PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Nov. 13th, 2013) — When Rich Gingras traveled to Singapore five years to compete on Season 4 of the reality television series The Contender, he purposely chose the dorm room with the photo of Season 1 finalist and fellow New Englander Peter Manfredo Jr. hanging on the wall.
“My bed was right under his picture,” Gingras recalled. “It was like I had a piece of home with me.”
Now Gingras is trying to defeat, not emulate, his idol as he prepares for the most important fight of his life, a 10-round showdown against Manfredo Jr. in the main event of “Power & Pride,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 at Twin River Casino.
A fight like this never seemed possible five years ago, not when Gingras was campaigning as a cruiserweight, tipping the scales at nearly 200 pounds each fight. At the time, Gingras (13-3-1, 8 KOs) had just 10 professional fights under his belt while Manfredo Jr. (39-7, 20 KOs), an eight-year veteran, was closing in on a world-title showdown against Sakio Bika.
Times have changed, mostly for Gingras, who has not only slimmed down to super middleweight, but has steadily become one of the most respected, feared fighters in New England thanks in large part to his win over veteran Joe Gardner in May and his controversial draw against Providence’s Vladine Biosse in July. Manfredo Jr. is still the toast of the town, “The Pride Of Providence,” a nickname he earned long before Vinny Paz passed the torch a decade ago.
Next Friday will be his toughest test in years; Gingras is, for lack of a better term, a brawler who will press Manfredo Jr. from start to finish. Under the guidance of new trainer Orlondo Valles, who also worked with him in his previous fight against Biosse, Gingras just might be in the best shape of life, setting the stage for what could Rhode Island’s most memorable fight of the year, a fitting end to the 2013 Twin River Fight Series.
“It’s huge,” Gingras said. “Any time your name is in the same sentence as Peter Manfredo’s, it brings you to that same level. He’s an icon in Rhode Island.
“People weren’t sure who I was before, but they’re starting to figure it out now. I used to get nervous before fights. Now I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the attention.”
There’s no title on the line next Friday, just bragging rights, which his fine for now because being the top dog in Rhode Island might mean more to Gingras than winning a championship. One could liken it to the cart-before-the-horse theory; before Gingras can focus on climbing the rankings and competing for championships, he must first clean house in his own back yard. No one rules the roost quite like Manfredo Jr., making next Friday’s main-event showdown the opportunity of a lifetime for the former cruiserweight contender.
“It’s weird how this has all come full-circle,” Gingras said. “Peter and I are still friends. We texted one another after our photo shoot before the fight. It was a funny conversation. We have a lot of respect for each other.
“This fight is like the Rhode Island championship to me,” he continued. “It should be bigger than anything. To tell you the truth, it’s more of a personal goal than anything. I thought about fighting him a year ago, but I wasn’t sure I was ready. I remember watching him on The Contender before I had my first amateur fight. I never thought I’d be fighting him when I was walking around at cruiserweight.”
Aside from the recent wins and his transition from cruiserweight to super middleweight, the biggest, most positive, change for Gingras has been working with Valles. Gingras was somewhat of a nomad prior to hooking up with Valles, working with different trainers who didn’t put in as much effort or do the necessary homework Gingras needed leading up to a fight.
“I had absolutely no video work with previous camp,” Gingras said. “Now Orlondo handles it for me.
“Myself, I don’t watch a lot of it now. It’s too distracting. Just like when Orlondo asks he, ‘How’s your weight?’ and I tell him, ‘Don’t worry about it. That’s my job!’ I’m sure he’s not used to that. A lot of these guys need to be babysat. Not me. I’m a pro.”
Gingras and Valles only had three weeks to work together before Gingras’ fight against Biosse in July. Since then, they’ve been in the gym for the past three and a half months, kicking it up a notch in September once the fight with Manfredo Jr. became official.
“We’ve almost been working too much,” Gingras admitted. “I was back in the gym a week and a half after the Biosse fight. I just had to adjust my regimen. I was running eight miles once or twice a week, doing box jumps and sprints. I’ve cut that out now, and now it’s straight boxing, period. I’m not even running.
“Orlondo tightens everything up for me. He fine-tunes everything. He’s been watching those videos picking up on the tendencies. Regardless of what a fighter does, he always goes back to those specific moves. We’re working on shutting those down.”
Based off the limited video he and Valles have watched, Gingras thinks he has Manfredo’s style down to a T; it’s the exact opposite of what Gingras will bring to the table next Friday.
“Peter likes to control the pace,” Gingras said. “He likes to work when he wants to work, but I’m a control freak, so he’ll work when I want him to work.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful, but the last couple of opponents he faced [Rayco Saunders in November and Walter Wright in March] were perfect for his style. That’s why they were picked. Peter likes to move his feet a bit – go to his left, then go to his right. He keeps everyone at the end of his jab to set up his right hand.
“Me, I’m going to spend a lot of time with my head in his armpits.”
In other words, Gingras plans on bringing the pressure early and often, which makes this main event an interesting contrast in styles in addition to a battle to see who can impose his will. And if it happens to be Gingras, he could walk away next Friday with something more valuable than a championship belt.
“I’ve thought about it a lot. I think about it more than anything else,” he said. “If I win this fight, Rhode Island will begin to recognize me. People will start paying attention.
“The possibilities are endless.”
Ticket for the event are priced at $46, $61, $101 and $161 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling 401-724-2253/2254, online at www.cesboxing.com or www.ticketmaster.com, or at Players Club at Twin River. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
“Pride & Power” also features the return of former four-time world champion “Hurricane” Jaime Clampitt (21-5-1, 7 KOs) of Warwick, R.I., who will face Dominga Olivo (8-8-1) of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the six-round lightweight co-feature, ending a three-year layoff. The undercard also features a special six-round heavyweight attraction with “The Armenian Assassin” Arthur Saribekian (23-4-1, 18 KOs) returning to the ring for the first time in more than a decade to face Hyannis, Mass., product Jesse Barboza (6-1-1, 4 KOs).
Also on the undercard, Cranston, R.I., welterweight Nick DeLomba (2-0) will put his undefeated record on the line against Carlos Hernandez (3-2-1, 2 KOs) of Bridgeport, Conn., in a six-round bout and Providence middleweight KJ Harrison-Lombardi (2-0-1) will return to Twin River in a four-round bout against Mike Rodriguez of Springfield, Mass., who will be making his professional debut. Harrison-Lombardi and Rodriguez faced one another in the amateurs with Rodriguez winning a close decision. Providence light middleweight Publio Pena (1-0, 1 KO) will face Antonio Marrero (0-1) of Hartford, Conn., in a four-round bout. All fights and fighters are subject to change.