LOS ANGELES – Tucked comfortably in a pearl black Hummer stretch limousine, Timothy Ray Bradley puts his arms behind his head and nods a few times.
“I can get into this,” said Bradley, 22.
Motoring to the Staples Center in style with several other team members to the Los Angeles Lakers game is Thompson Boxing Promotions design to motivate its boxers to recognize the benefits of success.
People waiting to get into the Lakers game gawk at the group of boxers, trainers and promoters as they exit the 10-yard long limo parked in front of the arena entrance. A few curious basketball fans meander toward the young athletes to find out who they are.
“That’s the next junior welterweight champion of the world,” says one of the trainers standing nearby.
A few of the sports fans ask for autographs and photo opportunities with some of the boxers.
Inside, Bradley and several other fellow boxers are enjoying the lush Staples Center suite owned by Ken Thompson, the president of Thompson Boxing Promotions that is guiding the pro careers of three young pro fighters. The free food, drink and comfy setting seem to fire up the young budding stars.
Seated right next to Thompson’s suite is famed rapper, movie producer and actor Ice Cube. Every one of the boxers takes a picture with the South Los Angeles bred entertainer. He was just like them at one time, a kid from the streets with big dreams. Now he’s a star.
“Man this motivates me,” Bradley says to anyone listening in the limo during the ride back to Indio.
Bradley (11-0, 6 KOs), an undefeated junior welterweight, faces a stiff test when he meets North Carolina’s undefeated Eli Addison (8-0, 3 KOs) at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario on Friday. He and several other Inland fighters are facing some tough competition in the next couple of weeks in various venues around Southern California.
During the Lakers contest against the Charlotte Hornets, you can tell boxing filters their mind with thoughts and impulses. Bradley shadowboxes while looking at Kobe Bryant try to score on a break away.
“I’m ready for whatever,” says Bradley while on the way back home to Indio. Occasionally he goes through the motions of punching in slow-motion.
The trip home from the Lakers game is somewhat subdued. The realization that only a few days separate them from their pivotal contests makes them kind of antsy.
Seated further toward the rear is Dominic Salcido, the flashy Rialto boxer who recently signed on with the team. Joel Diaz out of Coachella now trains him.
Diaz recounts how his new young protégé felt after sparring with one of the regular Coachella tough guys recently. He elicits laughter recalling Salcido’s answer when asked if he was tired.
“I’m ok,” says Diaz mimicking Salcido’s reply. “That’s not what I asked you.”
Everyone in the limo laughs. They know what the trainer means and how Salcido felt sparring against someone that barely allows you to breathe.
“Dominic should be 21 and 0 by now but he had troubles getting fights,” said Alex Campanovo, the coordinator for Thompson Boxing Promotions. “We’re going to move him along.”
Salcido has that rare combination of speed, power and electrifying combinations that cause a crowd to buzz with excitement. He’s sparred with the very best like Vivian Harris, Shane Mosley, Marco Antonio Barrera and Julio Diaz.
“He’s only a junior lightweight,” says Diaz. “But he can hang with the big boys.”
Barrera vs. Ortiz
Down the 60-Freeway, about 60 miles west of Ontario, Colton’s Freddie Barrera is set to meet Oxnard’s Victor Ortiz, a fighter many experts expect to win a title soon. The fight will take place Friday at the Maywood Activity Center and will be shown on Showtime television cable. It happens on the same day his friends Bradley and Salcido step in the ring. They may even be fighting at the same exact time.
Everyone inside the speeding limo perks up when they hear about the ensuing battle between Barrera and Ortiz. They’re both prizefighters very well known to the boxers riding in the Hummer on a Sunday night.
“Freddie’s no joke,” says Bradley who fought Barrera several times during the amateurs. “He’s definitely no joke.”
Samuel Jackson, who assists in training Bradley, recognizes Ortiz too.
“He can fight,” says Jackson about Ortiz, a hard-hitting left-hander who fights for Top Rank Promotions. “It’s a close fight.”
Barrera, who is undefeated, readily accepted the tough matchup against Ortiz whose last three wins have come by knockout.
“He didn’t have to take the fight,” said Henry Ramirez, a trainer who knows Barrera well. “It was his choice, but he took it. It’s a big opportunity for him.”
Each person in the limo agrees that Barrera can win the fight. But it won’t be easy.
Also sitting in the limo are Josesito Lopez, a budding lightweight from Riverside who is scheduled to meet Wes Ferguson on April 8 in Las Vegas. Alongside Lopez is undefeated Riverside heavyweight Chris Arreola, who fights on April 14 in Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.
All of the young prizefighters are quietly excited about their pending matchups with quality opponents and a chance to move up the rankings and hopefully win a world title or two. They all have dreams of advancing to the elite level. Right now, they’re slugging it out in the minor leagues; the big dance seems another year away.
“It’s kind of exciting to see these kids improving step by step,” says Campanovo, who provides the matchmaking for Bradley, Lopez and Salcido, and has arranged matches for Arreola and Barrera as well. “Right now they’re almost ready for the big step. I can see Bradley and Lopez moving on to better things. We’ll see what happens.”
As the limo nears one of the stops in Ontario, California, the fighters begin talking about showing up to support Lopez in his toss up fight with Ferguson. The Michigan-based fighter is supported by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who promised his fighter Ferguson would be too much for any opponent. Then he got a glimpse of the 5-foot-10 Lopez and seemed to do a double take.
“We have to plan for Las Vegas,” says Arreola, who wants to support Lopez in his big fight in the gambling city. “I’m going.”
Everyone agrees loudly and nod their heads. It’s apparent they’re all envisioning the same kind of support for their own fights.
The passengers return back to silence on the ride back home. Perhaps each person is thinking what’s in store during the next several weeks.
They all return to their daydreams.
“I’m ready for whatever,” says Bradley.
For tickets or information call (714) 935-0900. The first bout begins at 7:30 p.m.
Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?