INDIO, CA.-Few boxing followers know that the most talented fight gym in the West Coast just might be the Indio Boys and Girls Club.
It’s where WBO welterweight titleholder Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley calls home and where trainers Joel and Antonio Diaz fire up their amateur and pro boxers on a daily basis. Recently, several new members have joined the ranks.
Along with Bradley and Julio Diaz, major new members of their fraternity have added their muscle to the roster, including Omar Figueroa, Jamie Kavanagh, Diego Magdaleno and his younger brother Jessie Magdaleno. Add mixed martial arts star Cub Swanson and this gym may be a secret weapon ready to explode on the fight world.
“We’re not going to lose a fight this year,” said Joel Diaz, the head trainer. “I’m serious. We are not going to lose a fight all year.”
That’s how much confidence Diaz has with his team of desert-trained fighters.
Bradley was the first in the gym on Thursday and it was also his first week of preparing for his mega fight with Mexico’s master boxer Juan Manuel Marquez on Oct. 12, in Las Vegas. The Palm Springs-based world champion was sporting a beard and looked like a cross between Isaac Hayes and Earnie Shavers.
Bradley explained he was seeking a different look, something more menacing and impactful for the public persona.
“This was my fourth day of training,” explained Bradley, whose last fight was a slugfest with Russia’s heavy-hitting Ruslan Provodnikov. “Come back in eight months.”
Even in the first week the welterweight titlist shows speed and fluidity with his punches and footwork. Though he’s about 20 pounds above fighting weight, there’s no visible signs of flab or slovenliness. It’s the usual weight gain.
Bradley was in a slight hurry because his wife was told their new baby was due. Off he went to the hospital to join her.
Julio “The Kidd” Diaz was the second boxer to arrive. Fighting as a welterweight seems to have revived the former two-time lightweight world champion. He fought to a draw against Shawn Porter late last year in L.A. Diaz also nearly defeated Amir Khan in England. More than a few felt Diaz won after nailing the speedy Khan and flooring him.
“I should have done more against Porter,” said Diaz, who is scheduled to face Porter again in Las Vegas on Sept. 12. “I waited too long.”
Diaz loves fighting at welterweight.
“I fought for 12 years at lightweight. That was way too long,” said Diaz. “I’m stronger at welterweight.”
Gym is like a home
Ireland’s Jamie Kavanagh entered the boxing gym almost ninja-like. He and his trainer gathered in one corner of the gym and began preparing their gear and wraps for action. The Dublin prizefighter had previously trained for several years at the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood. But he tired of the atmosphere.
“There’s more one-on-one training now,” said Kavanagh, 23, who was previously trained by Freddie Roach. “A gym is like a home to me or any boxer. I didn’t see the Wild Card as my home.”
Kavanagh said that Manny Pacquiao’s team would demand that the gym be closed to anyone not on Team Pacquiao and that included the Irish fighter. Everyone would be barred from entering the gym.
“I’m a fighter. This is my profession. I’m not going to videotape Manny or try to get an autograph,” said Kavanagh. “I see a gym as a home. It’s not a 24-Hour Fitness. It’s a home. The Wild Card wasn’t my home,” he reiterated.
One thing Kavanagh does miss is the temperate climate. Outside of the gym the Indio temperature was hovering above 111 degrees and it was only 1 p.m.
“I’m from Ireland. We don’t get heat like this,” said Kavanagh, adding that even when running early in the morning or during the evening the weather is blazing hot in the summer.
On Aug. 9, the Irish fighter who speaks Spanish fluently will be fighting at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio.
“My style, I think it’s changed a lot,” Kavanagh said. “Less movement with my feet.”
Las Vegas to Indio
Entering in tandem was the brothers Diego and Jesse Magdaleno, who recently made the move from Las Vegas. Both fight under the Top Rank banner.
Diego Magdaleno is set to fight on Sept. 7, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Brian Vera is the main event.
“I’m getting a world title fight after this one,” said Magdaleno, 26, who is managed now by Frank Espinoza.
Younger brother Jesse Magdaleno fights on Aug. 24 in Glendale, Calif. No opponent has been named.
“There’s a big difference in Las Vegas and here,” said Diego Magdaleno while wrapping his hands inside the Indio Boys and Girls Club gym. “The sparring is way better over here. In Vegas you can’t count on getting sparring. One day they show up the next day they don’t. There’s a lot more gyms and a lot more fighters over here.”
Now, with the addition of a few more elite boxers, Indio has suddenly blossomed into the gym other fighters want to experience.
“You get great sparring over here,” said Kavanagh. “I’m really lucky.”