Illustrated biography of boxer Tim Bradley, telling how he won championships and respect.
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Hard to Heart
How Boxer Tim Bradley Won Championships and Respect
by Bill Dwyre
Copyright © 2017 by Back Story Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or stored in any printed, mechanical, or electronic form, or distributed or held or stored for distribution by any physical or electronic means, without written permission from Back Story Publishing. Please respect the rights of authors and publishers, and refrain from piracy of copyrighted materials. Thank you.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017954224
Paperback editions printed in the United States of America.
For information on quantity discounts or special editions to be used for educational programs, fundraising, premiums, or sales promotions, please inquire via electronic mail at [email protected], or write to Back Story Publishing, Post Office Box 2580, Rancho Mirage, California 92270 USA.
News media inquiries may be directed to
Cover photograph copyright © Chris Farina / ChrisFarina.com
Back cover photograph courtesy the Bradley Family and
copyright © Bradley Family photo
Designer: Stuart Funk
Back Story Publishing Editorial Director: Ellen Alperstein
www.BackStoryPublishing.comeBook by ePubMATIC.com
1 - NEAT LAWNS AND LOTS OF DIRT
2 - A LITTLE MONSTER
3 - FINDING HEAVEN
4 - LIVING ON TROPHIES
5 - THE LUCK OF LOVE
6 - CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
7 - THE LITTLE FISH
8 - LUNCH PAIL TIM
9 - DID YOU REALLY WIN THE FIGHT?
10 - THE DARK DAYS
11 - THEY WANT BLOOD
12 - HIS KIND OF FIGHT
13 - THE FIGHT TO RIGHT A WRONG
14 - THE VALUE OF LIFE
15 - THE LONG RIDE HOME
THIS IS A STORY about someone you probably never heard of who became famous playing a sport you probably don’t like.
Why in the world would you read a book about someone you probably don’t care about?
You would because this someone is Tim Bradley, a boy who found something he loved that was really hard to do. Tim Bradley grew up in a desert town where he was far more likely to fight his way into jail than into fame and fortune. Tim Bradley got bullied and thrown out of school. But he also became a five-time world-champion boxer.
Along the way, Tim learned how to care about other people, and when you make your living hitting guys with your fists, that’s a good story.
Maybe you want to be a soccer player. Maybe you want to teach science, or be a rapper. It doesn’t matter what you want to do. It matters that you figure out how to be happy while you’re trying to do it, and how to treat other people along the way.
This year, Tim Bradley decided to retire from boxing. It was a really hard decision, because he’s still a great athlete. “I still have the fire,” he says, “but the fire is with my kids.”
I’m a sportswriter. A couple of years ago, I was about to retire from a newspaper where I had worked for 35 years. I wrote a lot about boxing. Some of my stories were not very nice to the sport, or to Tim. My last assignment was to write about what turned out to be one of Tim’s last fights. It was for a championship. The week of a big fight, most boxers rest. They hide with their friends and family, away from reporters and fans. But that week before Tim’s big fight, he came into the press room. He had heard that I was retiring from the newspaper, and he wanted to say goodbye and to congratulate me on my long newspaper career.
That was just one of the reasons I knew I had to write Tim’s story. I wanted to show how he went from being a small, black kid living among gang-bangers to a rich, famous jock whose real wealth is his heart of gold. Now he’s saying goodbye to boxing, and hello to whatever comes next.
FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE, Tim Bradley was feisty. “I had 100 fights in second grade,” Tim says today, in 2017. He’s 34 years old.
He grew up in a rough neighborhood in Palm Springs, California. Some people would be surprised that there are neighborhoods like that in Palm Springs, a desert city known for its resorts. It has a lot of rich residents and a lot of them are famous.
Palm Springs, and the larger Coachella Valley where it is located, is famous for golf and tennis. Those expensive sports are played there in winter, when much of the rest of the United States is cold and snowy. But in the part of town where Tim grew up, there were more people in youth gangs than there were people who played golf.
“I had a temper,” Tim remembers. “I grew up in a tough neighborhood, and I was always one of the smallest guys. Other boys tried to bully me. I was always shorter. I always had a chip on my shoulder. All you had to do was look at me the wrong way.
“I would always resort to violence.”
But Tim learned how to use that anger in a positive way. Eventually, he would become one of the greatest professional boxers in the world.
Less than a mile from where Tim grew up, tall turbines spin in the wind, making clean energy. You see thousands of them as you enter the Coachella Valley minutes from the house where young Tim lived. His parents still live there.
Today, it’s a mixed neighborhood. There are nice homes with neat lawns. There are scrubby fields, and lots of dirt. New cars are parked in front of some homes; at others, rusty cars with missing wheels are perched on cement blocks. A couple of churches are nearby, and a gas station/mini-mart.
A few blocks from the Bradley house is a park and recreation center. A mural painted on the playground wall shows children — black, brown, and white — playing.
