Bradley's win by decision over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012 was controversial for many. While Bradley was and is a worthy opponent, it would seem that in the later rounds of that fight, it could effectively be argued that Pacquiao was at the most breaking Bradley down and at the very least on the road to a draw. However if scorecards can tell little white lies the record books don’t when it comes to posterity and frankly, a win is a win. Of course, cliché for cliché, you are only as good as your last fight and Bradley has been on the rise post 2012 Pacquiao match up with wins against Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2013. Pacquiao’s star has been less bright post 2012. Having been the victim of a startlingly vicious KO delivered in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez in December of 2012, followed by an uncharacteristically strategic rather than explosive win over Brandon Rios in 2013, Pacquiao has been left trying to address nagging rumors that he is no longer the Pacquiao of legend and is on the slow road to decline.
While this reporter believes that Pacquiao's win over Rios was a masterful showing of Pacquiao’s signature versatility in the face of adversity, ultimately the proof in the pudding will be which Pacquiao shows up for Bradley vs. Pacquiao 2 set for April 12, 2014 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Popular logic within team Pacquiao is that Pacquiao is still formidable but in dire need of a return to basics and some old fashioned hardcore training. A large part of this return to basics is the reunion of former strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune, presently of the Fortune Gym in Hollywood, with team Pacquiao.
It is no secret that there has been some drama of late with regard to strength and conditioning coaches and team Pacquiao. Fortune's departure from team Pacquiao was the result of personal differences between Fortune and longtime Pacquiao trainer cum guru Freddie Roach:
Fortune: “We just had shit going on. It was between us and we settled it. When we work together, we don’t lose.”
Whatever Fortune and Roach worked through in order to reunite, it was decidedly tame compared to recent antics involving team Pacquiao and more recent ex strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza. Most everyone who knows anything about Pacland is well acquainted with the video of former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza irking Pacquiao on HBO's 24/7 and more famously kicking Freddie Roach in the chest from his newly minted Rios rival camp during a dispute over gym time. No matter how bad it might ever have been between Fortune and Roach, according to Fortune these sorts of histrionics are simply not in the equation for him in any professional arena that he and Roach would cohabit:
Fortune: “He (Ariza) kicks a guy, and Freddie’s no spring chicken but he can still punch, and then everyone separates them. You’re tough when you’ve got ten people holding you back. If Fred puts one on his chin, it’s all over. If I was standing there and you kick my mate Freddie right in the chest I’m going to fucking destroy you.”
All destruction outside of the ring aside, with regard to how it came to pass that Justin ended up back with team Pacquiao, it was Manny himself who first contacted Fortune for Pacquiao vs. Rios. Unwilling to forgo the unspoken protocol amongst trainers, coaches and managers alike, Justin made sure that Manny and his people squared any offer or suggestion of an offer with Roach first. Ultimately due to passport issues (Fortune is an Australian citizen) Fortune was effectively barred from leaving the country to serve team Pacquiao on the Pacquiao vs. Rios card, which took place in Macau. However once Roach gave the okay, all things were set for Fortune to return for stateside service:
Fortune: “Manny called me for his last fight, but I’m in the middle of being processed. I said, ‘have you called Roach? He’s your trainer.’ He said no. I said, ‘ hang up the phone and call Freddie first and if it’s all right with Fred, it’s all right with me.’ I was happy Manny called me. I was happier to patch things up with Fred. He’s been training since ’92. That’s how long I’ve known him. We’ve lived together and been to England, Australia - we’re all over the joint. You hold a grudge forever and it will just eat you away. We’re good now.”
Now that the proverbial band is back together, Justin is primed to get down to the business of prepping Manny for what is sure to be a tough fight against a fit and dangerous opponent:
Fortune: “I spoke to Manny at the press conference. He needs to go back where we were when me, him and Freddie were together and he was icing people. The old aggressive training. After like 40 50 fights, training gets boring as shit. So the conditioning side of it I’ve got to keep varied. I keep changing stuff all the time.”
If anyone is careful on team Pacquiao not to take Bradley lightly it is Fortune. As a wary admirer of Bradley’s craft as well as the opposing side’s conditioning professional, Fortune is singularly focused on looking to make Pacquiao the better man on the night of April 12th.
Fortune: “I always liked Timothy. You’ve got to respect him as a fighter and an athlete. The guy is a machine and he trains his heart out and he’s got tons of balls. Cause he will fight. He’s also dangerous. He’s very very fit. And to beat fit guys you have to be very very fit. You know if he sits in the pocket with Manny, Manny will destroy him. I don’t think he’s going to do that. He’s going to try to out box Manny. He out boxed Marquez. Marquez is a great fighter.”
With regard to what sort of fighter gives Manny trouble, Fortune makes no bones about it with his rapid-fire answer:
Fortune: “Manny gives Manny trouble. Fighters don’t give him trouble. If Manny doesn’t prepare well for a fight, Manny gives himself trouble. If Manny prepares 100 percent for a fight, no one gives him trouble. Fred thinks (Bradley) is shot after the Provodnikov fight because he took one hell of a beating. But it’s not a risk you’re willing to take. If he’s shot, we’ll rip right through him. If he’s not, were ready for what happens.”
Pacquiao is back in the Fortune Business.
by Kylie Krabbe
Justin Fortune at Fortune Gym