Brinkley set for May 10 fight

When he was on the NBC reality show "The Contender," Yerington's Jesse Brinkley was never at a loss for words.

Although that's most likely still the case, Brinkley's manager - Yerington businessman Butch Peri - said the colorful fighter is staying in the Top Rank Gym, in Las Vegas, and away from the press as he prepares for his May 10 meeting with Joey "The K.O. Kid" Spina, of Providence, R.I.

The bout, promoted by Jimmy Burchfield's Classic Entertainment and Sports with approval by The Contender, will be televised on ESPN on a Wednesday night, from the Foxwoods Hotel and Casino, in Mashantucket, Conn.

The 29-year-old Brinkley, 26-3 with 17 knockouts, is coming off a controversial five-round decision over Anthony Bonsante, a former Contender, last October.

For his part the 28-year-old Spina, 17-0-1 (12), is coming off a draw with journeyman Jose Spearman, last November.

The fighters will meet in a 12-round contest for the WBC's United States super middleweight belt.

Peri said Brinkley has gone back to trainer Miguel Diaz, who also trains several Top Rank fighters, after training under Peter Manfredo Sr. for his last fight with Bonsante, which was a rematch.

"Hollywood got to Jesse's head," Peri said of Brinkley's last fight. "He's taking on a new vision. While The Contender was good to him, Jesse realizes he may have lost some of his focus. Even though it was a good experience for him, it polluted his focus for a big fight."

Peri said this fight is the last Brinkley has under contract with The Contender, but that he will be offered an option from the show, which he'll consider.

Burchfield, who also promotes another former Contender, Peter Manfredo Jr., said the winner of this fight will have several options and will be ranked in the Top 10 of the WBC's super middleweight division as well as in one or more of the other three major sanctioning bodies - the IBF, WBA and WBO.

"Spina is probably one of the heaviest punchers in boxing," Burchfield said. "He's a big super middleweight (Spina began his career as a light heavyweight). This fight brings all kinds of opportunities to the winner. It's a big fight for both of them."

Burchfield said the event is being billed as "Put up...or Shut Up."

"Brinkley's a real competitor," Burchfield said. "He's not getting into this fight to lose. He has more experience than Joey has. It should be a heck of a fight."

Peri agreed, but feels that when - not if - Brinkley wins the fight, he'll have at least three options from which to choose.

"Jesse could fight in Germany in July," Peri said. "There's talk of a big pay-per-view card in Idaho and he could be on that in August against Cleveland Corder (Brinkley has stopped Corder twice before). Or he could face Joey Gilbert, in Reno, in August or September."

It is the latter possibility that is perhaps the most intriguing. Reno's Gilbert, 11-1 (8), is coming off a three-round stoppage of yet another former Contender, Jimmy Lange, on Feb. 18. Gilbert won the NABO middleweight title and is now ranked No. 14 by the WBO.

Once friendly to each other, a rift developed between the two after Brinkley accused Gilbert (then his agent) of ruining his Web site and not delivering on certain promises and an undisclosed amount of money.

Gilbert has repeatedly denied the accusation in the media.

Nonetheless, Brinkley-Gilbert would be a big seller in Reno, a possibility which Peri said has both excited and disappointed him.

"Gilbert's been, like, ducking me - he's always out of contact," Peri said Wednesday. "He's in Europe (on March 5 for the Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy title fight), in Japan - you can't put the fight together by avoiding the person. 'I'm in a meeting. I'll call you back.' That's all I hear. Joey's not giving it his all in helping this fight to happen in Reno that everybody wants to see. He's been ducking me."

Mark Schopper, Team Gilbert's chief strategist, offered another explanation on Thursday.

"Joey Gilbert is not avoiding anybody," Schopper said. "He's honestly just the busiest man on the planet. Our understanding is that Jesse is still under contract with The Contender. Once he's clear of that contractual relationship, we'd be more than willing to discuss the fight."

Which leaves only the fight at hand to discuss.

Before appearing on The Contender, Brinkley had some momentum, twice stopping Corder in Idaho (in one round the first time, in nine the second) and also knocking out rugged journeyman Joe Garcia in Reno. He also captured a decision over Danny Perez on an ESPN-televised card in Gardnerville.

Once on the reality show, Brinkley defeated 33-1 Jonathan Reid (who once unsuccessfully challenged Bernard Hopkins for the IBF middleweight title) in August 2004 and followed with a five-round knockout of Bonsante.

Because of the way The Contender edited its fights, it was hard to analyze how the boxers really looked and Brinkley lost to eventual Contender champion Sergio Mora in the semifinals in September 2004.

Brinkley followed with another loss to Alfonso Gomez in May 2005. In his rematch with Bonsante - televised by ESPN - Brinkley wasn't impressive in victory, something Peri attributes to Brinkley being a 10-round fighter, not a five-to-seven round fighter.

Spina's most impressive victory came in August 2005, when he stopped veteran Onwar Oshana in three rounds, before drawing with Spearman.

With Brinkley not talking to the press, he's already done the "shut up" part of the promotion. It remains to be seen if he will "put up" against Spina and moves on to bigger things - whether that's against Gilbert or someone else.


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