30 Wins | 0 Losses | 11 KOs
In a little over five years, Timothy Ray Bradley Jr. has soared from being a 20-year-old kid fighting in a Southern California hotel to fighting for, winning, and defending a world championship, in the process establishing himself as one of the fight game's brightest young stars. Like his ring alias, "Desert Storm," Bradley has hit the division with a clap of thunder and bolt of lightning.
The unbeaten Bradley, the current WBO junior welterweight champion of the world, established himself with his combination of fast hands and footwork, and an aggressive style.
It is not surprising to learn that it was Bradley's hand speed which first brought him to boxing.
"I had a friend in the sixth grade who was boxing," Bradley said. "We used to play around, do some slap boxing. One day he said to me, 'You know you have really fast hands. You ought to come down to the gym and try boxing.'"
Bradley had to beg his father, Ray for two months before he was allowed to walk into the Palm Springs Boxing Club, which was located across the street from where his dad worked, at the Palm Springs Airport.
"I went mainly because I was just curious. I was always getting into fights, and I even got kicked out of second grade for fighting. O.J. Coutoure and Russell Rodriguez ran the gym. When I went in, there were a few kids stretching in the ring. I walked around and saw all these photos of world champions on the walls and I was inspired. I said, 'Wow, this is amazing.'"
The club owners had a similar reaction to Bradley.
"I told O.J. I wanted to box. He looked me over, saw the way I moved my hands and said, 'Kid, you are going to be a world champion some day.' Three weeks later I had my first amateur fight and I won," Bradley said.
Winning quickly became a habit for the youngster. As an amateur, he compiled a sparkling record of 125-20, and won the 19-and-under U.S. Nationals in the 147-pound weight class in 2000, in addition to the National PAL the following year.
By the time the 2000 Olympic Trials rolled around, Bradley had positioned himself for a bid to make the U.S. team.
"I thought I would make the Olympics because I was beating everyone at 147 pounds, even the top-ranked guy," Bradley said.
But then the U.S. Olympic Committee made some major changes and Bradley literally found himself caught in limbo.
"Six months before the Olympic Trials, they changed the weight divisions. They eliminated both the 156 and 147-pound weight classes and combined them at a new weight, 152," said Bradley, who is 5 feet, six inches tall. "I was still rated No. 3 in the country, but these guys I had to fight at 152 were a lot bigger than me."
Overmatched, Bradley saw his dream of Olympic Glory dashed when he was eliminated at the Western Trials.
"At 147, nobody in the U.S. could have taken me and I know I would have made the Olympic team," Bradley said.
With his dream gone, Bradley quickly set his sites on another goal: becoming a professional world champion.
"Two months after the trials I was looking for a trainer to help me turn pro. I went to the Coachella Valley Boxing club and I was hoping to get Lee Espinoza to train me. Espinoza was not interested, but Joel Diaz was there and I knew he had helped make his brothers, Julio and Antonio champions. So I asked him to train me and he agreed to take me on," Bradley said.
Diaz was a perfect fit for the young boxer, who describes himself out of the ring as "humble, loving, charismatic, a genuine person."
His trainer, who had once fought Philip Holiday for the IBF lightweight title, impressed Bradley right away.
"Joel is an excellent coach. He was an experienced fighter who had fought for the title. He is really a humble, hardworking guy, very straight forward and loving. And he's honest with you. If he thinks you are doing something wrong, he will tell you," Bradley said.
Bradley knew what his destiny was, and quickly he attracted a team to put him on his way. In the same manner in which he first came to boxing, chance played a part in Bradley acquiring a promoter.
"My friend was going to a party at a hotel near a golf course, so I went along. Every year, Thompson Boxing Promotions puts on a golf tournament. I happened to be in the lobby when I saw these shirts that said, 'Thompson Boxing.' I had heard of them. They had only one fighter at the time Jose Lopez, and were putting on shows in Ontario (CA). I went over to the promoter, Ken Thompson and told him I was interested in fighting on their shows.
"He didn't know about me, so I told them I had had a great amateur career and they agreed to put me on a card," Bradley recalled.
That first fight was in Corona, CA, and Bradley took his opponent out with a blistering second round TKO. Thompson was impressed. He put him right back on a show two months later. After his fourth fight, in which Bradley won on a first-round knockdown in under two minutes, Thompson signed him.
"I had a two-year deal. Toward the end of it he wanted me to re-sign. I was happy with Thompson Boxing, but felt in order to get national recognition, I needed a bigger promoter. Ken had a connection to Gary Shaw, and they made a deal to co-promote me," Bradley said.
Shaw is known as a promoter who excels at bringing along young fighters, and he found a good test for his young fighter right away in tough veteran Jamie Rangel, who was 30-9-1 at the time. The young boxer easily handled Rangel in winning an eight-round technical decision.
In his next fight, Shaw put Bradley in with another seasoned fighter, Manuel Garnica (20-7), and again the fighter showed his great potential by winning the WBC Youth Junior Welterweight title with a unanimous decision.
"Gary has done a great job of matching me up with fighters that build my confidence," Bradley said.
Shaw is equally high on Bradley:
"Timothy Bradley is everything I love about a fighter," Shaw said. "He is fearless in the ring and all business when it comes to training for a fight. No shortcuts for him. Timothy is always looking to improve himself, which is why he is always willing to be matched up with incrementally better fighters each time."
Shaw also likes Bradley's strong character.
"He is a shining example of what an athlete should be. He wants to set an example. He is always volunteering his time in soup kitchens or worthy charities. I am so proud to be associated with him and in my heart, he is already a world champion," Shaw said.
After the win over Garnica, Bradley went about completing the first leg of his mission as a pro, beating Nasser Athumani, Donald Camarena, and Miguel Vazquez in impressive fashion in 2007 before stepping up to the plate to take on feared world champion Junior Witter on May 10, 2008. To add to the pressure, Bradley was forced to fight Witter in his home country of England, but once the bell rang, 'Desert Storm' showed what he was made of as he knocked Witter down once en route to a decision victory that earned him the WBC 140-pound world title.
With Mission One complete, Bradley defended his crown with an impressive 12 round win over Edner Cherry on September 13, 2008, and then achieved Mission Two by rising from the canvas to decision WBO champion Kendall Holt on April 4, 2009 and unify the 140-pound title.
Bradley would relinquish his WBC belt in order to chase after more big fights against the best the game has to offer, such as his most recent opposition veteran puncher Nate Campbell. Bradley defended his WBO 140-pound crown against former unified IBF/WBA and WBO lightweight champion Nate Campbell on August 1, 2009, and despite being ruled the winner via third round TKO, the bout was later ruled a no contest by the California State Athletic Commission, which said the cut that ended the fight was caused by an accidental clash of heads.
Despite this, Bradley refused to let this decision affect him or his preparation for his December 12th title defense against unbeaten Lamont Peterson, and that was evident as he dropped Peterson in the third round en route to a near shutout 12 round decision that lifted his unbeaten record to 25-0.
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