By Cliff Rold
Still best remembered for his runner-up finish in the first season of the now defunct “Contender” reality series, 30-year old Middleweight Peter Manfredo Jr. (37-6, 20 KO) of Providence, Rhode Island, kept himself on the fringes of real contention on Friday night at Mallory Square in Key West, Florida. Manfredo dropped 30-year old Haitian Daniel Edouard (23-4-2, 14 KO) of West Palm Beach, Florida, hard in the fourth en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Both men weighed in just over the Middleweight limit of 160 lbs., Manfredo at 162 ¼ and Edouard at 163 ½.
The fight began with each veteran assuming a familiar posture, Manfredo using his left jab and circling, Edouard coming forward. As each warmed to the task, Manfredo found space for a quick combination in close, Edouard banging with hard hooks to the body. In the final ten seconds of round one, Manfredo connected with a straight right and Edouard responded with a sharp left hook.
Matters remained close in round two, each man producing a steady volume of work, but it was the short, more accurate rights and lefts upstairs from Manfredo that appeared to hold the advantage in the scoring. The third round was tougher to score with both men having their moments, a right hand from Edouard near the minute mark standing out as the round’s best blow.
The fight looked like it might be over for Edouard in round four but looks were deceiving, the gutsy Haitian coming off the floor in the final minute and making it back to his corner. The round had been going well for Edouard to then, both men landing in deliberate exchanges but Edouard appearing to land the harder shots. A clinch near the minute mark ended with Edouard relaxed, forgetting for a moment the always relevant admonition ‘defend yourself at all time,’ and Manfredo seized the moment with a flush right hand Edouard never saw coming.
Edouard’s legs went to jelly near the ropes, his balance lost as toppled forward onto his left side. Rolling to his back, Edouard rose as referee Telis Assimenios tolled seven, his eyes big but aware as Manfredo came forward. Edouard covered up and fired the occasional shot to keep Manfredo honest. It took only seconds for another major right hand to land for Manfredo when action resumed in round five, Edouard working off the ropes on still shaky stems. In the second half of the frame, it was the short left hook of Manfredo rocking Edouard twice and Manfredo would two more shots, a left and right, to further wear away at an Edouard whose lower lip glowed red with blood.
Perhaps pacing himself, Manfredo boxed steadily in a sixth where Edouard did better than he had since the opening round. It merely set the stage for another bruising three minutes, Manfredo stunning Edouard early in the seventh and doing good work along the ropes, and then shaking him badly in the waning moments, Edouard holding on to keep himself up. Manfredo landed the best of it between both those rocky moments.
Despite the tremendous heart he displayed, the fight got no closer to Edouard’s grasp in rounds eight or nine. In both, Manfredo continued to land more, land better, and with the close of the latter round, Edouard’s right eye bore a messy swelling.
And yet there he was at the start of the tenth and final frame, pushing forward as Manfredo kept about his business, as Manfredo kept the punishment coming. One could wonder if Edouard’s corner had served him poorly, if perhaps his health might have been better served had he been kept in the corner earlier, but the fighting spirit he displayed as he loaded up with single, landing rights and lefts in the final minute rejected the notion. Manfredo closed the round with a brief taunt, and a hard lead left hook, to polish off a fine victory over a game foe. The final scores for Manfredo came in at 97-92 and 98-91 twice.
The victory was the sixth straight for Manfredo after a rough third round stoppage loss to Sakio Bika in 2008. Manfredo will hope for another title shot before his career has ended and the win over Edouard will help him get there. Manfredo is currently rated #11 at Middleweight by the World Boxing Council and #9 at Middleweight by the International Boxing Federation.
If Edouard follows through on pre-fight chatter, the loss Friday amounted to a retirement party for the almost nine-year pro. Edouard will be best recalled for a four-round thriller on ESPN2 in 2004, a stoppage win over Willie Gibbs that put Edouard on the verge of contention. Though he never broke through the championship ranks, Edouard can always hold his head high knowing he gave ticket buyers their money’s worth.
The telecast opened with a solid, workmanlike effort from rising Dominican Super Middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez (18-0, 13 KO). The 25-year old from Worcester, Massachusetts kept his undefeated record intact with a ten round unanimous decision over 32-year old Aaron Pryor Jr. (15-3, 11 KO) of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The fight was close through the first seven rounds but a questionable point deduction against Pryor in round eight, what appeared an overreaction from referee Samuel Burgos based on a pushing elbow from Pryor, 165 ½, in an awkward clinch, was part of an ebb in tide towards Rodriguez, 168 ½, late. The shorter man was the busier and more accurate fighter in the ninth and Rodriguez stayed a step ahead in a crowd pleasing final round that saw both combatants swinging freely into the closing bell. The final scores favoring Rodriguez at 96-93, 97-92 and 98-91 were no surprise though the last of them sounded wider than the action in the ring merited.
Freakishly tall for a Super Middleweight at 6’4, Pryor’s lack of serious snap in his shots may have been the difference in a fight where he battled hard and landed a number of clean, long right hands. The son of a Hall of Fame Jr. Welterweight namesake, Pryor Jr. sees a modest three fight win streak halted but has shown genuine improvement since returning from almost a year off in 2010.
Rodriguez, currently rated #15 by the World Boxing Association at Super Middleweight, wins over the distance for the first time five fights going back to October 2009. Rodriguez went to the hospital after the fight to address a shoulder injury suffered around the fourth round.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by DiBella Entertainment, Elite Management, and Rumble Time.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]