'Dead broke' Timothy Bradley and wife Monica took big gamble that paid off

Dark thoughts rolled through Timothy Bradley's mind. The boxer was raised in Palm Springs, Calif., with a strong sense of right and wrong, but he also was raised to guard his family like an angry pit bull.

He'd quit his full-time job as a waiter at a Mimi's Cafe so he could concentrate on his fledgling boxing career. As he prepared to fight the most important fight of his life, he did so with enormous pressure on him. He'd given everything to become an elite fighter. He and his then-girlfriend, Monica, went all in. They bet everything they had that he'd be a success. Given that, a loss would be devastating. They weren't penniless, but they sure were close.

As Bradley left to fly to England for his first world title fight in 2008, the couple's bank account was a paltry $11.

"We were dead, dead, dead broke," Bradley said, laughing. "I had to win. We had no choice because we'd given everything we had to this and we were just about out of money."

These days, Bradley has no such financial pressures. He'll make a guaranteed $5 million to fight Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title on June 9 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. If the fight does well on pay-per-view, Bradley has the ability to double that amount.

It's a long way from where the couple was four years ago, when Bradley was preparing to face Junior Witter for a super lightweight championship. After long discussions, Bradley and his girlfriend decided that he should focus 100 percent on boxing and survive solely on her salary.

Monica Manzo and Timothy Bradley were middle school friends who had reconnected after she became a divorced mother of two. She knew young, single men often weren't interested in single moms. But she knew, she said, that Timothy would be the one for her by the way he almost instantly accepted her children.

"It's rare you're going to find a 23-year-old who so willingly took on the responsibility of two children in a new relationship," Monica Bradley said. "But it was like, right away, he fell in love with those kids. He would play with them and just want to be with them."

[Related: Timothy Bradley already making case for rematch with Manny Pacquiao]

What he wasn't doing, though, in those pre-Witter days was making much money for them. For a while, he was washing dishes at a Coco's restaurant before becoming a waiter at Mimi's, all the while training for his fight career.

He wasn't making much in any of his fights, and the expenses of fighting were enormous. It costs a lot of money to set up a proper training camp and hire sparring partners and pay trainers and cut men.

When Bradley was injured after a 2007 fight with Miguel Vazquez that raised his record to 21-0, it left him with a bank account perilously close to zero.

He talked about getting another job, but Monica didn't want him to give up his dream of becoming a successful boxer. She urged him to work on his rehabilitation and vowed to support him.

Timothy Bradley was raised with conviction and felt it wasn't right to take and not contribute. Because he was injured, he was focusing mostly on getting healthy. He led a few personal-training sessions on the side to generate income, but began to contemplate alternatives to make cash.

"As we were literally in the middle of that struggle to survive, I had the craziest thoughts about what I should do [to make money] to feed the kids," he said. "I can understand how for a lot of people who are really down on their luck, the whole criminal thing becomes appealing."

[Bradley blog: Kids keep Timothy Bradley grounded ahead of Pacquiao fight]

Bradley, though, resisted the evil impulses, knowing that it was not him. He believed in his talent and knew that if he could just hold on, they'd find a way to make it. He was desperate to earn income to support the woman he wanted to make his wife, who said she was just as eager to support him.

"We both agree that money is not the focus of our relationship and it never has been," she said. "We're not about money. Some people say, 'Oh, if only I had a ton of money, I'd be so happy.' But we believe money creates worries and problems. We just both felt that money would be the last thing that ever came between us. No matter what, we told each other that we'd never let money become a problem.

"It's not easy when you don't have a lot, but we both believed in each other and we knew we'd find a way."

Bradley eked out a win over Witter and began to fight for progressively bigger purses. The couple married on May 15, 2010, and had a child of their own.

Bradley kept winning and is now preparing for a career-defining fight. But he'll never forget those days not too long ago when he was all but penniless and Monica stood by his side.

They were a team in every sense of the word.

"I got real lucky with her," he said. "I know that. She was there for me when I needed her the most. Without her, none of this would be possible."

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