In the winter, Palm Springs, California has warmth, sun, tranquil skies and attracts mostly rich senior citizens to its inviting community beneath the San Jacinto Mountains. Except for Spring Break, when the desert town is invaded by college and high school students, it’s mostly a docile place.
This is where Timothy “Desert Storm” lives.
So why are there so many good fighters coming out of the desert area that is populated by mainly seniors?
“Maybe it’s the heat,” says Bradley with a chuckle.
Bradley, 24, plans to bring the heat against the dangerous WBC junior welterweight titleholder Junior “The Hitter” Witter, 34, at the Trent FM Arena Nottingham in Nottingham, England on Saturday May 10. The title fight will be televised on Showtime.
The desert-based fighter is the latest product to emerge from the Palm Springs Desert that includes Coachella and Indio and has worked his way to the top of the WBC rankings with a combination of speed, agility, and power from his five-feet six-inch frame.
At times temperatures can reach 130 degrees and even at 4 a.m. the thermostat can read 110. But the fighters coming out of that area have a mindset that blocks out the discomfort and allows them to concentrate on erasing the enemy in front of them.
Bradley is pure desert fighter.
On a daily basis he works out with a variety of boxers like former lightweight contender Steve “The Mongoose” Quinones, former lightweight world champion Julio “The Kidd” Diaz and double top secret Dominic Salcido, a fighter with blazing speed and agility. Salcido punches from all angles and zips out before you can say zippity-do-da.
“He’s hard to hit, man,” says Bradley (21-0, 11 KOs) who spars with Salcido whenever he needs to simulate ultrasonic speedy fighters like Witter. “He throws from all angles just like Witter.”
Witter’s like a cheetah on meth. He’s fast, unpredictable and down right dangerous. It’s no wonder everyone in the junior welterweight division avoids the WBC champion like a traffic cop. Nobody wants to get cited for being a pretender in one of the most dangerous divisions in the boxing world.
“He’s going to find out on Saturday night that he is in with the camp,” Witter (36-1-2, 21 KOs) says. “It’s an opportunity to show the world what I can do.”
Ever since the year 2000 when Witter traded speed bombs with Brooklyn’s Zab Judah, he’s been on the Too Dangerous list. It’s a miracle that anyone fights this cat. It’s even more miraculous that someone allowed him to fight for the title.
“I am the best junior welterweight there throughout all the federations and so forth,” Witter says. “No one wanted to give me a shot after Judah.”
Not until Floyd Mayweather Jr. vacated the WBC title to move into the welterweight division did Witter get his shot. That came against DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, who he beat after 12 rounds.
Witter’s knocked out both title challengers in Arturo Morua and Vivian Harris.
“Against Vivian Harris he gave a hell of a performance. He surprised me by knocking him out,” said Bradley, who lobbied to fight Witter, who was finding it difficult to find a willing foe. “I sent a message out to the champ and I guess they got it.”
During his lone visit to California, Witter dominated Lovemore N’Dou with a quick slashing style from both the left and right side.
“Witter’s style is difficult. He’s what I call a switch-hitter,” said Bradley describing Witter’s ability to fight left or right handed. “He can catch you with wide uppercuts. He’s really clever in the ring.”
That deadly quick-striking ability is reminiscent of a desert rattler. Bradley’s very familiar with rattlesnakes.
“Rattlesnakes like to come out in the heat so I really don’t do too much running when it gets to be midday, that’s when they’re out,” says Bradley.
Bradley grew up in Indio, California where most of his opponents were Latino fighters who jam the boxing gyms throughout the Southwest. Since the age of 10, he showed an eagerness to explore the world of self-defense. Boxing became a passion.
“He was always curious about self-defense,” says Timothy Bradley Sr., the father who works as a security supervisor at an Indio high school. “Whenever I’d go to one of those seminars he’d ask me what I’d learned so I could show him.”
Everywhere he goes in the desert community, he’s often the only black prizefighter in the sweltering hot gyms. Usually there are between 50 to 100 young Latinos going through their physical regimen. Bradley stands out, but it’s home to him.
“Deep down in their heart they know they love Timothy Bradley, man,” chuckles Bradley.
So when Bradley walks into the arena to a chorus of overwhelming boos, it’s business as usual for the boxer who fought in England, Germany and other countries as an amateur star.
“Tim won the Junior Nationals and the Olympic Junior Nationals,” said Samuel Jackson, uncle of Bradley.
It wasn’t enough. Promoters passed on the quick, but small amateur star who fought as high as 152-pounds.
“He fought Andre Berto at 152 pounds in the finals,” Jackson said.
With no big contracts or signing bonuses in sight, he asked a local boxing promoter, Kenny Thompson, for a chance on one of the shows in Ontario, California in 2004. They put him on a fight card and saw a good boxer, but not a particularly pleasing style for the largely Latino boxing crowd. Next fight, Bradley changed speeds and instantly became a pressure fighter with a take no prisoner style.
“He would just come in like a bull and never back up,” said Alex Camponovo, the matchmaker for Thompson Boxing Promotions that co-promotes Bradley with Gary Shaw Productions. “He had no fear.”
After a few easy baptisms against tough, rugged opponents, the Indio boxer was suddenly matched against a relatively unknown Brazilian named Marcos Costa who on paper had a record of zero wins and one loss. Actually, the tall southpaw had eight wins and one loss with most of those occurring in Brazil.
It was Bradley’s seventh pro fight and after finding it difficult to evade the long right jab of his five-inch taller opponent, he found an answer and smothered the Brazilian with combinations. Costa decided to fight fire with fire as both exchanged violently for the rest of the round until a right hand dropped the smooth-fighting southpaw in the fifth round.
If you need speed Bradley has both foot and hand speed that is rarely matched inside the boxing ring. He’s banking on that.
“My speed and my conditioning are definitely going to win this fight,” says Bradley, 24, who now lives in Palm Springs.
Bradley remains extremely confident, especially with his own championship corner that includes trainer Joel Diaz, assistant trainer Antonio Diaz and advisor Julio “The Kidd” Diaz, a former two-time lightweight world champion.
“Tim’s a good boxer, he’s fast, he can move and he can be aggressive,” said Joel Diaz, who’s been his main corner man from the beginning. “Everything he does he does good. He can box, he can brawl and he’s really disciplined.”
Bradley’s father says his son has always had that soldier-like discipline since childhood and is always studying opponents and other fighters.
“Nobody tells him to get up in the morning and go run,” said Bradley Sr. “Every morning he goes out in the desert and runs his miles.”
Diaz nods his head.
“Witter has never faced anyone with Tim’s kind of speed,” said Diaz.
Outside the Indio boxing gym, Bradley still seems energetic despite a thorough workout in the 90-degree temperatures. He visualizes thousands of boos as he enters the ring to face Britain’s feared Witter.
“I’m happy to go over there and fight in front of my English and United States fans,” Bradley says. “I’m going to get in there and do what I do.”
It’s the Desert Storm versus The Hitter.