When the call came to
handle the strength and conditioning duties for Manny Pacquiao before he faced Brandon
Rios fight last November, Justin Fortune was couldn’t fully answer. He runs the
Fortune Gym in Hollywood, CA and simply could not up and leave his business and
go to Macao, China on a few days notice.
But the call and
message were clear.
“He wants to want to
get back to where he was,” said Fortune.
And so with this camp,
Fortune is back with Pacquiao and reunited with head coach Freddie Roach to
face WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley on April 12. But can a 35-year-old
fighter, a veteran champion of 62 fights, 383 rounds and three knockout losses return
“I think you can take them there,” said Fortune. “I think
‘Take him there but back to where he was’ encompasses everything, not just the
training aspects of it but all. Because now it's a good team, a good crew and
there's no poison in the camp.”
By “poison,” Fortune is referring to one Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s
former strength coach, who had alienated both Roach and various members of
Pacquiao's team. It had become a distraction that ultimately led to Ariza being
dismissed before the fight with Rios.
“To get the best performance out of your fighter, he's got
to be having fun and happy. He's training hard; he jokes around, has a good
time. You work hard; keep shocking your system and enjoy it. I think this stage
because he's got tons of experience. He's extremely fit; he came in really good
shape, so now we are doing explosive, fast-twitch muscle fiber-building stuff
and it awakens him.
Fortune said he felt Top Rank Promotions and Company
brought Pacquiao back wisely against Rios.
“Rios was good confidence builder,” said Fortune. “I
think Manny could have knocked him out but he put in a good performance. I
think he wanted to punch out for like 12 rounds, shake off the rust.”
At Pacquiao’s age, other than reigniting his old fire or
returning to his winning ways, I asked Fortune if “Pac-Man” could learn new
tricks and if he sees anything new from the last time they worked together in
“He's learned a hell of a lot, said Fortune. “It's
on-the-job training for Manny. He makes adjustments with each fighter. After
40-on fights, you've been around, seen different things but you always learn,
work on techniques and tactics.”
Pacquiao is something of a gamer in that during sparring,
he doesn’t seem to be in high gear. He works on moves or ideas. When the bell
rings, it all comes together.
“For someone like Pacquiao and everyone else of that
level, it’s just a matter of bringing your targeting in. At his age, you don't
have to go to war every day. You want to get into your body, you know,
different weapons, tactics. What's working? What's not working? And get your
targeting. That way, you get your rounds in and you're ready to go to war.”
Tim Bradley, Fortune sees an all-around fighter who forces his opponents to be
“Timothy is a nice guy. You can't say anything bad about
him,” said Fortune. “He is someone you have to come to fight well-prepared.”
This fight was supposed to be VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping
Association)-tested but instead, only Bradley is doing the testing, leaving
Pacquiao to do testing conducted by the state of Nevada.
“People cast aspersions whichever way it goes,” said
As for what Pacquiao has left, Fortune thinks there is
enough to not only beat Bradley but get Pacquiao back to where he is in the public
trust before Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out in late 2012.
“Remember, when you got speed and power, Provodnikov had
power but when you combine that with speed, that's how people get knocked the
f*ck out,” said Fortune of his fighter's abilities, adding, “Whatever Pacquiao
is, he is still a speedy fighter. Everyone always says they came prepared.
Really? Then they start jabbing with him and it’s like, ‘Oh sh*t. This guy is
quick.’ It is very, very difficult to prepare for someone like Manny because
it's hard to find sparring partners with speed.”
The fight is two
weeks away but the shape Pacquiao is in, a pound or so above the limit, speaks
to how prepared he is.
Finally, I asked Fortune what Pacquiao needed to do to change the first fight's
outcome, a 12 round decision in Bradley's favor.
“Well, he changed
it,” laughed Fortune. “He changed the camp around, so now it's a whole new ball
game. When your athlete is having fun and happy, he performs a 110% better - in
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