In the early 1990s, just beyond the windmills staked into the landscape of the Coachella Valley, before Timothy Bradley had discovered boxing, he discovered fighting. "Anytime anybody looked at me crazy or wrong," he says, "I'd go upside the head...I had over a hundred fights in the second grade." For his prolific fistic work on the playground, Bradley was kicked out of school.
Growing up in north Palm Springs, Bradley, now 26, was witness to the gang violence of the Gateway Posse Crips: "You see guys selling drugs that got a lot of money, girls, respect, and I'd say, 'That's what I want to be. I want people to respect me. I want all the girls. I want all the money.'" Bradley has chosen against gang life, but he earned respect as a student outside the classroom, where he'd teach his peers blunt lessons in political correctness by connecting his fists to their faces, as he explains, "The school [my sisters and I attended] was predominantly Latino and Caucasian...They used to call us 'monkeys,' 'niggers,' and all kinds of stuff ... I had to protect myself, and I had to protect my sisters."
In the fifth grade, Bradley's friend took him to a boxing gym. He fought and won his first amateur bout on April 4, 1994. Suddenly, the fistfights stopped. "I loved boxing so much that my parents started using it as leverage," Bradley says, adding, "If I got in trouble or got bad grades, they wouldn't let me go to the boxing club, and I wasn't going to let that happen."
About the same time, Joel Diaz banged on a man's door, hoping to ask a reasonable question: "Why are you telling people you are going to kill me?" No one opened the door. Diaz recalls snapping, "I got my gun from my car...I had a fully automatic AK-47...I had thirty raw magazines. It was a MAK 90. I completely destroyed his house." No charges were pressed. Later, Diaz's mom sat him down, saying, "You're the oldest. You're supposed to be an example for your brothers. I can't believe you're doing this."