Sugar Ray Leonard: "Manfredo Shows All The Signs Of Pulling Off The Upset Against Calzaghe"
HOLLYWOOD, CALIF (March 20, 2007) -- The winds of change are blowing as a new season begins with tonight's vernal equinox. "The Contender's" Peter Manfredo, Jr. and his training camp advisor, five-division world champion Sugar Ray Leonard feel that the times, they are a-changin' too. Yesterday, Leonard, Manfredo and father/trainer Peter Manfredo, Sr. held their final west coast sparring session at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. before breaking camp last night and heading back to Rhode Island..
Article posted on 20.03.2007
This weekend, Team Manfredo will wing it across the pond to Cardiff, Wales, where Manfredo (26-3, 12 KOs), from Providence, RI, will become the first alumnus from "The Contender" to fight for a world title, taking on undefeated super middleweight champion and boxing's current longest-reigning world champion (1997-present) Joe Calzaghe (42-0, 31 KOs), from Newbridge, Wales.
Calzaghe-Manfredo will be televised live from the Millennium Stadium on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 5 P.M. ET / 2 P.M. PT, with a replay later that evening at 10 P.M. ET/PT. Over 25,000 seats have already been sold to this world championship fight with sales projected to be between 30,000 and 35,000.
"I have seen Peter grow. He is bigger and stronger than I have ever seen him. He has a confidence and a bravado that gives me confidence in him," said Leonard. "The stars are aligned. He is at the perfect weight and he is fighting Calzaghe at the perfect time. Peter has had the best training camp. He is ready for this opportunity and he is ready for Joe Calzaghe. When he leaves here this weekend it will be as 'The Pride of Providence' but when he returns, he will be 'The Pride of America' with Calzaghe's belts around his waist. I can feel the upset coming. It's so eerie that it's coming at this time."
Eerie is right. Manfredo's challenge of Calzaghe will literally come 20 years and one day to the date that Leonard pulled off his own "upset of the year," dethroning his era's "baddest" man in the game, undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler at Caesars Palace on April 6, 1987. Leonard, who had not fought in three years, jumped up two weight classes to win the split decision. The Ring magazine named it both "The Fight of the Year" and "The Upset of the Year."
"Without a doubt beating Hagler was the biggest personal triumph in my professional career," said Leonard. "For Peter, his biggest personal triumph will be tagging Calzaghe with his first loss and ending his title defense string at 19."
For Manfredo, the fight cannot come soon enough.
"This has been the perfect camp. Eight grueling weeks away from the family totally focused on my mission -- to breakdown and beat Joe Calzaghe," said a quietly confident Manfredo. "Every night I visualize the fight. Sometimes it's hard to fall asleep because I get so excited. I just want to get in the ring and execute the game plan. My trainer Freddie Roach worked with us on various scenarios and game plans and Dad and Ray are on the same page with all of them. Justin Fortune's conditioning has put me in the greatest shape of my life. I am prepared to face the best Joe Calzaghe. He cannot hurt me. He is a slapper. And at 35, how many more great fights does he have left in him? His biggest victory may have been Jeff Lacy, but he is going to find out that I'm no Jeff Lacy. When I fight Calzaghe, I will be everything Jeff Lacy wasn't. We don't have one plan, we have many plans."
And what of the 35,000 Welsh fans expected to be at Millennium Stadium, rooting Calzaghe on in his homecoming?
"I think it's great that Joe has such a rabid and loyal fan base and I think it's great for boxing that HBO will be televising such a big event," continued Manfredo. "But it will have very little effect on me other than pumping up my adrenaline. I'm fighting Calzaghe, not his fans. I think Calzaghe has been a good world champion, but I don't consider him a legend because he hasn't fought the type of opponents that make you a legend. Certainly no one of the caliber that Ray Leonard fought in his heyday. Frankly, Ray Leonard intimidates me more than Joe Calzaghe because I want to impress Ray Leonard. I want him to be proud of me. He helps me raise my game to another level even when he is just watching me spar or workout."
"I understand where Peter is coming from," responded Leonard. "It's an intangible when you have someone you respect in your corner giving you advice. I had that same thing when I had Angelo Dundee in my corner. It gives you a boost. Some people may think it's imagined, but I don't. Having Angelo in my camp and in my corner meant everything to me because I considered him the best trainer in the game. And I'm flattered Peter feels that way about me. We have broken down fight tapes together and we have talked strategy. I have seen a tremendous change in Peter and I can feel his strength, energy and confidence. He is ready to seize the moment . Peter Manfredo is ready to shock the world."
Déjà vu all over again?
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