Justin Fortune Takes No Prisoners
15.01.04 - By John Garfield, courtesy of Fightworld.us: There's nothing so direct as a smack in the mouth, and that's how Justin Fortune, the former Australian, Marciano-sized, heavyweight, and now conditioning coach for Freddie Roach, speaks. Right between the eyes! He knows that professional fighting is not about the glitzy package that's presented on pay-per-view or the media-comfortable toothpaste ads that put a lump in your throat talking about motherhood and the American flag.
Article posted on 14.01.2004
Like James Toney or Charles Barkley, when Fortune speaks, you know he doesn't suffer fools easily. He has as little use for fighters without a work ethic as he has for political correctness. He'd be the first to tell you there was no Easter Bunny... He speaks his mind-in your face--and it's a breath of fresh air to hear fighting-for-pay has nothing to do with the Marquis of Queensberry.
Fortune's world is not the Hollywood version. It all happens in cinderblock sweatshops with thatched-together, rotting wood and the smell of mildew. He builds hard men--with a take-no-prisoner's approach--to survive and win-any way they can--fighting for prize money.
In a break at the Wild Card Gym, we spoke. If "old school" had a sound, this would be it.
Q: What impresses you about James Toney?
JF: James can take a helluva shot, and he can box his ass off. His boxing skills are unbelievable. He's a stubborn prick. No one's gonna knock him out, fuck it! He has a good attitude. He does come to fight. He doesn't duck and weave and avoid fighters. The muthafucker will fight anybody!
Q: What fighters did you admire when you were growing up?
JF: My fighters are old school. All the old guys. I appreciated their fitness, just the sheer grit and tenacity of them.
I was a heavyweight. I don't really watch heavyweights anymore. They're boring...and with about 90% of the population. Heavyweights throw like one-two-three punches and grab and clinch and grab and clinch. Exciting heavyweights: When Mike Tyson was coming up and getting the damn title. He was very exciting.
Q: What are your recollections of boxing in Australia?
JF: The promoters were colorful. We had some good fighters then, too. My third or fourth pro fight was a title fight-so, you don't really get much time to build a record like they do over here, because there's not that many fighters...So, they sort of jump in at the deep end-sink or swim. If you swim, great! If you don't, you're fuck'n out.
Q: Ever had a situation carry over into the street for you?
JF: Doesn't happen a lot. You box every single day, and you fight that night. What's the point of tak'n it to the street? I did have one when I was on Kostya Tszyu's undercard. I fought a big, friggin', Kiwi monster. We beat the shit out of each other for ten rounds-beat the crap out of each other! Both our heads looked like pumpkins.
When we're changing, he says, 'Hey, bro, let's go get a beer down the pub, heh?' I says, 'You look in the fuck'n mirror? Cause, I'm not going anywhere. I look worse than you' I won the unanimous points decision. He was fuck'n mad. Sure enough, he wound up in jail for wack'n somebody. So, for sure, he would have jugged me in the pub. I have no doubt in my mind, whatsoever. Because he was in a bad mood, a few drinks under his belt, a look in the mirror across the bar-"MUTHAFUCKER!..."
Fuck that shit-plus, I looked like the Elephant Man-fuck that! Go out in public? Kids 'd be cry'n and scream'n. No! Pass!
Q: Was Jeff Fenech as intense out of the ring?
JF: I was with Fenech and Johnny Lewis in Sydney. They were great practical jokers. Their gym was a card. You'd be getting ready to spar, and they'd lace one glove up to the ropes. One would keep you distracted and you didn't realize the other one was lac'n your gloves to the ropes. You look like a fuck'n imbecile when you try to take off to fight. With Fenech, it could be bloody anything-any sort of trick. Anything to get a laugh.
Q: We're almost the same height, and you fought monsters. What made you feel like you wanted to compete against guys that size?
JF: I love the competition. The fight'ns never been a problem. I never worried about it. It's a lot more difficult for them to fight a short guy than for me to fight a tall guy. They can't judge distance, and if you start moving and use angles, they just don't know where the hell you are...plus they're big and fuck'n slow and lazy.
The heavyweights, they used to be 220-230's, like Ali and Foreman. Not like 260's and 270's. Example: Kirk Johnson, 265, fighting Klitschko. It's embarrassing for him!...let alone, watching it. It's a fuck'n joke. C'mon, get in shape! Do your fuck'n sport proud. You get great money. The least you can do is get in shape and put on a fight.
Q: Some guys come into the gym-all muscles-and think they're going to wipe everybody out and be the heavyweight champion tomorrow. Can you think of any situations like that?
JF: In Australia, and here, as well. For some reason, these guys grow big balls and come to a boxing gym looking for a fight. I mean, obviously, somebody in a fuck'n boxing gym is gonna be able to fight.
