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Justin Fortune: The Man
Who Conditioned Pacquiao

By John Garfield- Published in 2004



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.

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 s