ceasar Chavez Jr. Manfredo will be facing trial horse Rayco Saunders in the ten-round main event of a card promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s CES.  Saunders weighed in at 169 pounds and looked to be in tremendous shape, as usual, while Manfredo, weighed 169.5 and sported a much softer physique.  Saunders, (22-18 with 9 KOs) believes winning a decision in Manfredo’s home state will be virtually impossible. “I am a student of the game,” said Saunders. “I know that I need to knock him out and that’s what I plan to do! I will put constant pressure on Manfredo and break him down late.”

Despite appearances, Manfredo (37-7 with 20 KOs) says he is in great shape and will be able to outbox Saunders over ten rounds. “I plan to go the distance and I’m ready to fight hard for the full ten rounds,” said Manfredo. “If I can knock him out it’s a bonus, but I’m not concerned about it.” When asked how he plans to handle a bigger and stronger fighter like Saunders, Manfredo didn’t sound worried. “I’ve been in with bigger fighters than Saunders, and probably much bigger punches.  Guys like Sakio Bika, Joe Calzaghe, and Chavez Jr. make Saunders look small. I’ll come into the ring tomorrow night at 180 lbs and will be just as big as him”

The 38 year-old Saunders has a huge edge in athleticism and strength which could play a part in the outcome. “I know I’m stronger and I believe I will be faster than Manfredo,” Saunders said. Manfredo disagrees and plans to give Saunders a boxing lesson. Despite weighing in ten pounds heavuer than he was against Chavez, Manfredo claims to be in great shape. “I trained at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood for six weeks with Freddie Roach and Ernie Zavalla. I’m more than ready for the best Rayco Saunders.”

The most interesting subplot to this fight is whether Manfredo can shed the ring rust and outwork Saunders. Manfredo is clearly the more talented fighter but Saunders is just as hungry if not hungrier. Saunders has never been known as a puncher and if he can’t hurt Manfredo his chances of winning are slim. However, even though Manfredo claims to be in great shape, his physique at Wednesday’s weigh-in told a different story. In the past Saunders has tended to fight only in spots and has had trouble letting his hands go. Look for that to be the difference in what could be a closer fight than what the two records would indicate. The orediction here is that Manfredo will win a close fight but by wide margins on the judge’s scorecards. Saunders’ only chance will be to catch Manfredo and hurt him with a right hand on the head or ear like both Chavez and Bika did. Otherwise, expect Manfredo to prevail in a competitive fight by something like 97-93. 

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