Got to love the grudge match. There aren’t enough of them, not legitimate ones, with severely toxic, bad blood between two fighters. Oh, we see plenty “hey, let’s ‘hate’ each other viciously during the promotion but we’ll hug it out afterwards” scenarios, but the Peter Manfredo/Joey Spina Saturday night fight in Providence, Rhode Island is of the organic variety.
These guys do not dig each other, like —- do not dig each other.
Manfredo laid it out for TSS.
“He’s got a big mouth, he has no respect for anybody, he’s a loudmouth punk.”
C’mon, Fredo, let your guard down, tell me how you really feel.”
“I’ll show him who’s boss.”
The twenty-five-year-old Manfredo (25-3, 11 KOs) was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and so was the 29-year-old Spina (19-0-1, 14 KOs). So really, the fight Saturday, which will be shown on slight tape delay on ESPN, is a turf war grudge match, in addition to being a “He dissed me, so I must teach him respect” grudge match. This match will determine just who the baddest super middleweight is in Rhode Island. A mass of fervent Rhodies will be cheering on their fave, so that insures the Dunkin Donuts Center will be rippling with intense vibes. As a matter of fact, some of the brawls in the stands between Manfredo and Spina rooters will likely provide ample entertainment in between bouts. The show kicks off at 10:45 PM, on ESPN, and runs ‘til 12:15. SNL is in the dumper, anyway, so no worries there. As an aside, the 22-0 Allan Green/Jerson Ravelo (17-1) super middle support bout could easily steal the show, as two fiercely hungry, almost cocky boxers engage in a battle that could land either a title shot in the very near future.
But let’s get back to the hatin’, shall we?
Manfredo thinks Spina is a cocky pretender, who started a war of words by coming in to a Nov. 2005 bout with Jose Spearman to a rap song that featured snippets that dissed Manfredo. Fredo says he sparred some with Spina back when Spina was getting started, around five years ago, and he got the better of him.
“I used to get the better of him but I never bragged,” Manfredo told TSS. “I always respected him.”
Spina’s campaign to be regarded as the true “Pride of Providence,” Manfredo theorizes, stems from jealousy over his “Contender” success. Manfredo fought Sergio Mora and lost in the 2005 Contender 1 finale.
Spina, who turned pro in 2001, tried to approach Manfredo a few months ago in Rhode Island, Fredo says, but the Contender alum spurned the gesture.
Manfredo’s been a pro since 2000. He says that Spina’s tough talk is so much puffery, as his ears in the area have told him that Spina regularly waffles between boasting that he’ll KO Manfredo, and asking people whether they think he can beat the more experienced fighter.
“It wasn’t personal before; it was business but now it’s personal,” Spina answers. “I asked for this fight because I hadn’t made serious money like the Contenders. There’s been a lot of trash talking and it’s come to this. He and his father have disrespected me and my coach (Eddie Mustapha Muhammad). I’m coming to fight; I’m coming for him. I’m going to knock him out. That’s what I do.”
Manfredo is unmoved by the bluster. “That’s why a lot of guys talk, they want to convince themselves they can do it,” he says.
Manfredo himself felt less than loved as alums Mora and Alfonso Gomez have enjoyed more post-Contender notoriety than he, and he seriously contemplated cutting ties with the show. Lawyers were put on the case, but Manfredo and Jeff Wald, who steers the Contender ship, came to an accord. “We talked and it was the best move I made,” Manfredo says. “They’re going to keep me busy. I did feel they were treating Mora and Gomez best.”
What, a fighter can’t have feelings too?
Manfredo’s confidence is real, as opposed to Spina, he implies. “Spina is not on my level,” he says. “His mouth is past my level. If he fought half as good as he talks…He’s strong and big, but I feel I’m just as strong.”
The Contender headline bout will be a battle between two high profile trainers, as Freddie Roach will work Manfredo’s corner, and Muhammad will steer Spina. In August 2005, Manfredo hooked up with Roach. The boxer has a house in Connecticut, but flies to LA, and stays there to train in Roach’s gym for a month before bouts. Back East, he trains at his father’s gym in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The move from having his dad, former pro boxer Peter Sr., work his corner, to the super-chill Roach, has benefited Manfredo.
“Freddie is nice and calm in the corner,” he says. “The old man tells me five hundred things and I can’t remember one.”
Manfredo is in another league technically, and should be able to see Spina’s wild, winging shots coming, slip them, and return fire. But with a grudge match, you never know. Feelings come into play, and most often in boxing it’s best to separate emotions from the business at hand. Hating can sap your energy and cause you to press more than you normally would and prod you to fight in a style not conducive to your strengths.