Boxing


Joe Calzaghe, Peter Manfredo, Sugar Ray Leonard Conf. Call Transcript

29.03.07 - FRED STERNBURG: We are 11 days from one of the yearís biggest fights. On April 7, all eyes will be turned to Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, where Joe Calzaghe will try to make personal history, going for his 20th consecutive successful defense of his super middleweight title. But, in the way of that goal is going to be top-five rated contender and the first alumnus for ďThe ContenderĒ to challenge for a world title, Peter Manfredo Jr, who, with his corner, ably handled by his father, Peter Manfredo Sr., and assisted by Sugar Ray Leonard, a five-division world champion, who is helping with Peterís strategy. As we all know, Ray is no stranger to big fights. In fact the April 7 fight is 20 years and on day to the day Ray pulled off his own ďupset of the year,Ē defeating undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler on April 6, 1987. Itís going to quite an event on April 7, with 30,000 seats already sold and with 11 days to go, many more will be sold.

The fight will be broadcast live on HBO, 5 p.m. East Coast, 2 p.m. West Coast, and then there will be a replay later that evening, at 10 p.m. East Coast and West Coast.

Frank Warren: Thanks, so much Fred. Thank you everybody for joining us on the call. Itís much appreciated. We have, as far as, (INAUDIBLE) a pretty unique event-taking place on the 7th of April. As Fred said, Joe Calzaghe is defending his title for the 20th time, which is certainly a record for British fighter.

And if he is successful, it will put him in a fourth-place tie place on the all-time title defense list with Bernard Hopkins and as Larry Holmes. Joe is the longest current reigning world champion. Heís been, I think, on the 11th of April, I think heís championed for nine years, 138 days, which is quite a lengthy reign, by anybody's standards.

The show that is taking place on the 7th is the highest attended indoor event to take place (INAUDIBLE) to take place in the United Kingdom, and I think thatís the case, as far as, Europe is concerned. Weíve sold over 30,000 tickets and weíre expecting a crowd of, at least, 35,000 on the 9th. Both fighters have great selling power, Joe Calzaghe and also the selling power of The Contender series and Peter Manfredo.

Iím delighted to be working with Peter and Jeff Wald and Sugar Ray Leonard. Theyíve been a fantastic in helping make this promotion a success. As I say, the British public has really taken to it and it will be a fantastic atmosphere on the 7th.

And, from my point of view, I am looking for Joe to put on a spectacular performance in a really good fight that hopefully will set everybody on line in the States. He had a tremendous performance against Jeff Lacy, and now weíve got to capitalize on that, and hopefully if he comes through we can then look for other big fights.

But, I know Joeís got a tough fight on his hands. We see in the past what happened with fighters such as Mike Tyson, when he fought Buster Douglas, when Lennox Lewis fought Hasim Rahman. Got into the fight, these guys were favorites and got beat, as we know, one punch can turn a fight.

Joe, I know, is training for this fight and heíll tell you himself. Ha cannot afford to slip up. Peter has got a tremendous team in there with Peter Manfredo Sr. and Sugar Ray Leonard. And, coincidentally, I think itís 20 years and one day since Ray caused an upset in defeating Marvin Hagler.

I think The Ring magazine, at the time, called it the ďupset of the year.Ē So, thereís a lot of 20ís going on around the time of this fight. Iíd like to put Jeff Wald on, whoís helping promote The Contender event here to say weíre grateful for his help. Over to you Jeff.

JEFF WALD: Thank you very much, Frank. First of all, on behalf of ďThe Contender,Ē the Manfredos and Ray, and by the way, I want to thank Frank and Sports Network for the incredible hospitality theyíve shown us. Itís just a tremendous promotion.

You know, thereís been a lot of articles written, especially in the states, about boxing being dead. But, I think the Calzaghe/Manfredo fight and the Mayweather/DeLaHoya fight coming up showed us boxing is anything but dead. And that what you really have to do is give people what they want to see.

They want to see good fight where guys go and stand there and fight. They donít run, they donít hide. We have nothing but respect for Joe Calzaghe and for Enzo. You have to respect anybody whoís maintained a championship for over nine years, and is going into his 20th defense.

Of course, we feel that we want to end it at 19. And, nine years, and I guess it will be 147 days but 149 days by Frankís calculation. But, what I think, you guys in the press are going to see, it two guys who are just gentlemen, who love what they do, who love the sport. Theyíre both trained by their fathers, which is a story in of itself.

These guys have been fighting their whole lives. Their fathers been involved in boxing their whole lives. So, thereís a great story here. Peter Manfredo would rather die than lose or quit. Heís never been down on the ground. Heís got a rock hard chin. Heís trained very hard for this fight, and I think Frank summed it up.

You know, if there was anybody who was an underdog, I believe Ray Leonard went off 20 to one against Hagler and, anything can happen in boxing. But the very, very least, what everybody in the U.K. and United States, around the world is going to see is two guys who came there, who were really conditioned, fit athletes.

Youíre not going to see seven-foot fat guys running around the ring. Youíre going to see guys who really, really take this seriously, who respect themselves, respect the fans and respect the sport. We are really excited about this event, and, Frank is one of the great promoters in the world.

And everything from the Welshmenís choir to putting us on Millennium Stadium, all these anniversaries and all these 20ís, as Frank said. This is a lot of fun for us. Peter Manfredo is the first alumnus from The Contender to fight for world championship. We expect to have an incredibly great night.

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: First of all, Iíd like to personally thank Frank Warren and his staff. Itís been a pleasure, Frank, to work with you and your staff in putting together another incredible fight this coming April 7th.

And I want to say that for both fighters, for Peter Manfredo and for Joe Calzaghe, itís going to be an historic moment, one way or another, because, Peter Manfredo is really looking forward to this big win, and fighting in Cardiff, itís going to be amazing.

