By Keith Idec
Peter Manfredo Jr. knows why he’s in Houston.
Matchmakers for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. sought someone for Chavez’s optional middleweight title defense that they’re certain Chavez can beat Saturday night in a 12-round fight that’ll be televised by HBO.
“I feel they picked me because they probably feel this is their best shot to win and defend their title for the first time,” Manfredo said. “And I feel the same way. I think it works hand-in-hand. I feel like he’s my best chance to win a world title. It’s going to make for a good fight.”
Manfredo (37-6, 20 KOs), who’s ranked No. 4 by the WBC, has won six straight fights. Though the 25-year-old Chavez remains undefeated, Manfredo feels he has faced much better competition, most notably Joe Calzaghe, Sakio Bika and Sergio Mora.
“I think he has improved, definitely,” Manfredo, 30, said. “But I feel I’m the better fighter. He hasn’t been in there with anybody like I’ve been in there with. I fought a lot of my big fights at super middleweight, where I didn’t belong. I got a lot of experience through that, but coming back down to middleweight I feel like I’m the biggest fighter he’s fought so far, and the best and strongest. I’m going to prove that I’m the better fighter.”
Manfredo figures he is the hungrier fighter, too.
Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs) grew up the son of a legendary Mexican millionaire, while Manfredo maintains a full-time job as a union laborer for Local 271 in his native Providence, R.I. He was able to take two months off from work to focus on training for what he knows will be his last shot at a world title.
“You can’t do both, especially at this level,” Manfredo said. “But I’ve got three kids and a wife I have to support, so there’s no way I cannot work. That’s why winning this fight is so important to me. I win this fight, I’ll set everybody up for life.”
A former star of NBC’s “The Contender,” Manfredo probably will retire from boxing to pursue a career as a fireman if he cannot conquer Chavez. He is confident, however, that he’ll have to put that plan on hold.
“I’m very relaxed,” Manfredo said. “I’m know I’m a better fighter than this kid. I know I’m in for a war, and I’m actually, call me crazy or call me a fighter or whatever, but I’m actually excited. I can’t wait. I’m very anxious and excited to get in the ring and put on a perfect performance for the fans.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.