It seems that Yerington boxer Jesse Brinkley can't discuss his career without having to answer questions about fighting someone named Joey.
In this case the Joey in question isn't Reno's Joey Gilbert - Brinkley's former friend, publicist and fellow contestant on the NBC reality series "The Contender," whom Brinkley said he would love to fight.
This time it's Joey "The K.O. Kid" Spina, of Providence, R.I., whom Brinkley will meet May 10 in a 12-round bout for the WBC United States super middleweight championship. The bout will be televised from Foxwoods Hotel and Casino, in Mashantucket, Conn., on ESPN's Wednesday Night Fights.
Even by the glib Brinkley's standards, he was in somewhat rare form Monday, when contacted on his cell phone in Las Vegas, where he is back training with Miguel Diaz in the Top Rank Gym for Spina.
Blending his 19th-century "Most Wanted" outlaw persona with 21st-century technology, Brinkley has Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" on his cell phone answering machine and seemed to be thrilled that Spina is gunning for him.
"He thinks he wants a piece of me," Brinkley said, beginning a weary-sounding litany of Spina's threats. "He thinks I'm coming up in weight, that I'm too small, that he'll knock me out. He's a big healthy guy who can punch and who thinks he can knock me out."
The 28-year-old Spina is 17-0-1, with 12 knockouts, and is coming off a draw with journeyman Jose Spearman in November. His biggest victory was a three-round stoppage of rugged veteran Onwar Oshana, in August 2005.
"I'm not talking smack about him," said Brinkley, 26-3 (17). "I'm going to his house, facing an undefeated guy with a belt on the line and bringing it home. I'm fighting a big, undefeated dude. I have all the respect in the world for him. It's my first fight at 168 pounds. I'm going to test the waters. I have nothing to lose."
Except for a few more pounds in training, that is. Brinkley, who has fought as light as 154 pounds, has been having trouble making the 168-pound weight limit and said he was up to 202 pounds before camp 12 weeks ago. He said he weighed 174 pounds Monday after leaving the gym.
"I'm getting old. The body's wearing out," Brinkley said. "One of these years they'll have to send the old bull out to pasture. Things are wearing out on this body. I'm not young anymore. When you're 29, you can't train like you did when you were 20. My hamstring still hurts from when Joey (Gilbert) tackled me (on an episode of The Contender). I've got a major back injury from when I got hit in sparring."
Far from making excuses, Brinkley said he's completely motivated for Spina.
"I want to make a statement with this fight," Brinkley said. "I'd like to show that I can fight with this fighter. He's a natural 168-pounder who's coming down from 190 (actually Spina began his career as a light heavyweight). He's going after a guy who's coming up from 147 pounds. All B.S. aside, he should be favored for this fight."
Brinkley said he's got a tougher opponent than had his friend, fellow Contender Peter Manfredo Jr., who is coming off a an early knockout of former super middleweight force Scott Pemberton.
When the subject of former Contenders came up, so did talk of that other Joey.
"I can't wait to smash Joey Gilbert," Brinkley said with seeming glee. "I want to smash him so bad and shut him up. He's a lying, cheating and disrespectful human being. He's one disloyal human. I'd love to smash him. I thought he was my friend."
Brinkley had a business dispute with Gilbert following the airing of The Contender last year. Nonetheless, Brinkley has kept an eye on Gilbert, who recently won the NABO middleweight title in a rematch with ex-Contender Jimmy Lange. Gilbert is now rated No. 10 in the world by the WBO.
"He did what he had to - he beat Jimmy Lange. Congratulations," Brinkley said. "Good job. When do you want to face a real fighter? He's ducked me for over a year. We agreed on the show not to fight each other because we wanted to save it for Reno. What year are you going to fight me in Reno, Bro? This is getting old, ridiculous. I want to beat him, smash him."
Brinkley said he can't make 160 anymore and that Gilbert knows it, but he'd be willing to fight Gilbert at 164 and would gladly put up this belt should he beat Spina. Brinkley also said he's not interested in Gilbert's belt and that he'd give him "one free point."
"Joey Spina would smash Joey Gilbert," Brinkley said by way of comparison. "I've seen him (Spina) train down here. He's big. I'm going to look small next to him."
Brinkley then went into an Ivan Drago impersonation of Spina.
"He's big, strong - 'I must break you,'" Brinkley said, doing his best Dolph Lundgren. "I'm excited for this guy. It's his home, it's for his belt, he's undefeated, he can knock me out. It's why 'Rocky' movies are made. Joey Spina is no joke."
Brinkley said he has to get through Spina before taking on Cleveland Corder (whom he's knocked out twice) for a third time in Idaho. Brinkley stopped Corder in one round in their first meeting and in nine the second time.
"The second time I was I was losing the fight going into the ninth," Brinkley said. "I finally got him out. We both had broken noses and had swollen eyes. I'd like to have two, three fights and get Joey Gilbert in the ring."
Brinkley also contradicted statements made by his manager, Butch Peri, who in a March 31 article in the Nevada Appeal said, "Brinkley lost some focus" because "Hollywood got to Jesse's head."
"That's unfair," Brinkley said of the comments. "I'm more disciplined. I've been humbled into more reclusion. I'm more of a family man. I've been into backyard barbecues. I'm more sheltered. I'm faithful to my career and to (his girlfriend and mother of his two children) Colleen (Ritter). I don't lie, cheat or steal from anyone. I don't regret the things I've done. I want to bang it out for the next four years and see where I end up."
Brinkley also dismissed his last performance in a controversial five-round rematch victory over another former Contender, Anthony Bonsante, in October.
"That was the easiest fight of my life," Brinkley said. "When we'd get in close he'd say, 'Jesse, be nice.' Nobody heard that. He'd throw 30 punches and land two. He did nothing to me. Three of four more rounds and he'd have been out again."
Brinkley had previously knocked out Bonsante during a match on The Contender.
"It's more important to hit and not get hit," Brinkley said of his style. "Look at what happened to Ricardo Mayorga when he got beat by Felix Trinidad. But if you have to go back to what you know...you can take the kid away from the streets, but you can't take away the streets from the kid."
Brinkley said he'll no longer burn the candle at both ends, wreck his motorcycle on the streets and engage in other self-destructive behaviors. He's got a clear line of sight of what he wants to achieve in the near future.
And, yes, there's a Joey or two involved.
"I don't think Joey Gilbert is a bad fighter," Brinkley said. "He wants people to feel sorry for him - that he has no experience (Gilbert is 11-1, with 8 knockouts). He's playing the 'pity me' game. I want to defeat Joey Spina, a nice prospect, and get his belt at 168. Then one more time with Cleveland Corder. Then the fight of the century, even though it just started off - in 2006, it's Joey and Jesse in Reno."
Joey Gilbert, that is.