With the whirlwind of rumors surrounding a Tim Bradley comeback and a Bradley/Broner showdown on the hot stove. It seems like the perfect time to look back on the career of Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley and where it all started… well kind of. By, this week circa 2008, Bradley had put together a perfect 21-0 record and was a somewhat regarded but mostly unknown prospect who had never fought outside of his native California. Bradley was coming off perhaps the best win of his career a near shout-out, performance over Miguel Vazquez. He had also put together wins over the likes of Donald Camarena and Alfonso Sanchez. Decent names but nothing that seemed to prepare him for what lie ahead. A showdown with WBC 140-pound champ Junior “The Hitter” Witter, in the champs backyard of Nottingham, England. In May 2008 Witter was beginning to be thought of as the best 140-pounder in the world and was coming off a masterful stoppage victory over “Vicious” Vivian Harris. He had also scored recent victories of Chop-Chop Corley, Lovemore Ndou and Andriy Kotelnik.
The tale of Bradley going over to Nottingham is well documented. Badley, was a hungry fighter, fighting for his family. Literally, Bradley’s bank account was down to $11 when he made the decision to go to England to fight Junior Witter. He was literally fighting to feed himself, and his family. Bradley rolled the dice and decided to take the career-defining fight. To go over to the UK as a massive 6-1 underdog and fight the champion in his own backyard. As an underdog and foreigner, Bradley would not just have to fight Junior Witter, who was viewed as a far superior fighter, but he would also have to fight against the hometown, biased crowd and win a clear decision in order to get the official decision. Bradley was stunned by the amount of money he was being paid, a life-changing amount of money he describes it, Bradley’s purse was a whopping $65,000. The decision to take the fight was based on the fact that he was going to win and bigger paydays where in his immediate future. Going into the fight Bradley had the mentality that either “my family is gonna eat or your family is gonna eat and my family is going to eat.” What made Bradley such a special fighter wasn’t his speed, or durable chin or nice combination punching or good defensive head movement. All those things were pretty good. What made Bradley special was that exact mentality. that dogged determination and uncompromising ability to refuse to lose. Going into the May 10th fight in Nottingham, Bradley was viewed as nothing special and Witter viewed as a far superior boxer. Would that matter in the face of Desert Storms unmatched tenacity?
The then 24-year old Bradley looked every bit the 6-1 underskilled, overmatched, underdog that he was supposed to be in the early going. Witter was controlling the limited action throughout the first four or five rounds. It was a tactical battle and it looked like the champ was taking the young prospect to school. Bradley was mostly content on sitting back and boxing and that played into the hands of the “Hitter Witter” when Bradley did try to pick up the pace, Witter was able to nullify the Desert Storms aggression.
Having lost four or possibly all of the first five rounds, and needing a clear-cut decision to win over the judges in the hostile crowd in the Nottingham Arena and perhaps building off of the momentum that Bradley was gathering having his best round in the fifth, a 50/50 coin-toss type of round. Bradley knew he had to pick up the aggression and go for broke. Bradley who was already financially broke had to let it all go and just as he gambled on himself in simply taking this fight, he again had to roll the dice and gamble on himself and apply relentless pressure. The tactic paid immediate dividends for the outmatched challenger, dropping the champ in the sixth with a huge looping overhand right with about 20 seconds in the round. Witter jumped up but was clearly hurt and on wobbly legs relegated to running and holding to survive the round.
Bradley, was oozing with confidence from scoring the knockdown and having figured out Witter. The sixth-round knockdown changed everything, Bradley’s fight plan was clearly different as he was now a charging bull on a vicious attack out-working Witter badly from that point on. Being on a persistent attack Bradley scored with straight right hands and body shots. It was evident the tides had turned and the challenger was in control. However, he would need to throw a perfect game from here on out, haven gave away most of if not all fo the first five rights. Bradley was fighting a determined fight and applying pressure seemed to perhaps throw the shout out from the sixth round on he needed. Nullifying the jab and movement of Witter and bullying him around the ring keeping the champion on his back foot for the rest of the night. As the bell rang to end the 12th it appeared Bradley had pulled off the comeback and pulled off the massive upset. But would he get two out of three judges to agree that he did enough? He got just that with the knockdown proving to be the difference. Bradley did just enough to win over the judges taking a razor close SD by scores of 115-113 and 114-113 in his favor and 115-112 in Witters favor.
This week in 2008, the boxing world was introduced to Timothy Bradley. The world title fight was nationally televised as part of Showtime’s Sho Box series and we saw for the first time Timothy Bradley’s dogged determination. He showed himself to be a little Evander Holyfield a relentless pit bull that was not to be denied. And, Oh Yea, did the “Desert Storms” bet pay off, his life-changing $65,000 purse would in just a few years become massive seven-figure paydays which turned into future well-placed business ventures that took a man down to his last eleven bucks, meaning he couldn’t even take it out of the ATM as he didn’t have the needed $20 to withdraw from most ATMs. Was now rich by any standard and allowed the man who was fighting to feed his family to retire at the age of 33 and live on easy street.