It's territorial. It's our gym. If you want to work, then we'll work with you. If you don't, then we'll fuck you up. Then we'll throw anyone in there that can fuck you up. But, if you want to come in and be a good boy and work well, I'll help you till the cows come home. Want to be an asshole; you get knocked out. It's simple. Not hard. Not rocket science.
Q: You fought Lennox Lewis, but you mentioned to me that Dennis Andries hit you the hardest. What were the circumstances?
JF: We were just sparring. We used to work in the same gym in London. Dennis hit me with a fuck'n shot; it was just unbelievable! Next round, I put his teeth through his lip. But, Jesus, he hit me the hardest I've ever been hit. Fuck'n, it was with a headgear on and 16-ounce gloves. So, I have a whole new respect for Jeff Harding, because Harding fought him with ten's and went three times 12 rounds.
Q: When you took that shot from Andries, what did you find out about yourself?
JF: Noth'n. It was just a fuck'n good shot. Then I got pissed and give it to him the next round. It was the first time I was hit like that...to that extent. I thought, "That's what it's like!" OK, then you just shrug it off and say, "great shot " and go back to work. It didn't wobble me. It just put tingles down my bloody toes and stuff.
Q: When somebody hits you a low blow, do you lose your composure?
JF: That's why they hit you in the nuts, so it throws you off your game plan. Yeah, it hurts. That's the whole reason you do it. Someone's beat'n the crap outta me, and I can't get past his game plan, or can't find a way in, sure, I'll hit him fair square in the balls, and throw him right off his game plan, and frustrate the shit outta him, because then he gets mad and wants to take my head off. A mad fighter is a bad fighter. Cause they don't think. So, yeah, that's why it's done. So, CRACK! It fuck'n hurts, too. The family jewels. It's a poor family, but it's the only one I got.
Q: Have you ever been in a fight where there were deliberate fouls on both sides?
JF: A lot. It's the fight game! Oh, my God, he head-butted him. Dude, oh, my God, he used an elbow. It's the fight game, for Christ's sake! You're a fighter. What do you want? No Marquis of Queensberry rules. You do whatever you have to do to win. Money is at stake. Within the rules, if you can get away with it--a dirty shot here or there--fuck'n get away with it.
Q: Beside the deliberate fouls that most fans are aware of, what are the ones they might not see?
JF: When gett'n 'em in clinches, twisting their arms up. When you're in a clinch, really tight, shoulder him off and throw a right hand over the top. Lots of little tricks. Fenech was a great one for locking his feet up behind someone to frustrate and trip him up. It's a fight; you're not gonna make it easy for him. So, fuck it, let's fight! That's what you're there for.
The most blatant one that really pisses me off was Danny Green when he fought in Germany for the middleweight title. Green was winning. He beat the crap out of this kid; then, all of a sudden, he does this fuck'n head butt in the fourth or fifth round. The head butt didn't open any cut any worse. The cut was opened by punches, but it looked--it was a deliberate head butt-and it was the only excuse those Germans needed to fuck'n call the fight to keep their boy the champion.
Green's corner should have said: You're winning the fight; they'll stop it. He does this stupid fuck'n head butt, and that's it; he lost himself a world title. Now he gets tagged as a dirty fighter, and a strong fuck. Strong and good, but he's dirty. So, no one's gonna take a risk. We label you a dirty fighter, because the rest of the fuck'n world saw it. Damn shame, too, cause he's a good kid, and he can fight.
Q: Even though he was cold cocked early by Shane Mosley, I've always been impressed with Shannon Taylor. What can you tell me about him?
JF: Shannon won a third title not long ago. Son of a bitch! He got cracked and he showed massive, massive heart. He's a tough kid, and he got back up again...He didn't know where the fuck he was. He went: "Where the fuck am I?" He can punch. He's aggressive, and he's a fuck'n good fighter. He'll be up there.
Q: Have you ever been in this situation: where somebody you're with deliberately starts trouble, sure that you're going to back him up?
JF: Plenty of those-plenty! I pull them aside. I say, 'Listen, dickhead, you picked the fight; you finish the fight. Cause, if you're a smart mouth, then you gotta finish it. We ain't back'n your ass up. Here's my point: You want to be a tough guy because you got backup; then you better get out of the fuck'n fight. If you can't, you'll get beat up...and we'll get a show.
Q: What do you think of guys doing trash talking?
JF: To a certain extent, it's part of the game. You can trash talk someone, but it gets low when they start involving, like, relatives, their wives, and their mum's. Jesus, all mum did is give birth to the prick. Don't make it too personal; the mutherfucker may take it out on you in the ring.
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