Unbeaten junior-welterweight boxer Timothy Bradley takes part in a training… (Christina House / For The…)
When the desert winds blow fiercest in the Coachella Valley, most scramble for cover from the blinding sands or torrid heat.
Not Timothy Bradley Jr. The Palm Springs boxer refuses to yield to such discomfort, letting nothing distract him from the work at hand: to train. And if that includes a solitary eight-mile run through conditions that would break almost everyone else, well, that's what this is all about.
Bradley's dad, Timothy Sr., ingrained in his son the importance of a strong mind, of outworking your opponent, of burning through the physical pain.
On the way to becoming a world champion, the younger Bradley found he had learned something else, what might be called the secrets of life. Charge in head first. Initiate the action. Take risks.
"My commitment to boxing and how I live my life are side by side," Bradley said last week as he tapered his training in Indio in preparation for Saturday night's world junior-welterweight title unification bout against fellow unbeaten Devon Alexander at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan.
It is Bradley's biggest stage, and because he is only one fight removed from being a free agent who can negotiate with other promoters, the potential riches that lie ahead for the 27-year-old are daunting.
One promoter said he wants the Bradley-Alexander winner to fight the other junior-welterweight champ, England's Amir Khan, at Staples Center in the summer. HBO is hyping Saturday's battle of unbeatens as a launching pad to a series of major bouts in the sport's most gifted division.
"That's why I wanted this fight," Bradley said. "This is my fight for superstardom."
Not a bad spot for a guy who was washing dishes at Coco's and serving tables at a Mimi's in his early days as a pro fighter. "I used to get up in the morning, run, then wait tables for eight hours," Bradley said. "Waiting tables is hard work, man. From there, I'd go to the gym and train."
Bradley no longer has to wait tables. And as for family, four years ago he reconnected with a grade-school classmate, Monica Manzo, and they were married last year.
"She was complete, she had morals, she handled responsibility," Bradley said. "She was holding it down solo. I'm seeing all this, and, yeah, I was a guy who had enjoyed going out with friends, but I'm saying, 'Man, I need this — a strong woman.'
"Fighters are always training, fighting, dieting. We get mad. We're in the light. Ladies try to get close to you. A woman who's insecure or needy can't deal with that. I always said I've got to marry someone smarter than me."
But with two children from a prior relationship, Monica had told Bradley, "You have one heart. I risk breaking three hearts if this doesn't work out."
Said Bradley: "I knew I'd have to become a role model like my own father, teach them right from wrong, always be there. It's tough being a step-parent. There are a lot of obstacles you don't see coming. But they're my kids now, and I give them love and commitment and I don't treat them any different than if they were my own child."
Bradley's fighting style is all about closing in on his opponent. He is 26-0 with 11 knockouts.
Bradley said he took on parenthood with the same style, with no fear of commitment or of emotional risk.
An example: During breaks from training, Bradley is president of the 150-player Cathedral City Junior All-American football league that counts his stepson, Robert, 11, as a standout player.
"Talent alone don't make you a champion," Bradley said. "It's talent and dedication."
If Monica has a work commitment that keeps her from watching Alaysia, 6, at gymnastics practice, Bradley will set aside training to be there, telling Monica, "We're not going to be those parents who use this as babysitting."
Like father …
"It comes from the way his dad raised him — the hard way," Bradley's trainer Joel Diaz said of Timothy Sr., a former Palm Springs airport skycap who now works as a school security guard.
"His dad has pushed him to the limit since the time he was 6. No time to breathe, no time to quit. There's a drill sergeant mentality there," Diaz said. "Tim has always been told, 'Your opponent is training harder than you.' It might look a little abusive in the beginning — the dad's not happy until Tim's on the ground — but look at what he's got through and what he's made of his life."
"I've hated it at times how he keeps pushing that needle into me. But he'll say, 'With just that much more effort,' — here Bradley holds his index finger and thumb an inch apart — 'you beat your opponent.' "
Two years ago, New Jersey's tough Kendall Holt had knocked Bradley down in the first round of their fight.
"Watch the film," Bradley said. "The message I left in winning that fight is that I'm tough, I'm not going to take a step back."
A year earlier, he outfought then-champion Junior Witter in England, leaving the British crowd stunned as he took the winner's belt home to the California desert.