Tim’s father, Ray, moved there in 1981. “I met Kathleen at the park,” Ray says, referring to his wife. They have been married almost 36 years.
Ray is muscular. He’s 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 226 pounds. When he was young, Ray wanted to be a bodybuilder, and today, as a security guard at a local high school, he still works out.
Kathleen, who often is called “Kathy,” says that she and her husband have “always been tempted” to move out of the neighborhood.
“I hear about home invasions, but the gangs don’t bother us,” she says.
Ray adds, “They leave us alone. They know who I am. They respect me for what I do.”
As Tim became one of the famous people who live in the valley, a lot of people came to respect Ray and Kathy Bradley for how they raised him. For how they helped an angry kid who talked with his fists become not only a world-class boxer, but a nice person and a good father. Tim, who is married to a woman named Monica, is the father of three children and the stepfather of two. Today, the family of seven lives in the wealthy city of Rancho Mirage, 15 minutes away from his parents.
TIM WAS EXPELLED from one school when he was in second grade. That was the year he said he fought 100 times. He was expelled from another school when he was in fourth grade because of what happened on a school bus.
Tim’s sister Shantae is one year older than he. Tim has another sister two years younger. Her name is Myechia. When he was expelled and bused to a different school about 10 miles away, his sisters went with him to that school.
“There was lots of racial tension there,” Tim says. “The kids were mostly Latino. My sisters and I were three of maybe seven blacks in the school. Right away, they started calling us ‘monkeys.’ ”
If you are black, this is a serious insult based on the color of your skin.
Tim’s trouble here began on the playground. One day, one of his sisters playing there said one boy had called her a “monkey.” Tim hit him.
“I’d always confronted them with my fists,” Tim says. “I was never much of a talker. I didn’t care how big they were. I was never afraid of anybody. That’s just the way I was.”
Another time, his sister told him somebody had spit in her mouth.
Tim, right, is the middle child. He always protected his sisters, Katherine Myechia, the baby, and big sister Shantae Latrice.
“I confronted him,” Tim says. “Then we had a few words, I hit him, and spit in his mouth. I got sent to the office, but I didn’t care.… I never thought about consequences. The only thing in my mind was protecting my sisters.”
Soon, there was another incident on the playground. Tim got into an argument with another boy, and, as a fight was about to break out, somebody warned Tim that this boy knew karate.
“He came at me with all that karate stuff,” Tim says, “and I just hit him with one straight shot, in the eye. That was the end of the fight. But it was school picture day and he had to have his picture taken with a black eye. I kind of liked that.”
But the adults at the school didn’t. Tim got suspended for three days.
Then he got into the fight on the school bus.
“I got on the bus and sat in a seat that I knew I shouldn’t have,” Tim recalls. “That seat was where a fifth-grader always sat. He got on, told me to move, and told me if I didn’t, he would ‘choke me out.’ I didn’t move and he grabbed me and started choking me. He was much bigger than I was. It wasn’t really a big fight. I couldn’t do much.
“The bus driver pulled him off me. I’m glad he did, because the kid might have killed me. I remember the bus driver telling me that my dad ought to teach me how to fight better. That really made my dad angry when I told him.”
After the bus driver reported the fight, Tim was expelled.
“My dad went to the school principal and the principal told him what a bad kid I was. My dad asked the principal how he would feel if somebody choked him out. My dad told him he didn’t care for what the bus driver had said.
Tim’s father, Ray, at home on the lawn Tim used to mow as one of his chores.
“It didn’t matter. He threw both my dad and me out of his office. I got expelled and the other kid stayed.”
Tim was sent to another school closer to home. His father, Ray, worked for that school district and this school was Tim’s last chance.
“I got a lot of passes because of my dad, because he worked for the school district,” Tim says. But he also got punished by his parents when he let himself lose control too much. They thought there had to be consequences for behaving badly. In the Bradley house, that meant losing privileges like playing Nintendo, doing more chores, and getting grounded.
At this school, Tim remembers that his dad told him that “this would be my last chance, that there would be no other school that would take me if I got into another fight. The teachers really started to keep me under control. They were always watching me.
“I knew I had to change. I knew that my way of thinking was the wrong way. I knew that I had a thug mentality. That’s what I called it. I was pretty much a little monster. My dad told me that he did not raise me to be a bully.”
Even if he shaped up at school, Tim still had a lot to overcome because his new school, closer to his home, was dangerous. The main gang in his neighborhood was known as GWPC, the Gateway Posse Crips.
“My uncles and cousins were involved with the gangs,” Tim says. “I was drawn to that. You see your friends, and their fathers and mothers always had nice cars. I could go to my uncles or cousins and they would have big wads of cash. As a kid, you don’t know any better.
“I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to do what they did. I’d get on the school bus and sack down my pants, just like the gang guys.”
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