INDIO, CA.—That first moment Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley stepped in the boxing ring during the summer of 2004, it was clear as glass that superb athleticism set him apart from most other prizefighters.
Speed in abundance and natural-born agility are his assets. In spite of obvious stellar fighting ability, though, the accolades have not rushed his way.
A coming welterweight battle with Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios (33-2-1, 24 Kos) could be the linchpin that leads to head of the pack recognition for Bradley (32-1-1, 12 Kos), on Saturday Nov. 7, at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
HBO will televise the Top Rank fight for the WBO world title.
Who knows the exact reason fans worldwide have not climbed on the Bradley bandwagon? But for more than a decade only one prizefighter on earth has been able to defeat him. Yet, despite only one loss, critics and boxing experts relegate the Palm Springs speedster to the nether regions of the welterweight division.
“We’ve talked about it a few times. Not so much lately,” said Monica Bradley, wife and manager. “Maybe it is what it is.”
Home base for Bradley has always been the Palm Springs area. It’s not exactly a metropolis, but a refuge for the rich and mighty. Movie stars like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and William Powell built homes in the desert oasis to get away from the masses.
For Bradley, it has proven to be a severe obstacle. No network TV stations or giant metropolitan newspapers are willing to drive 100 miles or more to check out a prizefighter. It’s not in the budget.
The hardcore boxing fans know all about Bradley. He’s trekked overseas to win that first world title, back in 2008, to face WBC belt holder Junior Witter of England. The Palm Springs fighter was a decided underdog. Few outside of the Inland Empire knew who he was.
Bradley said that everything that could go wrong, went wrong. His uncle was stopped by security because his name, “Samuel Jackson,” was on the no fly list; his hotel was too small, there was no gym for him to prepare, and the food ordered was not available.
To make matters worse, his girlfriend at the time was lost in England.
“I actually flew out on my own and got lost. I took the subway and went south instead of north,” says Mrs. Bradley. “I had arrived early but I didn’t make it to the arena until the day of the fight. We didn’t have international cell service. He was worried sick about me.”
Monica Bradley finally made it to the arena and witnessed the fans booing loudly against the unknown American challenger. At the time, Witter was considered one of the top prizefighters out of the United Kingdom. The boos rained down as Bradley entered.
“That was his favorite fight. He won the WBC title and he always wanted that title,” says Monica Bradley. “Being a champ that day was his proudest moment.”
Tim Bradley moved on to defeat in succession Edner Cherry, Kendall Holt, Nate Campbell, Lamont Peterson, Luis Abregu, Devon Alexander, and Joel Casamayor. Then he became the first prizefighter in seven years to defeat Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.
Everyone knows what happened afterward. Bradley went on to defeat Mexico’s consummate boxer Juan Manuel Marquez. Yet, fans seem to forget that victory.
“Tim has no regrets,” Monica Bradley says. “Well, maybe getting knocked down by Kendall Holt. Tim was upset about that.”
Bradley recently changed trainers and now has the mercurial Teddy Atlas of ESPN fame in his corner as his lead trainer.
“I had to ask him five times,” said Bradley of his recruitment of Atlas. “But you know me. I don’t give up.”
The current WBO welterweight champion says training with Atlas after all of the talks and lectures has been like working with the ghost of Cus D’Amato.
“He let me know I don’t know nothing about boxing,” Bradley says.
The main focus of Atlas preparation is focus. The TV analyst and former trainer of Alexander Povetkin, Michael Moorer and Donny Lalonde has spent the entire camp working on Bradley’s focus for this pending battle with the relentless Bam Bam Rios.
“Sometimes I’m looking at something and Teddy yells at me ‘What are you looking at? Focus!’ He’s all about the mental preparation,” Bradley said.
It’s all about the mind.
“I’m not thinking about no one else but Brandon Rios,” Bradley said. “This is what I’ve been waiting for.”