Pacquiao-Roach 1

When boxing star Manny Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KO) steps back into the ring this weekend against Timothy Bradley, he’ll be faster and more explosive than he has been in years, thanks in large part to the return of strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune, whose old school, power-and-speed based approach helped Pacquiao gain a reputation as a knockout artist on his rise to superstardom.

MANNY PACQUIAO

Birthdate: December 17, 1978 (age 35)

Birthplace: Kibawe, Bukidnon, Philippines

Height: 5’6”

Walking Weight: 150 pounds

Fighting Weight: 147 pounds

Record: 55-5-2, 38 KO

“It has been good to have Justin back,” Pacquiao says. “I feel very strong and my punches have an explosiveness to them that they have not had in a very long time.”

With Fortune in his corner, Pacquiao never lost a fight. He posted epic, highlight reel wins against top-tier opponents like Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera using the same low-tech, throwback training methods that he has done for this second bout with Bradley. For Fortune, the reasoning is simple.

“In his last few fights, he’s been lacking the power and explosiveness that made him a marquee fighter,” he says of Pacquiao, who has lost two of his last three, including a controversial decision to Bradley in June 2012. “So over the last 10 weeks, we’ve built it back and his body is responding like crazy, just by doing things they did in the old days – swinging medicine balls, doing wheelbarrow carries, swinging sledgehammers. Real manual labor stuff like fighters used to do.”

Pacquiao side step

Fortune’s approach isn’t all blue collar. Pacquiao is also routinely put through a battery of upper body and lower body plyometrics designed to maximize his total-body power and quickness – two key ingredients in a knockout punch – by emphasizing fast-twitch muscle fiber. Pacquiao, has notched 38 stoppages by KO but hasn’t won a fight in that fashion since stopping Miguel Cotto in the final round of their 2009 catch-weight championship fight.

In addition to rebuilding his one-punch rep, Fortune has worked hard on keeping Manny’s lower-body stamina high.

“We think he’s going to do a lot of chasing in this Bradley fight,” Fortune says. “So to do that, he’s running about 4-5 miles a day, sometimes in the hills – all uphill – at a pretty good pace.”

Heading into the fight, Pacquiao’s weight is right on target, which means no stressful cutting of water weight this week. This is particularly beneficial because Pacquiao is seven years older than when he and Fortune were working together last.

“He is strong and he is ready,” Fortune says. “Even if – and that’s a big if – he’s he’s dropped a notch, he’s still ridiculously faster than anyone out there. Manny’s just a freak physically and fighters like him don’t come along very often. After he’s done, there won’t be another one like him for a long time.”

So what’s “freaky?” Well, Pacquiao, who never seems to tire in the ring, puts it best: “My gym sessions aren’t as long as they used to be. They’re only three hours a day now.”

See Pacquiao’s power workout on next page. 

Pacquiao ropes

MANNY’S POWER WORKOUT

Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning routine is different most days of the week but many of the elements he tackles most often are contained in this full-body thrash devised by Fortune.

Exercise     Sets/Reps (or Time)

Plyo Push-Up Circuit 3/101

Plyometric Cone Drill 1/3 min.

Battle Ropes 4/3 min.

Jump Rope 1/10 min.

Manny rarely exceeds one minute of rest between any sets or exercises to simulate fight night recovery demands.

1 Manny shoots for three sets of 10 reps on each of the four exercises (see below) but terminates a set the instant he feels like he is slowing down. “It’s all about speed,” Fortune says. “You want your hands touching the floor or the platforms for as little time as possible.”

2 Fortune sets up five cones in a cross, or an X, with one of the cones at the center. Each cone is spaced 1-2 feet apart. Starting in the center cone with his feet together, Pacquiao hops quickly to the forward cone and back to the center. Landing softly, he quickly switches direction to a cone at his side or behind him. He works on a variety of patterns for three straight minutes.

3 For his work on the battle ropes, Pacquaio performs several variations – hands together, hands apart, long waves, short waves and side-to-side – for three, one-minute rounds.

Plyo Push-up Circuit

Variation 1: Manny starts with his hands spaced narrowly on the floor, just inside of two stable platforms, each 4-10” high, depending on the day. From there, he explodes up and lands softly with his hands on top of the platforms. He pauses only briefly before lowering himself into another push-up, exploding at the top and returning his hands to the floor between the platforms. Each time up and each time down count as reps, so his aim is five up and five down for one set.

Variation 2: Starting in push-up position with his left hand on the platform and right hand on the floor, Manny descends into a push-up and powers his way laterally over to his right so that his left hand is now on the floor and his right hand is on the right platform. Pacquiao pauses only briefly before descending into a push-up and reversing direction explosively to his left. Each lateral bound is one rep.

Variation 3: Starting with his hands on the floor between two platforms, Manny “walks” his hands up to the top of both platforms, putting one hand up, then the other. Each time he returns to the floor counts as one rep.

Variation 4: Performing the standard plyometric push-up with a shoulder-width hand spacing, Manny aims to get as much air as possible on each rep.

Pacquiao knee kick

MANNY ON THE BRADLEY REMATCH: “From my personal experience with him during that first fight, I remember he did not seem to have a lot of power in his punches. After the fourth or fifth round he stopped engaging with me. He is obviously well-conditioned and he has improved a lot since we first fought but I honestly cannot think of anything he did to me that I found I could not overcome. I am not looking for a knockout against Bradley, but if the opportunity presents itself, I will go for it. “

FORTUNE ON BRADLEY’S MUSCULARITY: “What I’ve seen in Bradley is that he’s much more muscular than before. On a short muscle-y frame, it’s so easy to build muscle and that will be to his own detriment. He will fatigue a lot faster. Bradley’s a very gifted athlete – very strong, good conditioning – but between his additional muscle and Pacquiao’s speed and power, it will be a tough night for him.”

FORTUNE ON BALANCE: “He will also do some dumbbell work with rows and rear-delt raises to keep everthing in balance. It’s not just bout training shoulders or quads or stuff you can see in the mirror. You have to keep everything in balance. If you do a ton of ab work but skip exercises for your lower back, you’re going to get hurt. Plus, the rear delt and upper back work is important for deceleration with protects him from blowing out a shoulder.”

Photography by Chris Farina

Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 will air live on HBO PPV this Saturday (April 12) starting at 6 pm PST/9 pm EST. For more information and in-depth analysis of the fight, visit www.hbo.com/boxing