One of the best kept secrets in prizefighting has been the army of desert fighters that practice their art of war in the dry landscape of the Palm Springs greater area.
Decades have passed with few unaware of the growth taking place in sand blown towns like Indio, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and further reaches like Blythe.
That’s all going to end.
A media blitz is taking place on the sweltering desert confine where Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) trains on a daily basis. His fight with Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) on June 9 in Las Vegas has prompted world-wide interest.
No longer will the area remain a secret.
Bradley has been one of those who began fighting on the streets of Indio and later enticed to the fighting arts of amateur boxing. He quickly rose through the ranks in the area where hundreds of boys partake of boxing as readily as those joining Little League Baseball or Pop Warner Football. It’s a rite of passage in the desert.
Since the 1980s fighters like Paul Banke, Ysaias Zamudio, Pancho Segura and Joel Diaz began exposing the world to their aggressive brand of prizefighting. Not coincidentally, Diaz is now a trainer and coaches the undefeated junior welterweight world champion Bradley.
Diaz fought for the world title in the late 90s against South Africa’s Phillip Holiday for the lightweight world title. The elder brother of former world champions Antonio and Julio Diaz knows a thing or two about world class prizefighting. He’s passing it on to his current protégé Bradley.
One thing concerns Diaz and it’s an aspect that very few prizefighters experience: the mega fight.
“I worry about distractions,” said Joel Diaz, who trains Bradley in Indio.
Pound for Pound match up
Bradley, 28, is considered one of the best fighters pound for pound and will meet the boxer many consider among the top one or two in the world.
“It’s too early to start training,” said Bradley who arrived in the Indio gym to be filmed and photographed for HBO’s publicity junkets. “Right now I’m just working on cutting my weight, eating the right foods.”
Recently a small cadre of television cameramen, reporters and photographers arrived in the usually quiet boxing gym where not only Bradley trains, but other prizefighters like Vicente Escobedo, Omar Figueroa, Cub Swanson and several others can be seen going through their regular boxing drills. That distinctive sound of speed bags fluttering while boxers spar each other in the boxing ring are staples of the busy gym. Few media types ever set foot in the gym except for reporters from the two daily newspapers.
HBO’s camera crew will be followed by promoter Top Rank’s own group and they will be followed by crews from all over the country and around the world. It’s of international notice whenever Pacquiao fights.
Bradley is considered by many the undisputed junior welterweight world champion and though he no longer holds those belts he captured, such as the WBC and WBO, no one was able to hand him a defeat. So now he’s moving into the 147-pound welterweight limit and Diaz along with Bradley’s father and uncle are primed to assist in the new weight division.
“The fight itself, I’m not worried about,” said Diaz who has guided Bradley to an undefeated record since the Palm Springs boxer became a professional. “I’m comfortable with Timothy’s abilities.”
It’s the extraneous activities going around that worry the trainer Diaz who also fought in world title bouts when he was a boxer.
Pacquiao has fought in numerous mega fights where the entire world was watching and is more than comfortable with the hoards of photographers flashing cameras at his every movement. It’s all second nature to the Filipino superstar who has been partaking in these momentous fights since 2004 when he fought Juan Manuel Marquez to a draw in Las Vegas.
“It’s going to be a good fight because Timothy Bradley is a strong fighter and he likes to fight toe to toe,” said Pacquiao, 33, while at a recent Los Angeles press conference.
Pacquiao is a prohibitive favorite. Though Bradley has never been defeated and has versatility that few other prizefighters possess, the fighter known as “Pacman” has experienced the busy schedules, constant requests and pressure of training for elite level championship fights before millions of viewers.
One thing in Bradley’s favor is his youth and who knows when Pacquiao will slow down.
“We learned a lot watching that fight,” said Diaz, adding that an HBO series featuring Freddie Roach also provided valuable insight. “Thank you Freddie Roach.”
Bradley and his team are already in sync for the welterweight showdown though it’s still three months away.
“He knows the game plan,” said Bradley about Pacquiao. “I’m going to come straight to him. This ain’t no game.”
Not only will the world discover Bradley’s desert habitat, it will also become acquainted with the desert region and its many prizefighters.
The desert has more to it than heat.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Robert Garcia (30-3) vs. Antwone Smith (21-3-1).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Diego Magdaleno (21-0) vs. Miguel Beltran Jr. (26-1).
Sat. NBC Sports Network, 6 p.m., Zab Judah (41-7) vs. Vernon Paris (26-0).
Sat. HBO, 7 p.m., Erik Morales (52-7) vs. Danny Garcia (22-0).