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Trouble brews at Team Pacquiao

Justine Fortune (left) with Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach and Buboy Fernandez at the Wild Card Gym.

IT looks like Manny Pacquiao didn’t only lose a fight in Las Vegas a fortnight ago, he also lost a team.

“I can’t work with Freddie [Roach] anymore, he keeps blaming me,” Pacquiao’s long-time strength and conditioning trainer Justin Fortune told BusinessMirror on Wednesday. “He always blames somebody else…he never takes responsibility.”

Fortune said that he finally burned bridges with renowned boxing coach and trainer Freddie Roach after Pacquiao lost to World Boxing Association welterweight world champion Yordenis Ugás at the T-Mobile Arena.

Pacquiao was obviously way below his usual 100 percent form against Ugás. The former eight-division champion couldn’t unleash a solid punch and his cat-quick lateral movement was absent and blamed cramps as the culprit.

“I was blamed for the cramps and tightness suffered by Pacquiao in the early rounds of the bout because of him being overtrained a few days before the fight night,” said Fortune, considered a legendary coach from Perth, Australia, who also boxed professionally as a heavy weight and was once a powerlifter.

Fortune also counterpunched Roach’s decision to let Pacquiao face two southpaws in the last six sparring sessions “knowing they were already fighting an orthodox guy since August 10.”

He also described as long and unnecessary for Pacquiao to undergo seven minutes of warmup and stretching before the fight.

“No athlete ever lets anybody touch him before a competition,” he said. “Those were never done before.”

Fortune also denied that he allowed Pacquiao to run the hills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, saying he approved of a “mere jog or walk for three days on flat and three days on the hills” prior to departure to Las Vegas.

But he admitted the sprints Pacquiao took at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas a day before the weigh-in was a mistake.

“Sprint in the end, that’s crazy. It’s Manny being Manny,” he said. “We should not have done that, it’s a mistake.”

Fortune said that if ever Pacquiao and Ugás agree to a rematch, he is willing to work with head trainer Buboy Fernandez, the senator’s closest friend.

After Pacquiao suffered a controversial loss to Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane in July 2017, he fought and beat WBA welterweight regular champion Lucas Matthysse of Argentina via a seventh round technical knockout win in July 2018 at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur without Roach in his corner and Fernandez taking over as head coach.

Roach returned to Pacquiao’s corner as fight consultant in January 2019 resulting to victories over Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman.

“Me, Manny and Buboy [Fernandez] trained together, we had a lot of fun and trained really hard then we got this first knockout [Matthysse] after nine years, then we’re on a roll,” Fortune said.

Pacquiao’s last knockout victory before the Argentine came in November 2009 at the expense of Miguel Cotto (12th round TKO).

Pacquiao has earlier clarified that Roach will always be part of his family, noting that his absence in Malaysia was only because of travel concerns and nothing else.

Asked if he’ll be return to Pacquiao’s corner, Fortune said: “Yes, he’s my friend. We have known each other for 20 years.”

Fortune worked with Pacquiao from 2001 to 2007, but a reported money issue involving Roach caused their split. Fortune, a cancer survivor, returned to Roach and Pacquiao in 2014 for the Brandon Rios fight, replacing former conditioning coach Alex Ariza.

BusinessMirror tried to get Roach’s but he was unreachable.

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