Like husband Timothy, Monica Bradley is thriving in the fight game

LAS VEGAS – Boxing, from the bone-crunching tussles inside the ring to the political and occasionally devious maneuvers that surround it, has never been a business for the faint-hearted. Thankfully for Monica Bradley and her WBO welterweight champion husband, Timothy, she is anything but that.

Monica took over as manager for Timothy, who fights Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday, following the end of his long association with veteran manager Cameron Dunkin, a move that raised many an eyebrow in boxing circles.

As the fighters have dealt with the whirlwind of attention accompanying this weekend's pugilistic hostilities, so too has she been a hive of activity, arranging his schedule down to a fine detail between drug tests and news conferences and keeping his weight in check before the scales are tipped.

And it was she who conducted the financial negotiations for this fight, as Bradley seeks to build on the momentum of 2013, when he outlasted Ruslan Provodnikov in the consensus fight of the year and then outdueled Juan Manuel Marquez, who knocked Pacquiao cold in December 2012.

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"It is a little scary sometimes," Monica said in an interview with Yahoo Sports this week. "I am a female, and how many females do you really see managing their husband?"

Shane Mosley's ex-wife, Jin, is the only high-profile one that springs to mind, and that ended badly, with an acrimonious divorce several years ago.

"I see myself as his voice when he can't be there," Monica said. "You've got to walk in like you know what you're doing. You got to act like a boss. It all comes back to that I know what his worth is. I know what he wants. I am going to try to get it in any way possible."

For some managers, fight night is the easiest part, with all the prep work done, all the contracts inked and the paycheck assured. But for Monica Bradley that is when the true agony begins.

While a million or so fans tuning in on HBO Pay-Per-View will be watching two of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters, Monica will be watching the man she shares her life with.

"I don't like boxing," she said.

She may not like it, but when her husband suggested not just dipping her toe into its murky political waters but diving headfirst into the maelstrom, she did not hesitate.

With a career in school district administration behind her, she would seem to be a poor matchup for the law school graduates, business entrepreneurs and eager hucksters who populate the sport's dealing circles.

Yet while the family will earn $6 million for Saturday's bout, they also know life on its rougher edge. Monica knew and fell in love with Bradley long before he commanded such figures, back when financial hardship was real enough that their home was threatened with foreclosure and their bank account balance read just $11 before his turning-point world title victory over Junior Witter in 2008.

Before their relationship began, she faced the struggle of being a single mother to two children in the Palm Springs area, and she now has two more with Bradley. She overcame the battle of making ends meet after becoming pregnant in her senior year of high school and seeing her first husband leave.

Those experiences, combined with a determination to do right by her family, is what steels her in those tense negotiations.

"We have been through a lot, and things were not easy for a long time," she said. "That prepares you well for whatever comes next. I don't know everyone in the business, but it is about knowing what we want and talking. I won't let people intimidate me."

Do they try?

"They do."

This is the second time Bradley will face Pacquiao, and the first one concluded with about as bleak of an ending as possible for someone who was crowned the winner. Accusations of a fix sprung up almost as soon as the split decision was announced in Bradley's favor, and boos filled the MGM Grand Garden in June 2012.

There was an official investigation into the judging (that ultimately found no wrongdoing), fury from fans and, chillingly, even a written death threat sent to the Bradley home. The decision was widely derided in the media as being farcically bad.

Bradley found himself unable to shake off the barbs; he took them to heart and in what he describes as the bleakest time of his career, even contemplated suicide.

Rarely has a fighter lost more by beating a living legend.

Bradley had a rematch clause entitling him to $10 million for an immediate do-over with Pacquiao, but when promoter Top Rank said that was not fiscally feasible, he and Monica refused to budge. They instead took a far less lucrative fight with Provodnikov that left him bruised and battered, followed by a commanding performance over Marquez to take his career record to 31-0.

Some have questioned whether a smarter career move would have been for Timothy to entrench himself with a recognized boxing manager, like guru Al Haymon, whom Monica says was interested in working with Bradley. Instead, the Bradleys were steadfast in doing things their own way.

"When you look at his path, how much more would Al Haymon do for him?" Monica Bradley said. "We look at things. We could add so many more people to his camp. How much more are we going to get out of it? Are we going to get more out it overall?"

The answer to that family discussion, apparently, was "no," and Mr. Bradley seems perfectly content with how things have worked out.

"My wife is fantastic," he said. "It is about keeping it in the family."

You might not know it from hanging out in the vicinity of the MGM Grand Garden, but this is one of the biggest fights of the year and the most significant so far.

If ever there were proof needed of boxing shooting itself in the foot for nonsensical reasons, you need to look no further than the giant banner promoting Floyd Mayweather's next fight on the MGM Grand's emerald frontage rather than the Pacquiao-Bradley contest.

Apparently the MGM allowed itself to be contractually bound by Mayweather to an agreement stating his "Home of the Champion" banner must remain in place at all times, even on a rival fight week.

Pacquiao is said to be bothered by it. For Bradley, life outside the spotlight is nothing new.

He has never and will never be one of the sport's glitterati, no matter how much success he has. There is no huge entourage or overtly obnoxious displays of wealth. He and Monica and the children share a 3,000-square-foot home in Palm Springs and have consciously shunned a move to a bigger premises because the higher costs may not be sustainable long into the future.

"The more, more, more you expand is the more you will push away from yourself and your family," Monica said. "That is why you've got to stay compacted. We are not living just to enjoy now."

Bradley has allowed himself one extravagance, a Maserati, but he is not one for the high life and is humble to a fault. Monica says he was star-struck when Dwight Howard came over to introduce himself as Bradley appeared on TNT's basketball coverage on Tuesday, and he is always shocked at how many people recognize him in their community.

Such humility is endearing, but does the lack of bullish bravado that is so common to so many fighters signal a lack of confidence?

"I remember times when he stepped into these fights like two years ago, when it was a little stressful," Monica said. "I was like, you are happier when you don't have anything than when you have everything."

A victory over Pacquiao would not give Bradley "everything" but it would give him a serious push toward the very top of the sport and likely clinch more lucrative paydays.

At least if Monica has anything to do with it at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, she will nervously get ready for her husband's latest entry into the ring in the same way as ever, using the same mantra of inner belief that has kept her going ever since those times when life was a daily struggle.

"It is going to work out in the end," she said.

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