PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Everything is different this time for Peter Manfredo Jr.
Heading into his April 7 meeting with World Boxing Organization super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, Manfredo says he is a different fighter than the one that faced Sergio Mora in the finals of the first season of "The Contender."
He has a different mind-set and a different body.
"All the pressure is on [Calzaghe]," said Manfredo after he worked out in front of the local media at Manfredo's Gym on Thursday, one day before he left for Cardiff, Wales, the site of his April 7 title shot. "I have nothing to worry about. When I fought in 'The Contender,' I was supposed to win and I put a lot of pressure on myself."
Manfredo (26-3, 12 knockouts) lost a close decision to Mora in the finals of "The Contender" in May 2005. In the fall of 2005, he dropped another decision to Mora, though many people felt he deserved to win that fight.
Since the second fight with Mora, Manfredo has moved up to super middleweight and scored third-round TKO victories over Scott Pemberton and Joey Spina. Fighting at the heavier weight, Manfredo said, has made a huge difference.
"I've been stronger ever since I've been in this weight class," said Manfredo. "I never made excuses for losing in 'The Contender,' but I was sucking down too much weight. Since I've moved up, I've been at a new level."
Manfredo has spent the last eight weeks training at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing gym in Los Angeles. Roach trained him for the Pemberton and Spina fights. With Roach training Oscar De La Hoya for the May 5 bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manfredo's father, Peter Sr., has resumed most of the training duties, but he has also had some help from former five-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard, whom he met while "The Contender" was being filmed.
"Sugar Ray Leonard is not a trainer," said Manfredo. "He gives me advice. He wants to work my corner and I'm honored that he wants to do it."
Said Peter Sr., "[Leonard] has helped with the mental part. He knows what it's like to be in there."
And when you're in the company of Sugar Ray Leonard, there's no reason to be in awe of Joe Calzaghe.
"I'm not intimidated by Joe Calzaghe," said Manfredo, 26. "I've been doing this since I was 7 years old. Joe Calzaghe is a very good fighter. He's 42-0, but that's mostly in Wales. When he fought Jeff Lacy, Lacy gave up after two rounds and just tried to knock him out. I don't fight like Jeff Lacy. Lacy's called 'Left Hook' Lacy, and with a name like that, you know what to expect from him. I'm more of a boxer."
Manfredo is a 12-to-1 underdog in this fight. He will be fighting on HBO for the first time and he will be fighting in front of the largest live audience he has ever fought in front of, about 30,000 people. He's convinced that he will be ready to take the title home to Providence, R.I.
"I'm so focused on winning," he said. "Then I want a bigger fight."
Does anyone think Manfredo has a chance? I think he will get destroyed by Joe!