JUSTIN Fortune has been around the game long enough to know that every fighter has a punchers chance.
The former state and regional titleholder, who now calls Los Angeles home, is best known for his strength and conditioning work with future first ballot Hall of Famer and multiple division world champion, Manny Pacquiao.
But on Thursday night at the Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, Fortune is hoping for some luck of his own.
Fortune and his protégé Solomon Haumono (24-2-2, 21 KOs) will look to spring one of the biggest upsets of the calendar year when they challenge undefeated heavyweight prospect and the heavily favoured Joseph Parker.
Parker (19-0, 16 KOs) is seen by most pundits as the best heavyweight prospect not named Anthony Joshua, which is ironic as Parker has a looming date with the IBF heavyweight titleholder, providing he gets past Haumono.
But in boxing, and in particular heavyweight boxing, it only takes one punch, which Fortune was quick to reiterate.
“He’s got a good chin, but he’s never really been tested,” said Fortune in an interview with Aus-Boxing. “There are a lot of fighters out there with great chins – but when someone hits you on the button – it’s over.”
“Joseph is young and he’s got skills, youth and speed. I’m sure he’s got a great chin too, he’s young. We all had good chins when we were twenty four or something, he’s a class act and he’s number one in the world for a reason,”
“Our job is to go out there, disrupt him and make him look bad. That’s our job,” he continued.
“We’re up against a good fighter, Joseph has a lot of skills and so does Solomon. It will be an interesting fight.”
The vast majority see Haumono’s best chance of winning coming in the later rounds. After all, the 24-year-old Auckland native has only gone the twelve round distance once, but as Fortune notes, they need to get there first.
“Sure, we can win the fight in the middle rounds, but we’ve got to get to the middle to late rounds first,” noted Fortune. “Takam, who fought Parker last, is a good boxer. But he’s not much of a puncher and has a different style.”
“As an ex-fighter, you know certain things. You know that when a guy can’t hurt you, you’ll do stupid things. You will put your hands down, and maybe try to lull them in. I’m not looking at Joseph’s last fight as anything special.”
“Joseph is a good young fighter and he’s trained by Kevin Barry, who I know well, and is a good trainer,”
“We’re up against it – we know that – but we’re in with a shot, that’s for sure. This is the heavyweights, in one second, one punch can change everything, and you’re on your arse. You can’t take any heavyweight lightly.”
No fighter or trainer goes into a fight expecting to lose, but Fortune believes their short-term pairing, which has seen Haumono base himself in Los Angeles for just four weeks, could bare fruit for many fights to come.
The stakes are admittedly high, but Fortune sees a fighting future for his charge, regardless of result.
“It’s a do-or-die for Sol in terms of becoming a number one top rated fighter,” Fortune admitted. “But it’s not do-or-die if he puts in a good performance. I’ve had Sol for four weeks, I would’ve liked to have had him four years ago.”
“I don’t think a loss is the end by a long shot for Sol. I mean, you go in there and put in a good performance, it leaves a lot of fights out there and especially in the US, where Sol can do good damage, which I know he can.”
When asked if he had enough time to mould Haumono into the fighter he needs to be, Fortune answered honestly.
“I hope so,” he confessed. “I mean realistically, probably not, cause he’s already had thirty fights. Fighters get set in their ways and they will carry the game plan out – until they get hit – or until they get cracked.”
“And then they pretty much resort back to what they’ve done in the past. My job is to keep him focused. If that does happen, my job is to get him back and make sure he doesn’t go off and be the fighter who he was.”
“Cause those habits don’t serve you well against a fighter like Joseph Parker,”
In many ways, Fortune is a realist. In his eyes, the odds may be long, but they are far from insurmountable. A career in the homeland of boxing has shown him this, but their reality is just as real; they have a punchers chance.
“The law of averages tells you that you’re going to get hit, that’s for sure,” he concluded.
“We’ve just got to stay on our game plan and stay focused, and then from there, we’ll see what happens.”