Iíd like also to point out the fact that, whatís interesting is the fact that you have Peter Sr. training his son and you have Enzo train his son, and that within itself is special. I look forward to a great fight, a great night of boxing and this is going to bring a breath of fresh air to the sport of boxing, and good luck to both guys.

FRED STERNBURG: Weíve got close to 50 media on the call. So Iím just going to, while people are getting into queue, Iím just going to ask both fighters one quick question. For Joe, what a landmark fight for you, going for your 20th defense, no one in your country has ever done that before. And, I know, itís a home coming for you, almost two years since you fought in Wales. Is there a lot of pressure on you to take it to the next mark to get that landmark title defense? And is there any pressure on you, because you are the longest reigning champion in boxing at the moment, to keep up the performance level that youíve been doing for the past ten years.

JOE CALZAGHE: Yes. Obviously thereís pressure on every single defense title. And I think pressure is a good thing. Either they donít feel the pressure (INAUDIBLE) both fights is when he should quite. You know, talking about big upset and big shock, happened in boxing Tyson losing to Douglas, Hagler losing to Leonard, and Lewis losing to Rahman. The favorites in those fights took it for granted that they were the best, though in Haglerís case, it was just a matter of losing to the better man rather than not training hard like the other two.

They took it for granted that they could just walk through their opponent. You know, one of my strengths is I donít take any fighter lightly. I take all of them very seriously indeed, and Peterís got a massive up, but though heís a big underdog. Heís got a massive opportunity, an opportunity of a lifetime.

So, I know what itís like to be a challenger and to want to win. So we have to match that with the same intent and the same desire as I (INAUDIBLE) the challenger. And for this fight, Iím paid tremendously well. I trained very hard to go 12 hard rounds, if need be.

The good thing is my hands feel good. You know, sometimes I have bad hands, sometimes I have good hands. This time itís, the hands are good. Sparring has gone well. Iíve had some great sparring. Iím really looking forward to April 7. Itís going to be a great night for all concerned.

Itís my 20th title defense, but Iím still excited. Iím excited about it and Iíll taken Peter. The show is going to be a fantastic spectacle. And Iím looking forward to entertain.

FRED STERNBURG: Peter we saw you work out at Wildcard Gym last week in LA and you looked very impressive. You looked to be in tip-top shape. Going into such a home court advantage for Joe, you seem in all your interviews to have a nothing to lose attitude. You are going in there full steam ahead. Is that an accurate depiction of your strategy? And what is your mind set going into this fight, and how do you feel about having Ray Leonard as part of the team going into this fight?

PETER MANFREDO: Iím very confident going into this fight. The pressures definitely on him, I have no pressure. I mean Iím going into his back yard in front of 35,000 people screaming his name. Heís been the longest reigning champion for almost ten years. Heís undefeated, hopefully, all the pressures on him. Iím going in there as a big underdog and I trained extremely hard at Wildcard, like I did my last two fights but even harder for this one.

I have trained with all lefties, this time, which was pretty tough in the beginning but I got adapted to it. And, Joe Calzaghe, as you see heís got a lot of class, and come that night, he knows Iím not going to back up. He knows Iím coming to take that title and he wants to defend it. Thatís why he trained extremely hard and wonít take me lightly. I trained extremely hard, itís got the makings of an Arturo Gatti /Micky Ward type of fight.

Neither of us is going to back up and thatís what people want to see. People pay their money to buy a ticket to see fights like that. Iím ready to go, and to have Ray Leonard in my corner is just great. Because when Freddie Roach just decided to leave and go train with De La Hoya, it kind of broke my heart a little because the guy is a genius when it comes to strategy and things like that.

But as soon as Ray asked, Ďyou mind if I take this spot?í I just let up again, and it just gave me new life. So, having him there -- he might not be a great trainer, he might not ever trained anybody in his life -- but heís been to this point himself, as being a six time world champion. And I have learned so much from his observations.

I have the confidence in him that he might see something my father wonít see in the corner that might be useful in the fight. Who knows? You know, every little bit helps at this point. Iím just excited man. A lot of hard work. Iíve been away from my family for a long, long time training for this fight. Iím ready to go. I feel good. And, come April 7th thereís going to be a spectacular night.

CHUCK JOHNSON, USA TODAY: Peter, in terms of your notoriety, a lot of it comes from being involved in The Contender series. As a fighter how much did that prepare you? Of that experience of competing on that series, prepare you for a fight like this?

PETER MANFREDO: I donít know if it prepared me for a fight like this. I mean, I guess the closest you can get with the pressure that I had was in the finale where only 5,000 people were watching us fight, but the pressure, being the favorite to win and this and that.

And disappointed a lot of people back home and disappointed myself and things like that. I mean, compared to that, thatís probably the only pressure I had. But compared to this fight, itís apples and oranges. Man Iím going in with an opponent in his hometown with 35,000 screaming fans for him.

But, the bottom line is you donít worry about that when you have focus for a fight. You block the crowd out. Itís not going to make a difference, Iím just ready to go. I trained hard and Iím ready to win.

CHUCK JOHNSON: So, it sound like, I mean, nothing has prepared you for a fight like this other than the fact, that you feel, I mean, do you feel youíre ready to take this step? Do you view it as taking a step up?

PETER MANFREDO: I think itís a step I think this is where I belong. I mean, you saw me knockout Scott Pemberton even though Pemberton was not quite in his prime. Itís the way I beat him. Same thing with Joe Spina Spina was an up-and-comer. He wasnít Joe Calzaghe. But, I took him out early.

