LOS ANGELES – Boxing trainer Justin Fortune said the other day the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight is too close to call but even as he saw it 50-50, gave himself away by declaring it will end in a knockout and the Mexican couldn’t stop the Filipino ring icon.
Fortune, 47, worked as Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach under trainer Freddie Roach for six years, ending in the knockout over Jorge Solis in San Antonio in 2007. He had a bitter parting of ways with Roach over money and both sued each other. Now, Fortune operates his own sweatshop on Sunset Boulevard, about a 15-minute drive to the Wild Card Gym.
“Of course, I miss Manny, he’s a friend,” said Fortune whose claim to fame as a fighter was once battling Lennox Lewis in Dublin in 1995. “I’d love to work with him again but I don’t think Freddie will like it. Before the (Timothy) Bradley fight, Freddie’s lawyer Nick Khan asked if I could rejoin the team. But Freddie will never allow Manny to train in my gym and I’ll never go to Wild Card. I’m not even sure if Freddie knew that Nick talked to me. I’ve known Freddie since 1992 – he trained me as a fighter. I know him better than anyone.”
Fortune said he’s saddened by rumors that there is a lot of infighting in Pacquiao’s camp. “I heard he’s got a chaotic corner, guys not liking each other,” said Fortune. “I don’t know if that will affect Manny’s performance but Manny has to be in control of his team. He can’t allow a situation where some guys in his team hate each other’s guts. You look at Marquez’ corner with (Nacho) Beristain who’s very calm. That’s what Manny will be up against.”
Fortune described Marquez as a consummate boxer. “He can get hurt but he’s able to rally,” said Fortune. “He has the ability to adjust during a fight. But I don’t think Marquez has the power to knock out Manny. Although I’m calling it 50-50, I’m hoping Manny wins. If it goes the distance, I’m not sure if the judges will give Manny the benefit of the doubt again because they did in the first three fights. One guy is going to get knocked out and I’m praying it’s not Manny.”
Fortune recently worked Filipino Drian Francisco’s corner when he halted Mexico’s Javier Gallo in the fifth round at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Francisco is one of four fighters under Fortune’s watch. The others are Japanese welterweight Kai Zama, Australian lightweight Michael Katsidis who once decked Marquez in a 2010 bout and Armenian lightmiddleweight Vito Gasparyan whose record is 14-2-5, with 8 KOs. Fortune also trains several mixed martial arts fighters, including Brazilian lightheavyweight Babalu Sobral and heavyweight Brendan (The Hybrid) Shaub. His gym is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with Fortune personally supervising workouts.
Fortune said Francisco, 30, will become a world champion sooner or later. “He’s tough at 118,” said Fortune. “I would’ve liked him to challenge (WBA superbantamweight champion Guillermo) Rigondeax. I think Drian would’ve knocked him out. Rigondeaux is a party guy, loves to stay out late, drinks and smokes. They almost finalized the fight then Rigondeaux backed out. Drian hits really hard. He’s wild when throwing punches but it’s not necessarily a disadvantage. Opponents know how hard he hits and they’re always on the defensive because Drian is so wild that he could hit you if you’re not careful. I’d like for Drian to come back to LA and train so we can make some minor adjustments in how he fights. We’ll work on his style and defense. His problem is if he fights someone who bangs like him. But at his weight division, I think he’s the hardest puncher.”