For Vladine Biosse, “Mr. Providence” is more than just a clever nickname stitched onto a pair of shorts.
“Being ‘Mr. Providence’ is about carrying on a legacy,” says Biosse, who faces the toughest test of his career Friday, May 13th, 2016 against fellow Providence native and Rhode Island icon Peter Manfredo Jr.
“When you talk about Providence, you’re talking about a great city, a fighting city for so many years. Carrying that torch means so much to me.”
The always-ready Biosse (15-7-2, 7 KOs), a physical marvel who stays in shape year-round, replaces Angel Camacho Jr., who sustained a foot injury, in the highly publicized “BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL,” a dream matchup between two well-respected Providence veterans at Twin River Casino, the hub of boxing in the northeast for the past decade.
Born in Cape Verde, Biosse moved to Rhode Island at the age of 13 and has since called Providence his home. He attended high school at Hope High, starred in soccer and track and field, and eventually played football at the University of Rhode Island, just 30 miles south of Providence.
His tale of triumph, the inspirational story of an inner-city youth who grew up on the “bad side” of Providence, barely spoke English and didn’t even start boxing until high school, rocketed him to stardom in the local Cape Verdean community.
He gained his U.S. citizenship shortly after becoming a professional fighter, arguably his most noteworthy achievement outside of the ring, and proudly bears the responsibility of being a mentor to inner-city youth who bear a striking resemblance to the same Cape Verdean teenager who arrived in Providence 20 years ago unsure of what his future would bring.
“I made it through the tough times. Now it’s my responsibility to help others do the same,” Biosse said. “I might not get all of them, but if I get one or two of them, I’m happy.”
Most New England fight fans associate “Mr. Providence” with the unconventional southpaw they’ve seen in the ring and on television for the past seven years, the former college football player turned boxer who rose from anonymity to worldwide success in 2010 with a dominant win over Joey McCreedy on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, his network television debut.
Biosse was a public relations dream, a humble, working-class fighter who resonated with boxing fans, a neatly packaged, 6-foot-1 snapshot of the American Dream. Even in defeat, Biosse remained steadfast in his goal to become a world champion and eventually carry the torch in a city replete with blue-collar superstars, among them Manfredo (40-7, 21 KOs) and Vinny Paz.
The less-publicized side of Biosse, the one fans rarely see, is that of the humanitarian, the local hero who gives selflessly to help lead troubled, unprivileged youth down the right path.
Biosse’s talent in the ring eventually brought him to the top of his sport, including a Showtime date with J’Leon Love and an overseas battle against Callum Smith during a hectic, year-long stretch in which he fought outside of New England four times, but his heart never left Providence.
In the midst of his most profitable year as a fighter, Biosse and his business partner Brian Johnson opened The Ring of Peace, a boxing gym at the John Hope Settlement House in Providence, where city youth can learn the fundamentals of the sport in a safe, non-confrontational environment geared toward keeping kids off the streets. Classes are free of charge.
“A lot of times, boxers are looked at as barbaric or uneducated, so what we do with the kids is we focus on their school work,” Biosse said. “We help them with their homework. We have tutors available. Once they finish, then we go into the gym and teach them boxing.”
Biosse credits much of his success in life to one of his mentors, Providence native Peter Quaweay, a former Central High football standout and defensive back for Michigan State, who stressed to Biosse the importance of staying in school and building a future outside of sports.
“In the past, I didn’t care too much about school, or anything,” he continued. “I didn’t look at my future like I should’ve. I had an opportunity to go to college and graduate. I look back at those situations and say, ‘Man, if I didn’t have someone like that I wouldn’t have achieved what I did or be the man I am now.'”
The Ring of Peace plans on expanding its role in the community, offering memberships to war veterans and self-defense classes for women.
“When I look back at inner-city kids who grew up like me — single mother, in the projects, living on the bad side of Providence — I think, ‘Damn, those kids have great potential like I did, but they won’t amount to anything if no one reaches out to them to lead them the right way.’
“I feel like it’s my responsibility.”
Consider it part of being “Mr. Providence.” While Manfredo, the 16-year fight vet known affectionately as “The Pride of Providence” in Rhode Island’s Italian-American community, shares a similar responsibility as a father, husband and fighter, Biosse has become an icon in his own right among Rhode Island Cape Verdeans, a role he takes seriously.
“Being adopted by the city of Providence and knowing Providence carries so much history with my people, so much ancestry with my people coming over since slavery and through working on the ships, it’s a big legacy to be able to carry that name,” Biosse said.
“This is one of the first cities my Cape Verdean people came to, Fox Point, right here in Providence. That means so much to me. That’s why since Day 1 when that nickname was given to me, I never shied away from it. I feel it fits perfectly because of the history my people have with my city. That’s why I appreciate it.”
With Manfredo’s own legacy in tow, “THE BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL” takes on new meaning May 13th, two fighters who are pillars in their respective communities — and close friends — battling for state bragging rights.
“Peter was ‘The Pride of Providence’ long before I came onto the scene and I respect that,” Biosse said. “Now it’s the top two chefs in the city competing against each other carrying the history of Providence. It makes it a lot more interesting to us, the competitors, and also the fans.”
Biosse accepted the challenge against the 47-fight vet Manfredo on short notice with little hesitation. As a competitor who stays in the gym year-round, Biosse’s conditioning was never a factor, plus he’s had 10 months since his last fight in July to work on some fundamentals.
“I’m so critical of my skills and my development as a fighter,” he said. “Having those months off, being able to sit down and grade myself and study myself and my ability to perform, seeing where I was and where I’m at now, some things got better, some things got worse.
“I’ve really refined myself and my skills and have become a better me.”
“Listen, I take nothing away from Peter. He’s a veteran and he’s been doing this for a long time. He’s in great shape and ready to compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s going to be a hell of a competition.”
While this is no doubt the biggest test of Biosse’s career, the ability to overcome and conquer is an important part of what has made him an iconic figure in the Cape Verdean community. As a fighter, a husband, a father and, perhaps most importantly, a U.S. Citizen, “Mr. Providence” carries an entire city and legacy on his back each time he steps into the ring. May 13th could be his most triumphant moment yet.
“Growing up in this country, learning everything I know here, I got a better opportunity and a better education,” Biosse says. “It means so much to me to be a U.S. citizen. I’ve given my heart and soul here and now I’m really a part of this country. I can vote. I can make changes in this country. To be able to share that American culture with others, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Limited seated tickets for “THE BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL” are priced at $46.00, $66.00, $151.00 (VIP) and $201.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club.
Standing room tickets are also available for $46.00 directly through Twin River Casino and can also be purchased online at www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change and tickets are non-refundable.