Former WBU super featherweight champ and all-round, face-anyone warrior Angel Manfredy sure had one heck of a colourful career. Never in a dull fight, win, lose or draw, the man from Gary, Indiana fought, as the saying goes, ’em all.
Mayweather, Gatti, Chico Corrales, Diaz, Rodriguez, and more – “El Diablo” rumbled with them back in the 1990s/2000s.
Retiring in 2004, with a fine, 43-8-1(32) record, Angel had found God. He was a different person. His last few fights had seen him try to box, not fight and destroy; the desire having gone from him as he was now a born-again Christian.
Here, 48 year old Manfredy kindly recalls his career for the benefit of ESB readers:
Q: It’s a real privilege to be able to speak with you, Champ! First of all, the Arturo Gatti fight (Manfredy won TKO 8, 1998). Was that you, and Gatti, both at your best?
Angel Manfredy: “Yeah, it was. We were both in our prime. I cut him in the first round, I dropped him in the third round. They stopped the fight in the eighth round. That was me in my prime, and Arturo was in his prime.”
Q: I guess it bores you when people ask you about the Floyd Mayweather fight? He stopped you, somewhat prematurely, in the second round (in late ’98)?
A.M: “The Mayweather fight? Yeah, it was a quick stoppage. I wanted that fight to be at 135. I didn’t even really know who he was at the time. I got $1 million for the fight, so I was happy. But I always wanted the rematch. He never would fight me again at 135.”
Q: On your way up, you beat some excellent fighters. Do you remember your 1997 win over Wilson Rodriguez? He of course gave Gatti a real war, in a truly great fight.
A.M: “Yes, I remember that fight. He was a good fighter. I took his heart. Pretty much I just took him to school.”
Q: You fought in a few weight divisions. What was your best weight?
A.M: “I think my best was at 135. Mayweather would never fight me at that weight.”
Q: Your record shows you fought so many big names. How about your fight with Jorge Paez? Do you remember that fight?
A.M: “Yeah, that was a good fight. I took him out, I think in the seventh round. He came to fight.”
Q: Paez was of course known for all the showboating and taunting stuff he did in the ring. Did he do that stuff with you?
A.M: “He tried!”
Q: And he failed! Looking back at Gatti. It was so sad that he died the way he did, at such a young age….
A.M: “That was so sad. He was at that time the best. I believe he was the toughest guy I ever fought. Yeah.”
Q: It’s tough to get into how Gatti died, and what really happened. I know Micky Ward, his most famous ring rival, has always said he never believed Gatti took his own life…..
A.M: “I don’t believe he took his own life. I believe somebody killed him. He would never have took his own life.”
Q: Yet another great fight you had was with Ivan Robinson, who you beat on points. He beat Gatti twice of course.
A.M: “Yeah, that was a good fight – it was on HBO. He called me out. I was like, ‘Oh, okay, you want some of this.’ I took him to school (winning a ten round decision in 1999). He was a tough guy, a tough fighter.”
Q: What would you say was your last great fight?
A.M: “Probably that one, the Robinson fight.”
Q: Talk about your fight with Chico Corrales..
A.M: “I couldn’t make the weight for that fight. I couldn’t make 130. I should never have fought him at 130. He was huge!”
Q: You were dropped in the first, yet you came back in round two in that fight, showing amazing heart, before he outgunned you in round three. Was that actually your biggest asset in the ring – your heart? You and Gatti were the same in many ways?
A.M: “Yeah, we had a heart for it. That got us through so many wars.”
Q: What do you think of today’s 130, 135, 140 pounders?
A.M: “I think they’re good. I like watching Tank Davis fight, and I like Ryan Garcia.
Q: Yes, so who wins on Saturday?
A.M: “It goes either way. Either way. Ryan can knock out Tank and Tank can knock out Ryan. That fight, it’s a pick ’em fight. But either way, one of them wins by knockout. That fight doesn’t go the distance.”
Q: You’d have loved to have fought those guys, wouldn’t you!
A.M: “Of course. I loved fighting the best guys.”
Q: We all know that about you. Having said that, is there anyone you never fought who you wished you had had the chance to fight?
A.M: “Micky Ward. Yeah, I liked that fight. He was a tough man.”
Q: When fans talk to you today, which fight of yours do they ask you about?
A.M: “Arturo Gatti. That one was technical and it was also a war. The way I fought, the way I worked, I was an action fighter. I was once ranked as one of the highest-rated action fighters in the world. I definitely wanted to give the fans the action they deserved for their money.”
Q: Looking again at your record, and there’s another big name – Paul Spadafora was a superb fighter. And you fought him for the IBF lightweight title in 2002….
A.M: “I don’t think he beat me (the decision going to Spaddy). I wanted to wear Reyes gloves in that fight and I had to wear Everlast. Reyes are the puncher’s gloves. They made me wear Everlast gloves and they were bad for me.”
Q: When you did walk away in 2004, was it easy or hard?
A.M: “It was the Lord’s decision. I gave it to the Lord. I was a born-again Christian then and I basically didn’t have the heart for it [boxing] no more. I was ready to go. My only regret is I never got that Floyd Mayweather rematch. As soon as I beat Robinson, I called out Mayweather, asking him to fight me at 135. He didn’t want it. He wouldn’t fight me again. The first fight, I didn’t even really know who he was and I said I’d fight him, and I got $1 million. I messed up. I should’ve fought him at 135.
“He was a good fighter, I take nothing away from him. But I took that fight for the money. And I knew I couldn’t make 130.”
Q: One thing I read about you is, you gave a whole lot of money to Wilfred Benitez back in the day, when you were champ and he was struggling.
A.M: “Yes, I did. I don’t remember how much money I gave, but I gave him a good amount of money. He was a warrior. We fighters, we should stick together. He’s still living. He’s a survivor.”
So is Angel Manfredy.