I took him out quick. Who was I going to fight against? Someone like an Omar Sheika or someone up-and-coming? I think Iím ready for this level. I mean this is the next step. This is where I belong. There is nobody better than Joe Calzaghe. You want to fight the best and you want to be the best. Youíve got to, to be the best you beat the best. Joeís arguably the best fighter out there.

CHUCK JOHNSON: Do you view this as a make or break situation? I mean considering that, you could go either way? If it doesnít go your way do you think that, that will be career changing, as far as, the way your career is going right now?

PETER MANFREDO: Truthfully, I donít even know how to answer that. I mean, I donít know. I just take one fight at a time. Iím very confident going into the fight. And, I donít even thing losing is an option. So on a worse case scenario, if I do lose, what can I do? I can't hang my head. I just got to beat by one of the best fighters in the world.

JEFF WALD: An answer to you question. Peter has fought twice at Staple Center. In somebody elseís backyard and that was in Moraís backyard. They were two terrific Gatti-Ward types of fights that went the distance. The crowds were over 12,000 in people. Not 35,000 but 12,000 people. And Peter never got intimidated by the crowd. Never backed up. Put on some great fights. And no matter how the outcome of next weekís fight is, it will probably go the distance, and no matter what, itíll be a close fight. And when you have fights like that, I donít think people cared who won the Gatti-Ward fights. Theyíre so great and entertaining fights. Same thing with Marquez/Barrera the other night. And thatís what the public wants, boxingí entertainment.

And, The Contender as Frank has mentioned, not only in the U.K. and in the United States, weíre seen in over 100 countries. And, brought boxing to families and to the younger people again, to see the sport, and Peter is one of the stars of that and thatís why Joe Calzaghe and Frank Warren chose Peter to be the opponent for Joeís 20th fight.

I donít think anybody chose him because they thought it would be easy. They chose him because he had the widest audience appeal to expose their fight in America and around the world. And they knew that Peter would go in there and go toe to toe. And, not dog it.

Heís a star, no matter what happens. Heís a young man and obviously we all expect him to win, and in any event, heís going to leave this fight with his head up and have a huge long career.

CHUCK JOHNSON: Let me ask Joe. In terms of the abilities, seeing Peter Manfredo. What do you see, Joe, when you look at Peter Manfredo?

JOE CALZAGHE: I think heís a good fighter. Heís a solid fighter. I mean, heís got a big heart. (INAUDIBLE) fighter and that makes him good. Obviously, fighting me is a big step up to the likes of Sergio Mora and Joe Spina. (INAUDIBLE), you know, youíre going to be a fighter that was put in front of you. Heís definitely improving. But itís the next step up for him, and Iíll have to eat what I said.

Iíve prepared for a tough fight. Iím ready for anything. I cannot afford to have a ĎI been there, done ití attitude when I train for a title defense. A lot of people may think Iím getting a bit long in the tooth but Iím still leaving the bodies in the gym, fighters who are ten years younger than me. Behind running and hand speed is just as fast. And, Iím going to keep busy. You know, at the end of the day I know I might be fighting, maybe, seven months. You know, (INAUDIBLE) keep busy and you know, it should be a busy year.

And it doesnít get much bigger than this. Like I said, we chose Peter because heís an exciting fighter, an improved fighter. Heís a big name. So, regardless of how he performs in the fight, heís got a big career. But like I said, this is the 20th defense. Iíve trained tremendously hard, and Iím looking forward to it.

CHUCK JOHNSON: I know youíre looking at this fight one at a time. But, where is Kessler on your radar, Joe?

JOE CALZAGHE: Well, Iíve not seen Kesslerís fight the other day. And apparently, heís OK. Obviously, all Iím thinking about at the moment is next week. You know, I donít, you know, (INAUDIBLE) so over look too far ahead and find the next fight, you know, one fight at a time. April the 7th, Peter Manfredo is all Iíve got on my mind at the moment.

And then, from there we have to see who is available, and see whatís the next option. Obviously, you know, you got the things that the fighterís keep mentioning. People keep mentioning. Jermain Taylor, and Bernard Hopkins fighters, you know. So, you know, Kessler, Jermain Taylor, Hopkins , all the big names, obviously Iím looking for the big ones, but, at the end of the day, first things first. Iíve got business to take care of next week.

CHUCK JOHNSON: You know, he [Kessler] called you out by name. How does it feel that fighters are calling you out by name? Thatís something that you were doing just until recently. I mean, you were calling those other fighters out, now people are calling your name out as opponent they want. How does that feel?

JOE CALZAGHE: Iím not seen the Kessler fight and like I said, already, obviously first things first. All Iím concentrating on at the moment is April the 7th. Thatís all thatís been on my mind for the past eight weeks straight. And, you know, obviously after April the 7th, you know, we talked about what was next, but Iím totally focused on next week.

FRANKLIN MCNEIL, NEWARK STAR LEDGER: Hey, my first question is for Peter and Ray. To me size, well Peter you fought at super middleweight two times already. How are you feeling at this weight now?

PETER MANFREDO: I feel great. Itís the best move I ever made. I was killing my body getting down to 160, I would go to bed 164 and wake up 164 and half. I just couldnít make the weight. And I was depleting myself.

And since I moved up to 168, the strength an conditioning coach, Justin Fortune at Freddie Roachís Gym, it just put some more muscle on me. Got me stronger and my last two fights youíve seen the result. The guys are bigger than me but I was just as strong, if not stronger than them. No one pushed me around. So I think it was the best weight. for me.

FRANKLIN MCNEIL: And Ray. Two things come to mind when I think about this fight. One is I would give Joe the edge, as far as, being physically bigger. Heís a natural 168 pounder. But, you fought a guy in Hagler who was considered a much bigger guy. And, you came away with the victory in that fight.

