Justin Fortune: The man that conditioned Pacquiao
14.01.04 - By John Garfield: A fighter like Manny Pacquiao comes to just the right point in his training and physical perfection to do what he did to Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao came from the small island of Mindanao in the Philippines with an intense fighting spirit, great hand speed and power.
Article posted on 14.01.2004
But the sharp sword that he was had to be tempered just so for that night. Sharpened too finely, and the edge would be lost. Not enough was unthinkable. Nothing less than perfection would do against a great champion like Barrera.
Freddie Roach works on the master plan, the strategies; he's the battlefield general. It's up to Justin Fortune, his conditioning coach, to forge Pacquiao into the slashing blade that will cut tirelessly. But to hammer out such a weapon, steel must be worked beyond endurance. And, Fortune pushes fighters beyond where they thought they could go.
Fortune is a 5' 9" former Aussie powerlifting record holder and bouncer who fought Lennox Lewis in his 12th fight, and has the temperament and political correctness of Bobby Knight. He'd be the guy below decks on a galley pushing the shackled oarsmen to "ATTACK SPEED!" around the clock, and on their day off, announce: "The Captain wants to go waterskiing."
You may not like what he has to say, but there's no misunderstanding him.
Q: How did you get Manny in the shape he was? One of the knocks on him has always been his stamina.
JF: Brought him back to the shape all fighters used to be. Fighters these days got fuck'n lazy. Too much money, and they're just lazy. Fighters used to fight in Manny's condition, so we took him back.
Q: What kind of regime did you put him through?
JF: Whatever he did in the ring, sparring and stuff, we did twice as much outside the ring-floor work, stomach, a whole range of different exercises, just to put him in condition so he could come out in the 12th round like it was the first round. He was in great shape--no doubt about it--but you need an athlete who's really dedicated and is willing to go through that sort of pain and suffering to achieve his goal. He did it...That's why he won.
Q: What's the key to getting a guy in shape?
JF: Nothing is ever the same. They never ever get used to anything we do. The body is constantly being shocked with different exercises. That's boxing. Guy wants to tear your head off standing in the other corner. So, you gotta be ready. That's what we do. We make them ready.
Q: How do you deal with lazy or reluctant fighters?
JF: I don't! I don't deal with them. If they're not willing to put in the work, then don't waste my fuck'n time and I won't waste theirs. I got no interest in them. I don't chase a fighter. You know, we work with Freddie's fighters and they see the benefits of that work. And if I get a fighter that doesn't want to do it-FUCK'EM! There's plenty of other fighters I can put my time and effort into. They don't want to do it, I tell them once-probably, ask them twice-third time: Never! Ever! If you don't do it, PISS OFF!
Q: What are you picking up from Freddie?
JF: I pick up a lot of stuff off Freddie. I have a lot to learn off Roach. He sees things differently then what I see in the ring. I see something, Fred will say, "No, no, look at this." It's totally different than what I saw. I go, "OK, I didn't see it." I'm learning ring craft off Freddie, and strategy--which is very important. Conditioning, I have. Strategy is what I have to learn off Freddie. I have a lot more to learn. I'm only start'n. Fred's got like a 20-year jump on me. It's great work'n with him. I'm just hungry for knowledge, and he's the one I can pick it up off. He's got great fighters. Great gym. I'm very lucky.
Q: You were half a world away; what made you come to Wild Card?
JF: Virgil Hill fought in Australia. He hooked me up with Freddie. He trained me. Freddie is a good mate of mine and the best trainer in the world...and I'd rather be with my mates.
Q: What was it like fighting in Australia?
JF: I fought in the Enmore Theater in Sydney. The promoter was a junkie. Instead of putting on a feed at the weigh-in...the way everyone else does, they had a strip show..and a fuck'n sex act. The ring girls were whores and they just peeled-off all their clothes. Girls were fighting with their boyfriends for staring at the girls--unbelievable! It brought boxing back 100 years! At the end of the fight, my check bounced and I got the promoter by the throat. It's comical.
The promoter used to take the deposits, payments, sponsor's money and go home... give his wife a slapp'n around. She'd call the cops. He'd get locked up...He'd have an excuse not to return any money. He was priceless!
Q: Do you see different things now than you did as a fighter?
JF: Oh, Yeah! You see everything. As a fighter, you only see the guy in front of you. You're very limited in what you can see. From the outside, you see weaknesses and strengths.
Q: How much of defense is setting traps? Or is it just reflexes?
JF: To a certain extent, it's reflexes; but it's more about the strategy of making the fighter do what you want him to do...It's controlling the ring and controlling the fight.
You do that with feints, movement-to set up punches. Some combinations will make him move into another combination. There's a whole range of things I'm learning off Fred.
Q: A great many fight fans judge fighters and their place in history by losses. How do you feel?
JF: You're as good as your last fight, that's it. You fight 20 fights and then you lose a fight. And, that's what fans see.
Morrison had a lot of great wins. But the fight they always judge him by was when he was beaten by Mercer. They continue to re-emphasis that fact. He got a good beat'n off Mercer. That wasn't his only fuck'n fight. Fighters have bad days and bad fuck'n fights. It happens to every fuck'n sportsman. You can't be a winner 100% of the time, especially at the high level that these guys are. It's impossible. They'll more readily accept that in other sports than boxing. They're more brutal and judgmental on boxers than anything else.
When I fought Lennox Lewis, the English press absolutely murdered me. I don't give a shit. It doesn't bother me. The English press, they crucify their own fuck'n people, their own fighters. They crucify everybody. The world knows that.
Anyone can get knocked out if you get hit on the button. Anyone can knock anyone out. You're supposed to go in and fight for your life, and that's it. You can't have a bad day, or they crucify you. After you cop a beat'n, the last thing you want to hear is a whole bunch of fuck'n armchair sportsmen telling you how bad you were. You know how bad you were. You were the one that got beat'n up, for fuck's sake. Give'm a break.
People that have a go at a fighter are people that only dream--or wish--they could fuck'n do what a fighter's doin'. Simple as that.
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