Manny Pacquiao talks to his strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune (right), at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., during a workout for his 2007 fight with Jorge Solis.
MANILA, Philippines – Never say never in boxing.
Former eight-division world titleholder Manny Pacquiao will once again employ the services of Justin Fortune – the strength and conditioning he worked with for several years – to prepare for his Nov. 24 bout with Brandon Rios at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China.
“Manny called me up, and that was it,” Fortune tells RingTV.com. “He called me up a couple of days ago and said, ‘Hey coach, I want you to come out for this training camp and help me.’ I said ‘OK, not a problem.’ That’s how it started.”
Fortune, who worked with Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 knockouts) from 2001 until his 2007 bout with Jorge Solis, will be replacing Alex Ariza, who replaced Fortune as Pacquiao’s conditioning coach. In another twist, Ariza is now working with Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) at his training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
Veteran reporter Ronnie Nathanielsz confirmed the news after speaking with Pacquiao’s advisor Michael Koncz. Koncz had told reporter Dennis Principe last week that Pacquiao wouldn’t be replacing Ariza.
Fortune says that he spoke with Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach and “settled our differences.” Fortune was dismissed from Pacquiao’s camp amid a dispute with Roach following the Solis bout, which Pacquiao won by knockout in eight rounds.
According to a CBS report, Roach once sued Fortune over an undisclosed debt, but the case was dismissed.
Fortune then went on to open Fortune Gym in Los Angeles in 2008, where he has trained several boxers, including Filipino junior featherweight contender Drian Francisco.
“Now we’re just going to get back into training and do what we used to do, and that’s winning fights,” said Fortune, who says he will be leaving Los Angeles on Friday and arriving in the Philippines on Sunday morning.
Roach, who will be working former three-division world titleholder Miguel Cotto’s corner this Saturday against Delvin Rodriguez in Orlando, Fla., will leave to train Pacquiao shortly after.
Pacquiao, who has split time between his hometown of General Santos City, Philippines and the nation’s capital region of Manila for this camp, is set to begin sparring on Tuesday against unbeaten Ghanaian welterweight Fredrick Lawson at his gym in Manila.
Lawson has a record of 21-0 (19 KOs) and represented his nation in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Rios fight will be Pacquiao’s first since losing to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez last year in a disastrous 2012 campaign. Rios is also coming off of a defeat, having suffered his first loss to Mike Alvarado earlier this year by decision.
“Rios is a capable fighter, I’m not going to take anything from him,” said Fortune. “He does come forward and that plays into Manny’s hands. He’s a formidable opponent, but that’s what he is: An opponent.
“I’m going to get Manny in great shape and Freddie will take care of what Manny does in the ring and that’s it. We’ll get back to what we used to do.”
Photo / Robyn Beck-AFP
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.