Forgotten Legends: Angel Manfredy

By: Steve Gallegos

Gary, Indiana is known for its steel mills and hard-working, blue collar citizens. When it comes to Boxing, Gary is known as the hometown of former Middleweight champion Tony Zale, who fought in the 1940’s. In the late 1990’s, Gary, Indiana produced another great fighter with tremendous skill and talent. His name was Angel El DiabloManfredy.

A skilled boxer-puncher with great charisma to go along with many tattooes, Manfredy was one of the most exciting “Little-Big” men to watch compete and was a favorite among fight fans in the late 90’s. Nicknamed “El Diablo“, he is well known for his flashy red and white trunks to go along with red socks and devil’s mask which he wore into the ring. Manfredy had a successful amatuer career of 48-8 and turned pro in June of 1993 and went 2-2-1 in his first 5 bouts. He lived a reckless, partying lifestyle outside the ring and one rainy night in 1993 after partying, Manfredy was involved in a very fatal car accident. While swerving to avoid hitting another car, Manfredy crashed head on into a telephone pole. He survived the accident, which caused him to have over 200 stitches in his head. It proved to be a wakeup call for Angel, who turned his life around after this accident, converting to Christianity and 10 days later he was back in the gym.

After his 2nd loss in 1994, Manfredy went on a hot streak, winning his next 10 bouts, seven by KO before facing former featherweight champion Calvin Grove. They met on 11/18/95 in Atlantic City, NJ for the vacant World Boxing Union super featherweight championship. Many were unsure if  the 21 year old Manfredy could hang in there with a very experienced veteran like Grove;  however he proved the naysayers wrong. Manfredy boxed well in the first few rounds; however Grove was starting to come on and put together a rally in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. In the seventh, Manfredy was able to land a huge right hand which rocked Grove. Manfredy smelled blood and went in for the kill, causing referee Tony Orlando to stop the bout.

While many didn’t consider the WBU to be a legitimate title, Angel Manfredy was a world champion. He would knockout six of his next seven opponents before getting his first taste of national exposure when he faced Wilson Rodriguez on 02/22/97 in Atlantic City. The bout was the co-feature of an HBO Boxing After Dark doubleheader. Rodriguez was known for his war with Arturo Gatti the previous spring in which he dropped Gatti and badly busted up Gatti’s eyes before being stopped in the sixth round. Manfredy boxed beautifully in his national debut, using his jab to setup great combinations to the body and head. He even weathered a late rally in which Rodriguez put him down. The end result would be a unanimous decision win for Manfredy.

He appeared on Boxing After Dark later that summer and scored an impressive eighth round TKO over former world champion Jorge Paez. This setup a huge showdown with Arturo Gatti. Prior to the fight, Jim Lampley of HBO said this fight is a 130 lb version of  Tony Zale vs Rocky Graziano. Gatti, the IBF Jr Lightweight champion, elected not to defend his title as he was no longer able to make the weight; therefore the bout would take place at Lightweight.

They met on 01/17/98 in Atlantic City. Gatti came out as the aggressor, landing some hard shots; however Angel landed a great right hand towards the end of the round, which caused a bad cut over Gatti’s left eye. The fight was a back and forth war in which Manfredy dropped Gatti in the third. In the eighth round, the cut over Gatti’s eye continued to worsen and Manfredy began landing hard shots causing the ringside doctor to stop the fight. It was the biggest win for Manfredy’s career and his stock rose tremendously after this fight.

After the fight, he called out “Prince” Naseem Hamed, who made his American debut the previous month in impressive fashion; however Hamed quietly avoided Manfredy’s challenge. Angel would perform impressively throughout 1998 and would end the year with a huge showdown with newly crowned Jr lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather. Many thought it was too soon for Mayweather to face an experienced pro like Manfredy.

They met on 12/19/98 in Miami, FL. Manfredy fought well in the first round; however Mayweather rallied big in the second round, forcing Manfredy against the ropes and the fight was stopped. Manfredy badly protested the stoppage, feeling it was premature. Angel was devasted by the loss, and was back in the ring two months later scoring a third round KO.

He then faced top contender Ivan Robinson on 04/17/99 in Indio, CA. Robinson was coming off of two impressive wins over Arturo Gatti and was offered a huge money title shot against lightweight champion Shane Mosley; however Robinson took a huge pay cut and opted to face Manfredy in what he thought would be an easy fight. Manfredy came into the bout with a huge chip on his shoulder and battered Robinson from the opening bell, landing hard shots all night, particularly to the body en route to a 10 round unanimous decision which was the highest rated Boxing After Dark of 1999. Sitting ringside that night was Woody Harrelson, who spent time with Manfredy prior to the bout in preperation for his role in the movie “Play it to the Bone” in which Harrelson played a character loosley based on Manfredy. The big win over Robinson set up another world title shot against WBC lightweight champion Stevie Johnston.

Shane Mosley had previously left the lightweight division and this fight would prove who was the best at lightweight. They met on 08/14/99 at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, CT. Manfredy was favored going into the fight; however Johnston who was in the familiar role of underdog, rose to another level. While Manfredy boxed well and had some good moments, he was clearly outboxed by the very underrated Stevie Johnston who would win by unanimous decision.

Manfredy later admitted in a 2012 interview with Doghouse Boxing that he wasn’t right and he was doing cocaine prior to the bout. He would continue fighting for another five years, going 14-4 from 2000-2004. He would challenge twice more for a world title and would come up short against Diego Corrales and Paul Spadafora. He retired in 2004 with a record of 43-8 with 32 KO’s. While he is considered a fighter who wasn’t able to win a major world title, he is definitely remembered by many including this reporter as a  true champion. Today, he lives a humble family life as a husband, father and grandfather. He devotes a majority of his time to his outreach program for kids. He did consider a comeback at one point, hoping to get a rematch with Mayweather. Whatever he decides to do, we definitely know he’ll do it very colorfully and flamboyantly.

Manfredy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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