And, here you are training a fighter whoís considered a smaller guy and an underdog. Is size Ė how do you, are there things youíre bringing, from even your experience that you believe that you can bring to Peter in this fight to help him succeed?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Well, to clarify things, Iím not Peterís trainer. His father Peter, Sr is the trainer. Iím just assisting with strategies. But, as far as the weights concerned, no question about it, Joe Calzaghe is a bigger man. Heís a more solid man. And Peter goes to this fight against some major odds, without question. But the key here is Peter believes and feels he can win. And thatís an edge already. But the key is just fighting your own fight and not being taken out of your game plan. Thatís the key.

FRANKLIN MCNEIL: And, for Joe. Youíve been quoted recently as saying, youíre going to really put on a show for your fans and that you were going to knock out Peter. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

JOE CALZAGHE: Is that what I said? OK. Yes basically, obviously, I like to put a show on. And saying put a show on, I go in that ring to win. And I believe, with Peterís style and my style, basically, weíre going to be a very exciting fight. I love to fight, and we both have got big hearts. So, itís going to be a treat for the public. I look for the knock out in every fight because I believe in myself. I can knock out my opponent. Some times you do, sometimes you donít.

But like I say to every single guy I fight. If the knockout isnít there, I am prepared because I was trained for 12 hard rounds and if a knock out comes then so be it. But I have won on points quite a lot lately. I think my last few fights have been a distance. Iím used to being in a 12 -round fight but obviously Iíll take a knockout in any fight. A knockout, when it comes, then Iíll take it. Iíve trained and Iíve sparred.

Iíve two good arms. No injuries in this camp. So I believe, I will be landing many of my powerful shots. I always train for 12 hard rounds and Iím expecting a long fight.

FRANKLIN MCNEIL: OK. I have one more question for you Joe. Youíre 35 now and obviously there are quite a few big fights, including this one that you have on your radar, and, do you feel a, at this point in your career, a sense of, and I donít know if urgency is the right word, but at this point in your career, do you see it, like getting to a point of your ready to wind it down?

JOE CALZAGHE: People say how long keep fighting for? I keep fighting at 40. I mean, at the moment Iím still as sharp, as quick. You look at Bernard Hopkins heís 42. Heís all about how you look after yourself and the score and the beatings you take and lack of beatings.

And, how many hard fights (INAUDIBLE) and so longevity in boxing. You know, for me, Iíve always been at the top at my game and I win. I donít get hit often. You know my boys, how they keep the cuts clean and, I feel fresh. Iíve never been one of those guys that hangs around sparring and warring in the gym.

Because I really donít believe in that. You should save that for the ring. I want to be one of the few fighters that was happy at the top. I would not make a comeback, retire and make a comeback, because I would be fighting for the same thing I won in the first place title.

Iíve been fighting since I was 13 and then on Iíve always been champion. I always been a winner. So, the day Iím not a winner, I think that I realize that Iím not the best anymore then I walk away. But at the moment, in an ideal world, Iím looking 60 months, two years and be one of the few fighters that actually retires at the top without getting too much of a beating and having invite comebacks.

So, like I said, at the moment Iím excited. Iím excited (INAUDIBLE) box (INAUDIBLE). As long as you got excitement youíve got the hunger wanting to train and you are still feeling good, then why retire?

DAN RAFAEL, ESPN.com: Frank, I understand Joeís reluctance to look ahead and talk about the possibility of other fights in the future with this fight on his mind. Of course, youíre the promoter so your job is to look ahead. Can you tell me from your point of view about the possibility of Joe against Mikkel Kessler in the future?

FRANK WARREN: Absolutely. You know, obviously, I hate counting chickens. If Joe comes through this well; Kesslerís definitely a fighter that we would Ė I would like to see Joe with. But also, Jermain Taylor.

Whoever comes through this fight, they can again in July. And if Kessler wants it, he can have it as well. You know, Joe said himself. Heís 35. Heís looking for the big fights. This is a big fight over here. As Iíve said we got a big, weíve got a huge audience, a live audience watching it. And, hopefully, if he does what I hope, what I believe heís capable of doing, this will set him for a Kessler or a Taylor. (INAUDIBLE).

DAN RAFAEL: Taylor is fighting Cory Spinks, incidentally.

FRANK WARREN: Theyíve announced it? I didnít realize it. I didnít know, you know, whatever. HBO is working with Joe and they have the power to bend a few arms and hopefully make these fights happen. We want them. We want the fights. We tried for many years to make the fight with Bernard Hopkins. It never came off. And these are the fights that Joe Calzaghe wants. Itís not just about the 20 defenses. Itís about going forward from that. Itís about leaving his mark in history as a British fighter, because no other British fighter has ever gone to this stage that heís gone to.

DAN RAFAEL: How big is that fight in Europe? Kessler and Calzaghe? Because, both guys obviously drew big crowds.

FRANK WARREN: Iíve seen the Kessler and Andrade fight. I saw the tape of it. They did very well and Kessler is half British, by the way.

DAN RAFAEL: I didnít know that.

FRANK WARREN: Kesslerís mother is English. Yes, his mother is British. They had 18,000 people there. So, you know, 18,000 people who went to see him. We got 35,000 at this show. Thatís 53,000 people watching European fighters. Thatís fantastic and if he fought Joe, itíd be a huge event.

But, as Joe said, heís got to get through this one, itís not just about winning the fight. Itís how you win the fight. And, I, as I say, would love to see Joe put on a spectacular performance. The funny thing is heís done that against American boxers.

When he fought Charles Brewer it was a really, really tough good fight to watch. With Byron Mitchell it was, again, it was an exciting fight. Omar Sheika was a really good fight. When he fought him, I think it was six or seven years ago, and Jeff Lacy. For a guy to come to fight like (INAUDIBLE), and Joe comes to fight; you always see the best of Joe Calzaghe. So, I hope that we get that performance it takes on the 7th and we can go from there.

