Growing up, I was always very active and still surfed a lot when I first moved to LA before having kids. But then I got to this point where I turned 40 and fell out of that routine. I stopped going to the gym, I wasn’t getting to the beach – I wasn’t really doing anything. That’s when you feel that 40-something slip starting to happen.
But on Sunset Boulevard, there’s this place, Fortune Boxing Gym, which I’d driven past a number of times and watched the boxers coming out with their gloves slung over their shoulders. It’s run by a guy called Justin Fortune, an Aussie heavyweight fighter who now resides in LA and is Manny Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning trainer. I’d always been a huge boxing fan and one day I was driving by and thought, you know what, I’ll just stop and go in.
Walked into a boxing gym for the first time is loud and intimidating. There’s guys sparring, there’s guys hitting speed bags and if you’re the unfamiliar face, everyone stops and turns around. Not only that, but I instantly recognized the Aussie lightweight George Kambosos, who’s about to have a world title shot, and the Russian cruiserweight Denis Lebedev. “Holy shit,” I thought. “It’s not just a gym, it’s full of fighters!” So I stood there a little bit in awe like, am I even allowed to walk in here? But Justin immediately said: “Get your stuff and come back and train, no problem.” So I did and I’ve trained there for the last four years.
As a boxing fan it’s unbelievable because there’s a lot of fighters that come through there that are getting ready for big fights. It’s like being an Aussie Rules fan and just being able to wander in to the Geelong dressing room and start training with them. But it’s also super welcoming, too.
I train there four days a week and I love the discipline of it. I’m training with one of the world’s best boxing coaches, and his time is obviously precious, so you don’t mess him around. You don’t cancel. You don’t tell him “something came up”. That’s your boxing time so you show up when you’re supposed to. That’s all there is to it.
If I’ve been away from the gym for a week because of vacation or whatever, my wife is like: “Oh, go back to the gym and punch something would you?” Because she thinks I’m a lot calmer when I go. And there’s something to be said for that. When you spend an hour at a gym, boxing or sparring, you literally walk out with nothing left. You leave it all in there and push yourself to that true point of all-out exertion. Sure knowing that you can take care of yourself, is a nice thing to have in your back pocket. But it’s been really good for my mental stability. I run a business with a hundred employees, there’s constant pressure and stress. So the gym serves a huge purpose for me, not only physically, but mentally, even spiritually. I can work out a lot of frustrations there.
I’m 45 now and training at the gym has also changed how I think about my age. Sure, there’s a lot of young, very, very fit fighters in there. But you know Manny Pacquiao just got ready for his last title defense and did a training camp at the gym and he’s 43. We all ran together in Griffith Park in the mornings, I went to Vegas for his fight with the team, and watching him fighting someone almost 10 years younger and do a crushing job, even if he did lose, well, it’s inspiring. Here’s a guy who’s still absolutely at the top, just a couple of years younger than me.
That makes me realise that, just because it says my age on my driver’s license, doesn’t mean I have to behave like that. I can still be mentally tough and mentally strong. That’s something that boxing has taught me that I now take into so many other areas of my life.
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