A fighter can get some hometown help when he’s fighting in his backyard, and in New England, boxers have been helped every now and again by partisan refs and judges. But when you are eating a buffet full of power shots, as Peter Manfredo did in a hometown outing in Rhode Island on Thursday night, no amount of home cooking can alter the inevitable. Sakio Bika’s heavy hands smacked Manfredo from ring post to ringpost, and the inevitable came in the third round of the headline bout of a Versus card which took place at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Bika scored a TKO win after he dished out about ten rounds worth of punishment on Fredo in a minute’s time, and grinned broadly as he clutched the vacated IBO super middleweight title. Bika, who was in a thriller winner with Jaidon Codrington a year ago, and gave Joe Calzaghe fits two years ago, is the sort of busy, strong kid who could well earn a title crack sooner rather than later off this effort. Manfredo afterwards said he wasn’t sure what lay ahead for him in the ring. I guess chances are better than 50% that he’ll call it a day; my guess is that friends and family will pressure him to hang ‘em for good.
The 27-year-old Manfredo (167 ¾  pounds) had a 31-5 record coming in, while the 29-year-old Cameroonian Bika (166) had a 26-3-2 mark coming into Rhode Island.

Early on, Bika looked to be the obviously stronger hitter from second one. Late in the second, Fredo scored a knockdown, off a push. Bika protested, to no avail. He even shoved the ref Ricky Gonzalez  because he was irked but he was not DQd. Fredo’s gloves hit the canvas, so it should’ve been a double knockdown.

In the third, Bika battered Fredo on the ropes. He ate shots, much like he did against Joe Calzaghe, and the ref almost stepped in. Bika blasted him with uppercuts, and hooks, and Fredo almost went through the ropes, and Fredo showed big heart staying up. But his legs were gone, and the ref let him take as much as he could’ve. He stepped in at 1:50 of the third round, and Fredo didn’t protest. The crowd of Islanders didn’t care for the call and threw some garbage in. The ring announcer JD Vena (hey JD!) asked the people not to channel Josh Beckett. Bika landed 81-217, while Fredo went 34-89.

In the TV opener, Detroit’s Corny Bundrage (28-3 coming in), age 35, took on Oklahoma’s Grady Brewer (23-11 coming in), age 37, in a junior middleweight scrap. They appeared on The Contender season two together, and were pals. Brewer, the season two winner,  had fought just once in the last two years, and is coming off knee surgery.  Bundrage came in on a roll, off a win over Kassim Ouma in his last outing.

Corny drops his left low, daring his foe to hit him. Brewer early on didn’t target that apparent opening. Brewer upped his output in the third; good thing, as the crowd wasn’t jazzed by the early rounds. Maybe, they figured, this thing would build to a boil. Corny hit the deck with 40 seconds to go, off a shove, but he didn’t beef when ref Ed Claudio started a count. Corny asked, “What happened?” when he went to his corner.

Claudio yelled at both guys several times, for getting tangled up, for rassling, for being lazy. The ref showed more fire than the fighters, in fact. He took points from both for holding.

This one was hard to figure. Both men seemingly worked hard to get into great shape, but spent too much time expending energy. Corny (164 to 103 edge in punches landed) had a point deducted for hitting on the break with ten seconds to go, for the record. The crowd booed halfheartedly, which was apt, because that’s basically how the fighters fought. The judges spoke after ten snoozy frames: 94-91 (Brewer), 95-90 (Bundrage), 93-92  (Brewer)—Brewer took a split win.
Jaidon Codrington (19-2) met Bill Gill (8-21) in a scheduled tenner between two light heavyweights. The Don had some trouble with the journeyman, who really has skills not indicated in his record, and has lost four straight now. He hit Gill hard in the cup in the fifth. Gill got some revenge with a sharp right cross in the eighth, but he truly leverage that smack. The Don then hurt Gill with a right with a minute left. Gill almost toppled, stayed up, and then stumbled to the ropes right before the bell sounded. The official time of the stop, because Gill wasn’t defending himself, was 2:57 of the eighth.

Hey, remember when everyone was all Viagra for the Chin Checkers a couple years ago. Ya just never know, do ya?

SPEEDBAG Tony Danza chatted with Nick Charles, hyping the latest season Contender season. The show will feature cruisers, and this cast is the least accomplished batch the producers have offered up so far. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, when the new season kicks off on Dec. 3rd on, you guessed, Versus.