DAN RAFAEL: Ray, can you just elaborate just a little bit on seeing how happy Peter is having you aboard. That when Freddie Roach left him, that you, sort of, volunteered and asked him if you could work with him a little bit for this fight. Can you clearly define your role and Iím not sure if youíll be in the corner on the night of the fight or you just working with him strategy wise in the gym? How is that working out or what exactly is your role?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Well, again, I am just a strategist. I am not a trainer. I mean, his father is the trainer, without question.

DAN RAFAEL: Are you in the gym though, talking to Peter Sr.?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: No. We talk, you know. We, thank God for technology. There are e-mails. But, you know, Iíve seen Peter up close and personal on the show. On The Contender show, and, Iíve seen the fights live. And, I just give my two cents. And, we go from there.

DAN RAFAEL: Will you be in the corner on the night of the fight?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I will not.

DAN RAFAEL: You will not be in the corner?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: No.

DAN RAFAEL: Will you be at the fight?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Oh, for sure.

DAN RAFAEL: Oh, but not part of the team of, in there during the minute break?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: No. Peter has a very competent team.

DAN RAFAEL: OK. Can you also just explain a little bit about what sorts of things are you trying to impart on him about the fight?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Well, basically, itís the motional aspect of the fight. And Peter has that. That mental stability. Thatís really the key factor, and even going a little further. The thing about the weight. As far as the weight is concerned, the toughest fight for a fighter is making the weight, and Peterís so comfortable at 168 that he should be OK.

JEFF WALD: I just want to add something to what Frank said. And also, you and Iíve had a number of conversations in the past. Ray is going to serve as an extra pair of eyes the night of the fight. But Ray is right, Peter Manfredo is the trainer, he has been training his son.

And basically just the same way Enzo has been training Joe for his whole life. Ray is an extra set of eyes. Itís somebody who knows strategy, knows game plan better than anybody on the planet, as far as Iím concerned. And I want to say something else. You keep asking Joe and Frank what their next opponent is. When Peter wins this heíll fight anybody too.

And I know you guys are going way out on a limb thinking this is a done deal. About whoís going to win this and I can name, as Frank did in the beginning when Frank made his introductory remarks. That at least it does in instances, whether itís George Forman against Ali or Tyson against Douglas or Ray against Hagler. Thereís nothing taking for granted in boxing. I think Joe said it, one punch can turn a fight. And this is going to be a good fight.

DAN RAFAEL: Weíre not trying to disrespectful, Peter, not at all.

JEFF WALD: No, I know. But you were. Itís OK.

DAN RAFAEL: Peter, you are a fighter willing to go all the way to Wales to fight this fight, like you have mentioned multiple times, in front of 35,000 fans and most of them will be Joe Calzaghe fans. Can you compare that, what youíre willing to do and the type of heart that you have to be willing to do that? And a lot of fighters arenít willing to do. And compare it to, you know, your Contender opponent Sergio Mora, who was very reluctant and blew a shot at the middleweight world title because he didnít want to go to Memphis, Tennessee, which is not even Jermain Taylorís hometown, just a place thatís close by to where he lives. What does that say about you that youíre willing to that?

PETER MANFREDO: I have no comment on Sergio. And I donít know whatís going through his mind. You know, I donít know whatís going on in his life or whatever like that. But, you know what? Iím a throw back to the old school days, man. Iíll fight anybody at anywhere, anytime.

If they were watching Raging Bull.. You know, seeing Jake LaMotta. Thatís Peter Manfredo Jr., -- just without the brutal part with his wife and all that nonsense. Listen, Joe Calzaghe is the best. He deserves to have the fight here in his hometown. As soon as Jeff Wald mentioned the fight to me, I said, no problem.

I, of course, I asked for a little more money, but who wouldnít. He said, no, Iím not going to give you no money, I said, donít worry about it. I want to take the fight. Itís an opportunity of a lifetime. I mean, Kelly Pavlik said it the other day on HBO, he says, I just want to fight Jermain Taylor. He said, Iím ranked number one, I deserve the shot.

I would fight Calzaghe for $10,000. I just want a shot at the world title. And thatís the mentality I have. I donít care. A shot at the world title. How many people get a shot at the world title in this game? And not only a shot at that, I have a shot to be up there with the Jake LaMottaís, with the Italian Americans, if I beat this guy. So this is the shot Iím willing to take. And I trained extremely hard and Iím ready to go. So on April 7th, my guns will be blazing.

CHRIS MANNIX, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Hey, I got a couple questions for Peter. Peter you mentioned early about Freddie Roach not being at camp. How has your training changed, if at all, without Freddie? And how much contact have you had with him since he left for Puerto Rico?

PETER MANFREDO: I really havenít had any contact with him since he left for Puerto Rico. But, my training camp has not changed at all. I was working with Justin Fortune for strength and conditioning before I left for England. I always work with my father for training.

I got away from my house and go to California and get focused on what I have to do. It hasnít made the difference in my career. You know, and Freddieís just strategic and he worked with me for the first few weeks until he had to go.

And, we got the strategy down that we had to get. And when Ray came in, I mean, we all had the same game plan and weíre all on the same page. It kind of bothered me when Freddie had to leave. I didnít understand why he couldnít take one day or one week out of camp and come work my corner.

I still can't figure out to this day. But, what are you going to do? I mean, Iím not going to sit and cry about it. Iím fighting the fight of my life. And Iím the one thatís got to get in there and do it. But training went great. This is the best camp Iíve had, to be honest with you.

CHRIS MANNIX: Did it bother you when you saw him in Israel Vazquezís corner?

