Tim Bradley will enter the World Boxing Hall of Fame this month.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMAN
The last thing on Tim Bradley’s mind 15 years ago, on a lonely May night in Nottingham, England, was the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It was May 10, 2008, and survival, not fame, was the order of the day.
He had flown from the California desert to England, planning to have his fiancé, Monica, join him the day before the fight. Monica’s management and financial skills made her a huge part of Tim’s success. He needed her there, but her flights had been delayed, and she didn’t arrive until 4:30 a.m. the day of the fight.
She arrived with bad news.
“You better win,” Monica told Tim. “We only have $11 left in our bank account.”
Years later, Monica Bradley would regret the extra pressure she had put on her soon-to-be husband in that moment. But she said they had reached near rock bottom. Around that time, they had arrived at their Palm Springs home to find an eviction notice on the front door. Monica was working, and Tim was fighting everywhere he could. Back then, that meant a steady stream of low-paying fights in smaller area casinos and hotel ballrooms. Monica had kids from a previous marriage, and there were mouths to feed. But the ends weren’t meeting.
Later that day, Bradley stepped into a foreign boxing ring, in front of an unfriendly crowd, to fight Junior Witter of England for the World Boxing Council 140-pound title. Witter had the title and the home venue. In boxing, that is a huge advantage. But Bradley boxed him and outfoxed him and won easily, even though the hometown judges called it a split decision. The Bradleys left England with $52,011 in their bank account.
Tim Bradley held the world title in two divisions.
Flash forward to early December of last year. Tim and Monica had been shuttling between homes and businesses in Palm Springs and San Diego. Monica owns and operates two Haus of Poké restaurants and a food truck in the desert, and Tim is an established boxing analyst for ESPN. Now, there are two kids in college, another one working with Tim at ESPN, and two younger ones finding their way in school and sports — five children in all. The family parts never stopped moving.
Monica was on her way back to the desert from San Diego, shortening the trip as much as possible by avoiding the big freeways and driving through Temecula instead. She got a flat tire and called Tim, who volunteered to come and get her. He did, told her to take his truck, continue on, and he would take care of the tire.
“I’m sitting there, watching as she heads out,” he recalls, “and before she gets no more than 100 yards down the road, I see her pull over to the side, then make a U-turn and come back to me. I have no idea what is going on. She gets out of the [truck], walks to my side of the car, and hands me a cell phone.” (Monica has managed Tim’s business for so long that the standard way for people to get in touch with him is to call her.)
“I look at her kind of strange, and she just hands me the phone. So, I take it, answer, and the voice on the other end says it is the International Boxing Hall of Fame; they were calling to tell me I had been voted in.
“I went to my knees. I’m on the side of the road in wine country in Temecula, and I go right to my knees. Then I cried.”
“It was the best feeling in the world,” he says.
Bradley will be inducted June 11 in Canastota, New York. The whole family will be there. Lots of friends. Also, many who followed his now Hall of Fame career from the time he began to fight his way out of his way-less-than-country-club life in South Palm Springs. That start was Aug. 20, 2004, with a TKO against Francisco Martinez in a warehouse/boxing ring in Corona. Thirty-five fights and 12 years later, he would wind it down with a loss to superstar Manny Pacquiao on one of boxing’s center stages, the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. The final record was 33-2-1.
One of those 33 was a June 9, 2012, win against Pacquiao, a controversial and stunning result. In the end, Bradley’s only two defeats were to Pacquiao. They fought a trilogy and ended up with deep respect for each other. Pacquiao, the Filipino who captured the fancy of the boxing world with his rags-to-riches career and personal story, won 12 world titles in eight different weight divisions. He fought 72 times and lost only eight; one of those to Bradley.
Pacquiao won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame until next year, because he fought longer than Bradley, and the rules say you need to be retired for two years before you make the ballot.
Bradley has been a network broadcaster for four years, and his ability to be glib and analytical at the same time has served him well on television. Viewers see somebody who is always upbeat, always friendly — somebody with the insight of having “been there, done that,” while describing the action of the ring.
Shortly after word got out of his Hall of Fame selection, his fellow broadcast crew surprised him on camera. Joe Tesitore waxed on nicely, followed by Andre Ward, who’s also in the Hall of Fame and told him, “Welcome to the club.” Fellow analyst Mark Kriegel even got a bit choked up, not a usual sight for the tough-talking fight expert.
But nobody got quite as emotional over this as the main man, Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley Jr., who, in that moment along the side of the road in Temecula, did what no boxer ever wants to do.
He took a knee — not in defeat but in joyful surrender.
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