Broner’s fate up to Manny

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Australian strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune is confident that if WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao is in the right frame of mind and wants it, he can stop challenger Adrien Broner in their scheduled 12-round title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Jan. 19.

If Pacquiao scores a knockout, he’ll be the first to halt Broner who has lost only thrice in his career, all on points. An abbreviated win for Pacquiao will mean his second straight inside the distance, coming on the heels of his seventh round disposal of Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse to wrest the WBA crown in Kuala Lumpur last July. The knockout over Matthysse was Pacquiao’s first in nine years.

Fortune’s job is to get Pacquiao ready for Broner.   Fortune was in the country for nearly a month to work with Pacquiao before flying to Los Angeles and resuming the regimen at the Wild Card Gym.  The plan was for Pacquiao to slowly build up to 12 rounds of sparring then taper off three weeks before the fight. He’s right on schedule.

For the Broner fight, Pacquiao has reunited Fortune and Buboy Fernandez with Freddie Roach. “It’s up to Manny how to fit Freddie in,” says Fortune. “Buboy and I understand each other. It’s no problem if Manny wants Buboy to be the man in the middle in between rounds. Buboy’s been doing much of the talking in the past anyway. It’s Manny’s call and we’ll do what he wants.”

Fortune says the biggest loser in the Pacquiao sweepstakes is Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “I honestly think Bob wanted Manny to win over (Jeff) Horn because his idea was to get Manny to fight (Terence) Crawford,” he says. “When Horn won, Arum put up the fight against Crawford and I think he lost about $4 Million in that promotion. Against Broner, everybody knows Manny’s the payday, not Broner. The word is Broner was signed to a $50 Million, five-fight deal by (Al) Haymon but that depends on whether he keeps winning. The contract’s no good once he loses.”

Fortune says Pacquiao’s power will make the difference. “Broner will try to do his thing until he gets hurt,” he says. “That’s how it is with guys who fight Manny. Of course, you can’t underestimate Broner. But once Manny wins, who does he fight next? You’ll never know with (Floyd) Mayweather. If Manny demolishes Broner, Mayweather might just back off and keep his perfect record rather than risk losing. There will be a lot of money on the table so maybe, Mayweather won’t turn away. There’s Errol Spence who’s defending his IBF welterweight title against Mikey Garcia in March. I think Spence will kill Garcia. It’ll be a case of a good big man beating a good little man. Then, there’s Keith Thurman, the super WBA champion. He hasn’t fought in almost two years because of an elbow problem but he’s coming back to fight (Josesito) Lopez on Jan. 26.”

Fortune says at the moment, he manages only two fighters, lightweight George Kambosos of Australia and heavyweight James Wilson of Los Angeles. Kambosos 25, has a 15-0 record, with 9 KOs while Wilson, 32, totes a slate of 7-0, with 6 KOs. Kambosos was signed as Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner in training for Broner. “I don’t work with too many pros,” he says. “In my gym which I manage with my wife Tamara, we’ve got more than enough people to handle – about 400, some fighters, celebrities, mostly fitness guys. My wife and I like to spend time with our 16-month-old twins. Right now, our gym is on a month-to-month lease contract because developers are taking over the block. Eventually, we might relocate to Denver, which is close to the Olympic training camp. I foresee a lot of interest among people who want to be fit in Denver.”

Not too many know that Fortune is a trained chef who apprenticed in a Sydney restaurant when he was only 15. He later ran a restaurant for 4 1/2 years before deciding to become a full-time boxing trainer. One of his friends is Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone who owns the popular Los Angeles restaurants Gwen and Maude. Stone works out in Fortune’s gym and even made the trip to Kuala Lumpur to watch Pacquiao’s fight against Matthysse.

Another little-known fact about Fortune is he is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with throat and neck Stage 4 cancer in 2014, six months after getting married to Tamara. Fortune preserved his sperm before undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Now, Fortune is clear of cancer, the father of twins and Pacquiao’s trusted strength and conditioning coach. What makes Fortune special to Pacquiao is not only his knowledge of the job but also his sensitivity to the champion. Fortune knows when to rein in, turn on the heat and push. The goal is to get Pacquiao mentally and physically prepared to battle for 12 rounds in every fight, not to burn him out in the gym. Fortune is an expert at doing just that.

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