PETER MANFREDO: Did it bother me? No. Heís doing what heís doing. Heís going to be in Israel Vazquezís corner. I heard heís going to be in Manny Pacquiaoís corner. And he Manny Pacquiao twice a week and (INAUDIBLE). What can I do? Cry about it?

I mean, this is how the game is. Itís all about the money, itís all about the dollars. Itís all about who they want to be in and thatís how the game is, and Iím not going to worry about it. Iíve got a fight, I worry about one thing, I worry about Joe Calzaghe on April 7th. And thatís it, and how to beat him. I feel Iím going to beat him. Iím going in there to win. Iím not going to be just another opponent.

CHRIS MANNIX: Last thing I want to ask you. Is there a belief in your camp that you need to win this fight by knock out? Or do you think that you can win on points? I guess the veteran like Joe fighting in his own backyard?

PETER MANFREDO: I donít think you go in there looking for a knockout because a knockout will never come. I think itíll be fair here. What are you going to do? I donít think we have any judges from the U.K., to be honest with you. I think we can win. Regardless, Iím going in there knowing I can win.

I donít go in there looking for a knockout. The knockout never comes. Iíve seen Joe go down. I might put him down but heís a champion, heíll get back up. If I knock him out, hey, forget about it. I mean, Iíll be on top of the world. If I donít, can I get a decision? Yes. If Iím the better man that night and everybody sees Iím the better man, itís going to be live on HBO. Thereís going to be 35,000 screaming fans there. Youíll know I won.

TRAE THOMPSON, FT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: This question is for Joe. Obviously people have been talking about all the 35,000 screaming fans there. But for those that have not been to Cardiff, Wales or Millennium Stadium, when itís packed out like this. Can you describe that atmosphere, just kind of, you know, from, you know, that stadium there that youíll be fighting in?

JOE CALZAGHE: Yes. You know, my fans are great supporters. Theyíre ready to go and be in the atmosphere. You know Iíve been to, obviously, not boxing but football and rugby games. And Iíve always had the dream, you know, itís only three minutes from where I live.

Iíve always thought to myself, you know, I looked fight you one day and thankfully, you know, thanks to Frank and everybody are able to put the fight on the Millenniums. So that in itself is fantastic.

I think we all looking forward to it, all the buddies in the gym. You know itís fantastic (INAUDIBLE).

For all the paying fans we talk about, itís all about being a performer at the end of the day. Boxers are performers. I always like to fight my best, always try to make a fight. Iím looking forward to repaying the public, repay the public, repay them by showing them a good night. Itís going to be great; itís going to be incredible.

TRAE THOMPSON: Peter, I donít want you to reveal any gameplans, but what has Ray pointed out to you while heís been advising you.

PETER MANFREDO: I just say with the mental part of game, going in the ring, itís your ring and everything like that and the bottom line is getting in shape. I know, working with Ray with the left, and working with Freddie with the left, getting down the strategy, and we give 100 percent. Weíre getting in shape because Joeís a busy fighter. He comes forward, he throws a dozen punches, not even a dozen to be honest with you, and you know, Iím just physically prepared and Iím going in with all the confidence in the world.

TRAE THOMPSON: Last thing here too, Peter. Obviously they made mention of it being Rayís 20th anniversary of his win over Hagler. What do you remember about that? Do you remember watching it? What stood out to you when you watched that for the first time?

PETER MANFREDO: You know, the first time I watched it, it was a couple of years ago, so, everybody was disputing the decision, ĎHagler won,í ĎHagler won,í ĎHagler won,í so I actually had to sit down and watch it for myself and me and my friend, we sat down with a pen and paper and we judged it for ourselves. And I know a lot of New England fans would get mad at me but Ray Leonard won the fight. In my eyes he just stole rounds, he used his brain to win the fight. It was obviously the smaller man biting the dog.

Ray used his smarts, his experience, and his skills to win in the fight and thatís what champions are made of, so, it kind of gives you an idea what you have to do in a big fight like this to win it. Use your brain.

BRIAN DOOGAN, THE SUNDAY TIMES: Hello Peter. What examples can you give of The Contender and the program, boosting your profile in that regard.

PETER MANFREDO: I think if it wasnít for The Contender that this fight would have never happened. The Contender gave me the star quality where Iím known all over the world and between The Contender and the way I fight.

In my last couple fights, (INAUDIBLE) the rank, and you know, and earn me the shot to get (INAUDIBLE) this fight because, you know, it makes money for Joe, it makes money for me, it makes money for everybody, and it makes for a good fight for the public.

BRIAN DOOGAN: Joe, just for you. I mean, twenty title defenses and continuing to kind of go along, I mean, the mental side of that. What is that like for you in terms of going through the whole process again?

JOE CALZAGHE: Itís the same, itís the same but again today, you know, itís a world title defense but I still get the feeling of excitement. I think both the adrenaline that you need to perform well in the fight. So, like I said, you Iím creating history, (INAUDIBLE) most people would be (INAUDIBLE) and put the pressure on me, which I like. I perform under pressure. I love the pressure and thatís what I like.

I realize, even in this stage of my career what a big fight this is for me and this probably going to be the biggest profile fight for me and the biggest audience obviously.

The fight will be played on HBO, played on (INAUDIBLE) TV, so itís a massive opportunity for me still, even in this stage in my career. Iím still a hungry fighter, and thatís the most important thing. Youíve got a hunger in you and thatís what is essential to succeed.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS: I have a Philadelphia-based question for Frank and for Joe. Bernard Hopkinsí name has been invoked a lot because this being the twentieth defense for Joe, and Hopkins has got a big fight coming up in July with Winky Wright. Obviously he is unretired. If Hopkins takes care of business in that fight, you guys have mentioned Jermain Taylor and Kessler a lot, how high in the pecking order does Hopkins move up as an opponent for Joe if both of you guys wind up taking care of business, and Hopkins looks good against a very good opponent Winky Wright?

