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A pair of New England super-middleweights came away with unanimous 10-round decisions when ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights made its annual pilgrimage to the Conch Republic. Peter Manfredo Jr. of Providence overcame a sluggish start to win going away in his main event against Haitian veteran Daniel Edouard, while highly-touted prospect Edwin Rodriguez had a tougher time than expected with Aaron Pryor Jr. in the co-featured bout on Lou DiBella’s card.

Manfredo, now 37-6, was making his debut as a DBE fighter (he fought a November tuneup on a Jimmy Burchfield card in November since signing with DiBella), and took awhile to get himself untracked. Edouard came out behind a snapping jab from the opening bell, with the result that Manfredo was fighting in reverse gear. Emboldened by his early success in the first three rounds, Edouard was landing some right hands behind the jab by the fourth, a round he appeared well on the way to winning through the first two minutes.

The entire fight turned on a single punch. Emboldened by his early success, the Haitian stepped back to admire his handiwork, his hands at his side, creating an opening Manfredo couldn’t pass up. Like a man swatting a fly, he lashed out with a short right hand that caught his foe right on the chin. Edouard teetered for a moment and then crumpled to the canvas.

“He’s 30 years old like I am. We’re both veterans. He knows better,” shrugged Manfredo of Edouard’s fatal lapse.

Although he made it to his feet, the momentum of the fight had completely shifted. Manfredo spent the remaining seconds of the fourth and most of the fifth trying to take him out, and, once it became evident that wasn’t going to happen, spent the balance of the fight taking target practice without meeting any significant resistance.

It was another step on the way back up the ladder for Manfredo, who is hoping for one last grasp at the brass ring after a 43-fight career. (In an interview that ran prior to the fight card, Manfredo revealed that although he had earned purses of $250,000 for his runner-up role on “The Contender” and $500,000 for his 2007 stoppage at the hands of world champion Joe Calzaghe in Wales, he had sunk his career earnings into the Providence real estate market just in time to watch it tank. Having declared bankruptcy, Manfredo now works as a laborer on the bull gang at the same Dunkin Donuts Center where he had been a main event performer.)

It was a convincing win over a durable veteran, but by allowing the fight to go the distance Manfredo forced his father, Peter Sr., to climb the ring steps about six more times than he would have preferred. (Manfredo pere recently underwent hip replacement surgery.)

Edouard, who had announced prior to the bout that he would retire if he didn’t win, saw his record slip to 24-4-2 after his second straight loss.  Judges Mike Pernick and Rocky Young both scored it 98-91, as did TheSweetScience, while Bill Ray had it 97-92.

Rodriguez and Pryor had shared a bill in Fargo, North Dakota in their respective last fights. The unbeaten Rodriguez had served as a sparring partner for a pair of world champions, working first with Carl Froch before his fight against Arthur Abraham and then with Jean Pascal prior to his defense against Bernard Hopkins. It is safe to say that he handled both of them with more ease than he did Pryor on this night in the al fresco oceanfront arena in Mallory Square.

Of course, neither Froch nor Pascal is 6’4 ½”, and it was that dimension that seemed to create more problems for Rodriguez than anything. Pryor didn’t make full use of his reach advantage, but when Rodriguez was able to slip through the taller man’s defenses to land a jab, he was seldom able to do much else before Pryor was able to tie him up. It was literally the tenth round before Rodriguez even threw, much less landed, as many as three sequential punches, resulting in a fight that was much closer than anyone had anticipated going in.

Of course what neither Pryor nor the television audience knew until much later was that Rodriguez had told the elder Manfredo (yes, Peter Sr. had to make another ten trips up the stairs in that bout) after the fourth that he had injured his right shoulder. (He was taken to a local hospital for examination after the fight. DiBella later said that he was getting a catscan, and that it looks like he might have a torn rotator cuff, which “would be a tough break for the kid.”)

Referee Sam Burgos, who had warned Pryor earlier, took a dubious point for a stray elbow in the eighth round. (Pryor’s elbow was thrown back-handed, and as the fighters were disengaging.) It did not prove material in the outcome, as Pernick and TSS both had it 96-93, Young 97-92, and Richard Green a far-fetched 98-92.

Rodriguez is now 18-0, Pryor 15-3.

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