Aussie Justin Fortune in Manny Pacquiao’s corner and calling it as it is

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Big show: Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. Photo: AP Big show: Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. Photo: AP
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Justin Fortune with Pacquiao.

Big show: Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. Photo: AP

Big show: Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. Photo: AP

In three weeks’ time Australian Justin Fortune will be in Manny Pacquiao’s corner for the so-called “Greatest Fight in History” but, whenever the former heavyweight hears that phrase, he winces as if he’s been whacked again by one of the heavy blows Lennox Lewis rained upon him in 1995.

“It is the biggest money fight in history,” he said of the May 3 bout against Floyd Mayweather  that’s worth $320million. “But you can’t say it’s the fight of the century until it’s finished and we can rate it. To call it the fight of the century before a punch is thrown does an injustice to tonnes of unbelievable fights. Let’s see the fight, assess it and then call it whatever you like.”

Fortune’s penchant to call things as they are – allied with his insights – has made the 49-year-old an important member of Freddie Roach’s team. He’s vital as Pacquiao’s strength-and-conditioning coach but his blunt assessment of situations must be helping to keep the WBO welterweight champion grounded. “We’re treating it as just a fight, obviously it’s an important fight but ultimately it’s a fight,” Fortune said of the hype.

Before he moved  a few years ago to the US at Roach’s behest, Fortune was a heavy punching boxer and the nation’s 1987 power-lifting champion, who ran a  successful Mexican restaurant.

“I just phoned him one day and asked Fred what was going on and he complained he was too busy with a lot of fighters … and I suggested maybe I should go over and give a hand,” he said. “I was only joking and, when he asked when I could get over, everything snowballed from there. Freddie has so much knowledge, tonnes of it. I’m learning as much as I can.”

Fortune said he had been impressed by the Filipino superstar’s speed and  strength for a long time. “For a man of 37, he is ridiculous,” Fortune said. “He is seriously strong. I was so surprised, I was away from the camp for a few years and I was warming him up and I forgot how hard he punches. Floyd will find he’s never been hit by someone with his speed and power. He’ll have never experienced anyone like Manny. Floyd is not a puncher. He’s fast but not as fast as Pacquiao. He used to be but he’s as sure as hell not now.

“Look, Floyd was pushed into this fight, he didn’t want it. The public demanded it because he can’t call himself the pound-for-pound best in the world and not fight Pacquiao.

“I think Floyd realised it’d haunt him for the rest of his days if he didn’t. He’s worried and he’d be foolish not to be because he has a hell of a lot more to lose. [He’s undefeated] and, while Manny has been beaten by great fighters, he’s come back and beaten them, he’s proven himself. There’s no fear here for Manny but Floyd? Mate, he’s terrified.”

Fortune said he received a great education in the ring when he fought Lewis in Dublin 20 years ago when he had just 15 bouts to his credit. “I learnt from that fight I should have had more fights before I accepted it,” he laughed. “I was asked to fight Michael Moorer  but HBO knocked it back because I hadn’t had that many fights and they thought it didn’t look good for TV. I was offered the Lewis fight, I didn’t care. I jumped in the ring and thought ‘holy hell’ he’s bigger than I thought.”

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