By Mike Houser
Appeal Sports Writer
(This is the first of a two-part piece - part column, part preview - on Yerington super middleweight Jesse Brinkley, who will face Jason "Notorious" Naugler in the main event of "International Affair" June 13 at Reno Ballroom. Part II will run Thursday.)
While I don't remember if it was just common sense or if someone actually told me, I learned early in life not to eat the yellow snow.
But I remember specifically who taught me never to wear white or eat a hot dog when sitting ringside. That honor goes to Yerington super middleweight Jesse Brinkley, who indirectly passed on these pearls of wisdom on Dec. 17, 2000, when he stopped a bloody Kennedy McCullough in four rounds at the Peppermill Casino in Reno.
In addition to sprinkling my shirt with the bright red droplets of his opponent's blood, Brinkley literally knocked the snot out of McCullough. That much was apparent to me when I looked down and wondered why, since I hadn't added ketchup or relish to it, a giant clot of red and green was covering my half-eaten dog.
And with McCullough clogging one nostril with a glove and blowing blood out of the other one as he neared his corner, everything suddenly made sense.
As the years passed, I got to know Brinkley quite a bit better. I'll never forget how indignant he was after Idaho middleweight prospect Cleveland Corder big-leagued him before a fight in April 2001, also at the Peppermill.
Brinkley, eyes ablaze, told me how he couldn't wait to get in the ring with Corder, who had just brushed him off with the comment that maybe someday he would grace Brinkley with a fight ... maybe ... if Brinkley improved.
Corder ended up eating those words in 2003, when Brinkley stopped him in one round at Coeur d'Alene Casino, in Worley, Idaho. Although Corder would end up redeeming himself in their hard-fought rematch in 2004, he still didn't make it out of the ninth round against his nemesis.
Having already fought in a "Back Alley Brawl" in Yerington, scrapping in a "Cow Pasture" fight in Gardnerville (he slipped by Danny Perez in an ESPN-televised affair) and earning himself worldwide recognition on the NBC reality boxing show "The Contender," Brinkley also traveled to England, where he lost to former WBC super middleweight titlist Robin Reid.
Now the 31-year-old Brinkley will defend his WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (USNBC) belt in a 12-round contest against Canadian light heavyweight champion Jason "Notorious" Naugler in the headliner of an eight-bout card June 13 at Reno Ballroom.
After speaking with Brinkley via telephone from his training camp in Providence, R.I., I learned two more things: 1) After 11 years of cracking heads for a living, Brinkley, 30-5 with 21 knockouts, is starting to feel the effects of age; 2) He doesn't have a complacent bone in his body.
Brinkley was six weeks into his training camp with Peter Manfredo, Sr., but said he was still weighing 175 pounds after coming into camp at 185. "I'm definitely going to be drying out to make weight this time," said Brinkley, who bemoaned the fact that he had found some gray hairs on his neck. "As I get older, making weight isn't fun to me anymore. It used to be fun going to camp. The weight used to fall off of me. It doesn't melt off me anymore. I'm getting older. Who knows."
It's hard to remember a fight in which he hadn't hurt his hands, so when Brinkley - who started his career as a welterweight - expressed a concern about continuing to meet in-your-face light heavyweights, I wasn't surprised. Time and injuries take their toll.
But Brinkley seemed irritable, annoyed and generally frustrated with his career when I brought up his No. 14 ranking in the WBO. Rather than expound on his accomplishment, which makes him eligible for a title shot if IBF champion Lucian Bute decides to opt for a voluntary defense, Brinkley instead vented.
"I don't give a (deleted) about the money - the money comes with the name," he said. "Why can't I get one of these (contenders or champions) to fight me? Why do I have to be the steppingstone and give these guys the opportunities in my home area? Why do I have to prove myself to get an opportunity to fight a Jeff Lacy or an Edison Miranda?"
Brinkley pointed to the career trajectory of world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik as an example.
"He wasn't supposed to beat Jose (Luis) Zertuche, he wasn't supposed to beat Edison Miranda, he wasn't supposed to beat Jermain Taylor - he knocked every one of them out. Now what?"
To answer one of Brinkley's not-so rhetorical questions, now Pavlik is a highly paid superstar who will defend his title against Gary Lockett Saturday in an HBO telecast.
As for Brinkley?
"The problem is, do you make $35,000 to fight someone in your hometown or $30,000 to have Edison Miranda knock you out?" queried Brinkley before quickly answering his own riddle. "Knock me out so you go home and raise my kids and be a family man. I'm 31 years old. My hands and knee aren't long for this world. I don't want to be fighting light heavyweights.
"I'm not looking for a million-dollar payday. Give me $75,000 and put me in with the big guys. Take the pressure off my back of having to knock someone out every three months in front of my home fans. Let me do it somewhere else. Let me go to Las Vegas and be a 60-1 underdog, or to Atlantic City at 80-1, or fly me to Puerto Rico. When am I ever going to hear that phone call?"
It may not rank up there with eating yellow snow or hot dogs at ringside, but I've learned something else: It's easy to misinterpret what you hear and read. I'll share with you what that is and how it relates to Brinkley tomorrow.