As a prospect with a record of 7-0, all by knockout, middleweight Joey Gilbert is hoping to someday fight his way up to contender status.
That day may come a lot sooner than expected.
Fresh off a run up Mount Rose in 97-degree heat, Gilbert, who is scheduled to face Farhid Shahid in the six-round co-main event Saturday night at Caesars Tahoe, said that he has auditioned for NBC's upcoming reality series "The Contender."
While details have yet to be finalized, "The Contender" will reportedly feature 16 boxers in the middleweight division vying for a $1 million prize and a chance at superstardom and the international recognition that has come along with the success of other reality shows such as "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."
"I've signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can't go into specifics other than saying we've been filming a national promo and that I'm actively pursuing it," the 28-year-old Gilbert said on Monday. "I was also contacted for Oscar De La Hoya's 'The Next Great Champion.' Right now I'm just going through the process (for 'The Contender') and will be getting an interview."
When the staff at NBC reads through all of its potential candidates' resumes, Gilbert's should resonate like a siren in a library. Gilbert is a 1999 University of Nevada graduate and to go with his college degree in English literature, he added a law degree last year from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
Then there's the eponymous Gilbert Partners, a public relations and consulting firm from which Gilbert has been "doing some grassroots work" in trying to get Judge Ron Parraguirri elected to the Nevada Supreme Court. Along with Reno businessmen Pat Conners and Rick Reviglio, Gilbert is among a group that is also trying to raise $4 million so the newly constructed Bishop Manogue High School, Gilbert's alma mater, will "have the best sports complex around."
Gilbert said his involvement in Manogue is very personal and that its football field - the D.J. Benardis Memorial Field - will be named after Gilbert's best friend, Benardis, who was killed by an impaired driver on April 2, 1995.
In addition to the voluble Gilbert's charisma, executives of "The Contender" should also be impressed by his boxing background, which includes three National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national championships (two at 147 pounds and one at 156 pounds), a Nevada Golden Gloves state middleweight championship, as well as a professional career in which Gilbert has stopped all seven of his opponents, including four in the first round.
While the television executives have been busy paring down to their 16 candidates, Gilbert, a former member of the Nevada Air National Guard, has had his mind on his father, Lt. Commander Warren Gilbert, a Reno physician, who was deployed to Afghanistan in April and is attached to a Marine Expeditionary Force.
"All I know is that he's based out of Kandahar," Gilbert said of his father, who is part of a special trauma unit that sometimes works in undisclosed locations when treating members of the U.S. Army Special Forces. "It's like that line in 'Pulp Fiction:' I'm a racecar and I'm in the red zone. My trainer, Kenny Rayford, says if he were my opponent, he wouldn't want to be fighting me right now."
That job will be assigned to the 31-year-old Shahid, who brings in a record of 2-1 (1) and, like Gilbert, fights out of Las Vegas.
"I don't know anything about (Shahid)," Gilbert said. "I'm not too worried. They say he's fast and will try to outbox me. But I've always heard that kind of stuff. (Back in college) when I fought guys from Air Force, Navy - and in the Golden Gloves. But boxing is boxing. It's always a chance you take.
"We're not looking at (Shahid's) 2-1. We're not taking him light. We train like it's a 12-round title fight. It's that simple. I have a great chin. I'm in incredible, incredible shape. I don't care who he's been in there with. When you fight me, it's a whole different ballgame. When you're fighting me, it's a whole different animal. You have to be confident. It's the wrong game not be confident."
Gilbert said his self-confidence stems from his training regimen and his focus, which he said shouldn't be doubted because he's got so many irons in the fire.
"My first focus is boxing," said Gilbert, who turned pro with a second-round TKO over Miguel Lopez in June 2000. "I run up Mount Charleston (in Las Vegas), which is 8,000 feet (elevation). I've been doing sprints, extra sparring, tweaking my diet. No matter what I'm doing, I don't relent on my training. On the Fourth of July, I was on the Stairmaster from 8:30 till 9:30. I'm one of those guys who doesn't compromise one thing for another."
Gilbert said he weighed about 165 and would have no trouble reaching the contracted weight limit of 160 pounds. He is coming off an April 24, fourth-round TKO of Kirk Douglas at the Reno Hilton. This will be Gilbert's third fight of 2004, his busiest year as a professional and maybe the one in which he makes his mark as a "contender."
There will be five other fights on Saturday's 8 p.m. card, which will be promoted by Duva Boxing and Reno LLC. The eight-round main event will feature junior welterweights Oscar Diaz, San Antonio, Texas, and Juan Carlos Amezcua, of Vallejo, Calif. Diaz is 17-1 (10) and Amezcua is 9-1 (7).