Manfredo Loses His ‘Contender’ Status

By Tom Donelson
Updated: November 16, 2008

The Contender IOWA CITY — Versus will be taking over The Contender Series and to begin the festivities and celebrate the arrival of Sugar Ray Leonard program, the network featured four past alumni of the series.

In the opening bout, a past champion Grady Brewer challenged Cornelius Bundrage. Brewer is one of those fighters who often fought as the opponent for other prospects.

A factory worker who often trained after his shift, Brewer never truly developed the skills beyond being the opponent. His one big opportunity was during the Contender series when he finally won a championship as he defeated veteran Steve Forbes and won a half a million dollars prize.

Bundrage was one of those fighters who began his career as a prospects but he never quite got into the upper elites but in his last fight, he defeated former champion Kassim Ouma.

He was the favorite over Brewer but this fight was one of those that could easily be forgotten. This fight featured more mugging than solid boxing. Brewer’s awkward style bothered Bundrage, who never got off track.

This was a fight that one or two clean punches determined a round. In the third round, a Brewer right sent an off balanced Bundrage to the canvas but he wasn’t hurt.

He got up and continued his strategy of attempting to jab and hook. He rarely found the target for his right hand. While Bundrage connected on more punches, it was hardly enough to make much of difference.

Brewer’s punches appeared just a little bit more effective but it was a subjective decision as the fight ended in a split decision victory for Brewer.

This was one of those fights that could have gone either way and with many rounds being close, most of the rounds could easily switched from one fighter to the other.

Both fighters lost one point deductions for holding but the knockdown proved the decisive factor as the determining decision was one point in favor of Brewer. One point and one punch was the difference in a split decision or a draw.

For Bundrage, this was another step backward in his career. For both fighters, time is running against them when it comes to championship contention and but for now; they are merely second tier fighters not quite good enough for elite status.

They had good careers but for many fans, being good enough is not enough.

The exception to that rule was Peter Manfredo, Jr. Like his main Contender competitor, Sergio Mora, Manfredo translated his popularity into a championship shot at Joe Calzaghe title but unlike Mora, Manfredo never won his championship but he proved to be one of the Contender most popular alumni.

He was one of those fighters that display charisma both in and out of the ring and with a home town base; he could deliver full seats in his local arena. His opponent was the most recent The Contender champion Sakio Bika.

Bika is one of those tough fighters who just love to brawl and depend upon his strength. As the first round opened up, the difference between both fighters became apparent.

Manfredo looked diminutive when contrasted to the more muscular Bika. He was also the better boxer, but Bika strength proved to be the decisive factor. Manfredo decided to go macho in front of his hometown crowd and this proved suicidal as he could not hurt Bika, but every Bika shot sent shivers through Manfredo’s body.

Manfredo found himself repeatedly on the ropes where Bika pounded him and with each punch sapped Manfredo’s strength. In the second round, Manfredo gave his fans false hopes as Bika slipped while getting tangled with Manfredo but the referee counted it as a knockdown.

Bika got up and simply dominated the rest of the rounds.

In the third round, Bika went on the offensive as he forced Manfredo to the rope. Ripping body shots followed up by head shots, Bika trapped Manfredo. He attempted to fight off the ropes but as he moved off the rope, Bika merely ripped more shots and once again, Manfredo was trapped on the ropes.

This time, he did not escape as the referee stopped the fight. Bika was throwing punches and Manfredo covered up but the ferocity of the shots convinced the referee that he was overmatched.

Both Bika and Manfredo have fought for Calzaghe’s title, but Manfredo is farther from being a champion than Bika. He still has enough talent to challenge for the Super Middleweight division, a division that is starting to get crowed as Jermain Taylor is now fighting in the 168 division and both Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham may not be that far behind.

For Manfredo, this may be his swan song as a contender but he’s still a popular fighter for the simple reason, he loves to fight and can be entertaining in the ring. He’s not afraid to march into the lions’ den against stronger opponents and does have boxing skills but he is not quite good enough to be a top ten fighter or an elite Super Middleweight.

As the Middleweight division starts to weed out as the bigger stars consider moving up, maybe Manfredo may consider moving down to Middleweight division, if not the junior Middleweight division where Mora found success as he temporally held Vernon Forest’s title.