FRANK WARREN: OK. Iíll start on that one. First, we actually, many years ago, agreed when Bernard was with Don King, we agreed to terms, but not in The States to fight him. On line at the time was Jay Larkin from Showtime, Bernardís lawyer, everybody agreed to the terms, we all agreed on the telephone. So the fight didnít happen Ė I personally donít see Bernard ever fighting Joe Calzaghe.

I donít think that Bernard fancies the job of fighting Joe Calzaghe. We made him big offers (INAUDIBLE) he started out fantastic, but what Bernard has to understand is that he canít take all the money off the table. This fight for Joe, having done so well against Jeff Lacy (INAUDIBLE) for that, this fight now for Joe, if he does come through the fight with a great performance, itís being that Joe would have fought twice on HBO, live in the afternoon and again right through the evening.

Again, that makes Joe Calzaghe, or puts Joe Calzaghe in a position where he is entitled to receive a decent purse to fight. Make that fight, it would be a record-breaking fight. Again, I think it takes both of them to fight. It would be Joeís 21st defense of the title. Bernard would be fighting Joe to keep him from passing him. With all that said, I donít think Bernard Hopkins would ever fight Joe Calzaghe.

JEFF WALD: I agree with Frank. I think first of all, for boxing, Joe and Peter both are better off fighting Jermain or Kessler. You know, from where we sit Bernard Hopkins is Archie Moore.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ: Thatís not necessarily an insult.

JEFF WALD: Philadelphia, of course.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ: Well, comparing somebody to Archie Moore is not necessarily an insult.

JEFF WALD: No, no, no, itís not an insult, not at all. You know, but I donít think, especially after this fight with the exposure that itís going to get and the kind of press itís been getting. Again, you know, Frank and I both feel this is great for boxing.

This fight and the Oscar De La Hoya fight coming up, the Barrera and Marquez fight the other day. These are the things that boxing needs. This is really good for boxing, and Kessler put on a great fight the other night. Heís also good for boxing. Jermain is good for boxing.

FRANK WARREN: Thatís a bit, here, just, one final thing. Thatís a bit honest, to see, Bernard take on Winky Wright. I think that says it all.

JEFF WALD: Exactly.

FRANK WARREN: I think that actually says where his mind sits. And you canít blame the guy. Heís 42 years of age and I donít blame him but thatís where I think Bernardís mind set is.

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH, WALES ON SUNDAY: Quick question for Ray. How do you plan to beat Joe Calzaghe with regard to the Lacy fight a year ago, where Joe was fighting impeccably. Youíre a strategic planner for Manfredo. Bear to mind Joeís fight against Lacy about 12 months ago, where he fought impeccably, how do you plan for someone like Joe Calzaghe?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Thatís very, very, very difficult question, and in fact that the performance that Joe performed against Jeff Lacy was masterful. There is no way to plan against that. But the fact is Joe is the one who will be fighting Pete Manfredo. Peter will have to do whatís necessary to nullify Joeís offense.

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: Obviously youíve seen the Lacy fight and you said it was masterful. Would you have been proud of a performance like that?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Proud? Extremely. That was, that was A-plus. That performance Ö

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: All right. Ray, obviously I was speaking to Joe, about this. Joe said that he learned by copying your hand speed, when he was training as a kid. Do you see similarities between you and Joe?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Well, the way Joe took apart Jeff Lacy, it reminded me of my performances against Duran and other fighters. The way he uses hand speed and his foot speed to his advantage.

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: Can you blame the likes of Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright for not fighting, a fight with Joe?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Can I blame them?

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: Can you blame them? Obviously, Joeís a dangerous fighter. They know if they fought Joe Calzaghe thereís a distinct possibility that they can be on the wrong end of a decision. Do you blame them for skipping it?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: One thing about fighters, they donít want to go up against anyone that, first of all is a southpaw. And Joe is a very good southpaw, that can fight, that can punch, that can box. Most fighters donít want to toy with it.

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: Obviously youíre an American. Does the American audience, the American boxing public, want to see Joe in America?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Do we want to see Joe in America?

PETE SHUTTLEWORTH: As in come to America, to the States, to Madison Square Gardens or Vegas, and see him, see him over there?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I think this fight here will do wonders for Joeís career, but Iím sure Peter has different, a different story on that.

JEFF WALD: A little bit. I think, I think the American boxing fans wants to see Manfredo bring the championship belt to America, and thatís what Peter Manfredo wants to see happen. So God bless Joe Calzaghe coming to America, but they might be right away, look thereís a rematch close. Maybe itís a great fight for both guys and the rematch takes place in America.

And thatís advantageous to both fighters, I mean, you know, what I admire about Joe, heíll fight anybody anytime, and so will Peter, and thatís what Ray did. Ray didnít care where he fought. You know, part of (INAUDIBLE) Ray fought them and that was it, and thatís what great fighters do. And again, you guys are going to see a great fight, so theyíll be no loser in this fight.

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Real fighters, real champions will fight anywhere, anytime.

SEAN REED, FIGHTBEAT.COM: Joe, to elaborate on the American, fights in America. Is it important to you to have at least one fight in America before you retire, or is that not even something you concern yourself with?

JOE CALZAGHE: It would be nice to fight in America if they pay a lot of money for it, and it would just be nice to (INAUDIBLE) fight in like, (INAUDIBLE) my career, you donít forget a fight in the States, you know.

