But the call and message were clear.
“He wants to want to get back to where he was,” said Fortune.
And so with this camp, Fortune is back with Pacquiao and reunited with head coach Freddie Roach to face WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley on April 12. But can a 35-year-old fighter, a veteran champion of 62 fights, 383 rounds and three knockout losses return to form?
“I think you can take them there,” said Fortune. “I think ‘Take him there but back to where he was’ encompasses everything, not just the training aspects of it but all. Because now it’s a good team, a good crew and there’s no poison in the camp.”
By “poison,” Fortune is referring to one Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s former strength coach, who had alienated both Roach and various members of Pacquiao’s team. It had become a distraction that ultimately led to Ariza being dismissed before the fight with Rios.
“To get the best performance out of your fighter, he’s got to be having fun and happy. He’s training hard; he jokes around, has a good time. You work hard; keep shocking your system and enjoy it. I think this stage because he’s got tons of experience. He’s extremely fit; he came in really good shape, so now we are doing explosive, fast-twitch muscle fiber-building stuff and it awakens him.
Fortune said he felt Top Rank Promotions and Company brought Pacquiao back wisely against Rios.
“Rios was good confidence builder,” said Fortune. “I think Manny could have knocked him out but he put in a good performance. I think he wanted to punch out for like 12 rounds, shake off the rust.”
At Pacquiao’s age, other than reigniting his old fire or returning to his winning ways, I asked Fortune if “Pac-Man” could learn new tricks and if he sees anything new from the last time they worked together in 2007.
“He’s learned a hell of a lot, said Fortune. “It’s on-the-job training for Manny. He makes adjustments with each fighter. After 40-on fights, you’ve been around, seen different things but you always learn, work on techniques and tactics.”
Pacquiao is something of a gamer in that during sparring, he doesn’t seem to be in high gear. He works on moves or ideas. When the bell rings, it all comes together.
“For someone like Pacquiao and everyone else of that level, it’s just a matter of bringing your targeting in. At his age, you don’t have to go to war every day. You want to get into your body, you know, different weapons, tactics. What’s working? What’s not working? And get your targeting. That way, you get your rounds in and you’re ready to go to war.”
In Tim Bradley, Fortune sees an all-around fighter who forces his opponents to be fully prepared.
“Timothy is a nice guy. You can’t say anything bad about him,” said Fortune. “He is someone you have to come to fight well-prepared.”
This fight was supposed to be VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association)-tested but instead, only Bradley is doing the testing, leaving Pacquiao to do testing conducted by the state of Nevada.
“People cast aspersions whichever way it goes,” said Fortune.
As for what Pacquiao has left, Fortune thinks there is enough to not only beat Bradley but get Pacquiao back to where he is in the public trust before Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out in late 2012.
“Remember, when you got speed and power, Provodnikov had power but when you combine that with speed, that’s how people get knocked the f*ck out,” said Fortune of his fighter’s abilities, adding, “Whatever Pacquiao is, he is still a speedy fighter. Everyone always says they came prepared. Really? Then they start jabbing with him and it’s like, ‘Oh sh*t. This guy is quick.’ It is very, very difficult to prepare for someone like Manny because it’s hard to find sparring partners with speed.”
The fight is two weeks away but the shape Pacquiao is in, a pound or so above the limit, speaks to how prepared he is.
Finally, I asked Fortune what Pacquiao needed to do to change the first fight’s outcome, a 12 round decision in Bradley’s favor.
“Well, he changed it,” laughed Fortune. “He changed the camp around, so now it’s a whole new ball game. When your athlete is having fun and happy, he performs a 110% better - in any sport.”