Angel “El Diablo” Manfredy was one of the most successful boxers to emerge from the Region.
The colorful fighter won a junior lightweight world title, beat big-name fighters like Arturo “The Human Highlight Reel” Gatti in the 1998 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year, and garnered some of the biggest ratings on HBO fight nights during the 1990s. The native of East Chicago’s Indiana Harbor neighborhood was known for his many tattoos, the latex devil mask he wore before fights, and his raw power — 32 of his 43 professional wins were by knockout.
“I made history,” he said. “I should be in the hall of fame, but who knows, maybe someday.”
Manfredy retired in 2004, but he is now making a return to the sport he loves. The devout Christian now eschews the "El Diablo" ring name a manager gave him and prefers the nickname "Acts 2:38," which he used in his last professional fight.
The Crown Point resident is launching a second career as a matchmaker and trainer. He’s now training a half-dozen fighters at Carr Boxing Gym, 5124 Pine Island Drive, Crown Point. Four-time champion and former Olympic hopeful Ricky “The Ruler” Carr started the gym last year to teach kids discipline, keep them off the streets and rejuvenate boxing in the Region.
“After all my years of being off, I finally decided to teach, to bring my knowledge to the fighters, to bring all the wisdom I have and experience I have to show the fighters how to fight,” Manfredy said. “I just missed it. I missed the game.”
Manfredy, who fought with greats like Floyd Mayweather, is focused on teaching aspiring boxers technique. Last week, he coached a student through shadow-boxing, working the heavy bag, keeping the speed bag going and jumping rope, calling out things like, “Rope don’t stop,” and, "If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to train like a champion.”
“It’s definitely good to learn from someone who has a lot of experience and a lot of years under their belt, especially somebody who’s fought legends across seas and world champs,” said student Jimmie Ishii , a resident of Gary and Crown Point who runs to the gym on U.S. 30 to work out and aspires to fight as a professional. “It’s great to have an opportunity to have him take me to the next level and help me get that much better, and get that much more of an advantage over all my opponents.”
He dropped a heavy medicine ball on his stomach and sides to teach him to brace for the body blows he could expect in the ring. He repeatedly told him not to catch the ball until it bounced up after impact.
“It feels great to be back,” Manfredy said. “This is my home. This is my love. I can finally pass my love on to other fighters.”
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He also recently joined Team Certified Sports in Milwaukee, where he’s matchmaking and booking nine fighters, including two heavyweights. He’s been turning up ringside at big fights — like a recent one in Madison Square Garden — to remind people of his illustrious career.
“I’m going to boxing events to put my name out there,” he said. “I’m back in the game now. I’m here to stay. I’m letting them know I’m here, and I’m promoting now, and I’m ready to get my fighters on big cards.”
One day, he hopes to have a champion in his stable.
“It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of heart,” he said. “The mind’s got to be right. If the mind’s not right, the body won’t follow. Spiritually, mentally and physically, you need all three.”
Manfredy is concerned about the current generation of boxers, that they’re not as hungry as he and his contemporaries were. He also questions trainers who never fought a day in their life.
He still remembers when he was first training under Juan Ortiz at the East Chicago Boxing Gym in the Harbor, after his father pushed him to take up fighting so he’d stay out of trouble.
“It was dirty. It was sweaty. It was tough,” he said. “I was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. They had to try to run me out of the gym, I trained so hard.”
Manfredy famously converted to Christianity after troubles with drugs and a car crash that required 200 stitches in his head. He's now a regular at Christian Revival Center in Merrillville.
“Even though I was on top of the world, I had some stuff going on,” he said. “I learned from those experiences. I’m just lucky I’m still alive to learn from them. I’ve got to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for all things. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.”