(INAUDIBLE) most of the top British fighters in history of boxing fight in America and Iíve not done that yet, so you know, it would be nice, definitely, it would be nice to maybe come to Madison Square Garden and (INAUDIBLE) fight, if the right fight could be made, and so on and Ö

SEAN REED: If it doesnít work out, I mean, what Iím asking is, is would you feel, would there be a sense of unfulfillment if you never fought here or, I mean if it doesnít work out it just doesnít work out

JOE CALZAGHE: Iíd say, if it doesnít work out, it doesnít work out. It would be nice to go to America, but my careerís legacy wonít suffer if I donít.

SEAN REED: OK, my last question for you Joe. Are you at all familiar with The Contender series, did you watch it, and what are some of your thoughts on ďThe ContendersĒ impact on the sport of boxing?

JOE CALZAGHE: Yes, I watched The Contender series, and more than the second one, you know, yes, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. Obviously it opens up boxing to the public not just the sports fan.

I enjoyed it, you know. As you can see what The Contender series has done for Peter. Heís got a shot at the World Title, and (INAUDIBLE) take him to another level and open up his visibility to the public. Itís just great to talk to him.

SEAN REED: I can tell by the disappointment in your voice what the answer may be but I want to get it for the record, is Freddie Roachís absence a one-fight thing or are you guys discussing working together in the future or are there no plans at this time to work with him again?

PETER MANFREDO: Man, I donít know. I like Freddy, but, weíll see, I donít know, weíll see what happens. I win the World Title, weíll see, weíll go back, Iíll talk to him, Iíll see what happened. My strength and conditioning coach was supposed to come out here, he missed his flight, he didnít come out here, so now itís like, I donít even feel anxious to go back to the gym, I donít even know, so.

JEFF WALD: At the end of the day, itís Peter and Joe who are in the ring, not Enzo, not Peter Sr. not Ray, not Roach, not anybody. You know, they can just do so much, and Peter has been prepared. Heís been prepared from his father since heís five.

Freddie put some polish on it. Ray has given him another game, and you know, itís a team, itís a team effort. Itís a great, a great corner, but at the end of the day I donít care who it is, when Joe steps into the ring, when Peter steps into the ring, theyíre in there by themselves, a pair of shorts, sneakers and some gloves. Thatís it.

I donít think Freddy Roach should be the issue. You know, from my point of view, as somebody involved I am in the promotion of Peter Manfredo, I think itís horrible what Freddie did. Thatís just a personal opinion

PETER MANFREDO: I wanted to finish the question. Yes, I donít know. Iím just looking for this fight right now and I havenít sit down and discussed it with him or my father yet, or anything like that. I mean, my business not to show up to his gym one day and say, you know, Iím just not going to go and go to someone else. Iím going to sit down and talk with him. Iím a real man. Iím going to talk to him man-to-man, you know get everything straight but as of right now Iím just worried about April 7.

SEAN REED: Peter, I know a lot of your fights have been in the Rhode Island area where youíre clearly the crowd favorite. Do you kind of relish being the bad guy for once, going into the other guyís backyard and, you know, do you relish that at all?

PETER MANFREDO: Yes, it actually feels good, man. Like I said, I have no pressure on me. Iím coming here, Iím going to get booed, you know probably in the beginning or they sing over here I think. They whistle or whatever. I donít even know. And I think by the end of the night, though I think Iím going to turn the crowd over, kind of like Rocky going to Russia, you know. But, itís kind of cool. Iíve got no pressure on me going there fighting the World Champion, whoís expected to kill me and Iíve got a lot of surprises for a lot of people that night.

You know, heís a man just like Iím a man, and I want it as much as he wants it and thatís just got all the makings to be a great fight, so, Iím going in there. I feel great. The best camp Iíve had, like I said in the beginning, so you know, April 7 I think Iím going to shock the world.

FRED STERNBURG: Ray, everyoneís talking about the twentieth anniversary of your victory over Hagler and what a big upset that was and I think Jeff mentioned the odds were something like 20 to one at the time.

Do you see any kind of similarity, any kind of signs in the Manfredo camp that were recognizable to you, that were reminiscent of signs you saw in your own camp leading up to the Hagler fight? A positive sign that indicates the upset could happen again on April 7, just as it did 20 years ago when you fought Hagler?

SUGARY RAY LEONARD: Yes. A major similarity is I heard some of the writers ask Joe Calzaghe whatís next, or ask Frank Warren whatís next, which totally overlooks Peter Manfredo. Same thing was asked about Hagler. ĎHagler, whoís next after Ray?í They gave me no shot whatsoever, and I think thereís such a parallel, itís like deja vu, itís really freaky Fred.

FRED STERNBURG: Before we close the call out, I just want to get a last comment from both fighters. Joe, anything last, any last remarks before we close out the call?

JOE CALZAGHE: Just, feeling great. Looking forward to April the seventh, and then youíll see why Iím Champion for nearly ten years. Because Iím a very good fighter, and Iíve got a lot of respect for him for taking this challenge, and Iím sure heíll be at his best, but you know, Iím ready to, put on a good performance.

PETER MANFREDO: I just want to thank Joe again for the opportunity and Iím ready to go. I trained extremely hard, the longest Iíve been away from my family. I think Iím going to shock the world on April 7. Everybodyís going to see that Iíve got balls the size of cantaloupes, and become the new champion April 7 because, forget about it!

JEFF WALD: I love boxing. Iíve been watching it since Iím eight years old, and I donít like to see the sport start to, you know, giving anything to UFC and the rest of that stuff. Thatís not sport to me, thatís you know, one shot short of the Christians and the Lions and Frank has been involved with great fights. Both of us have been thrilled with the turnout, both for the fans, and with the kind of media turnout that there was today, this is great for us.

FRANK WARREN: Iím looking forward to a great fight. Iím sure these guys are going to put a spectacle on for you. So see you on the seventh.

Article posted on 29.03.2007



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