It is Brinkley’s fight to lose |

It is Brinkley’s fight to lose

Mike Houser
Special to the Appeal
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal
Nevada Appeal | Nevada Appeal

RENO ” From Miss Nevada 2008 ” Julianna Erdesz ” to fight fans and insiders, everyone seems to have an opinion on who will win today’s 12-round bout between Yerington’s Jesse Brinkley and Reno’s Joey Gilbert at Reno Events Center.

While Miss Nevada’s pick is less scientific than some (she selected Brinkley to win because she knows one of his early trainers), it’s no less valid than others I’ve heard because most of them are simply basing their choice on which fighter they like.

The majority that are taking Brinkley ” who is ranked No. 13 by the IBF and is defending his WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (USNBC) super middleweight belt ” are saying that Gilbert is scared and lacks confidence.

Those choosing Gilbert have knocked Brinkley for being stopped in two of his fights and for fighting what they regard as inferior opposition.

Give or take, Brinkley is roughly a 2-to-1 favorite, with this line based mainly on Brinkley’s superior professional experience. Brinkley is 32-5 with 22 knockouts, while Gilbert is 17-1 (13) with 1 no-contest.

But Brinkley’s 37-19 advantage in pro fights takes on less significance when the fighters’ amateur experience is factored in. Both are 32 years old and began boxing about the same amount of time. Brinkley had only six amateur bouts ” he went 3-3 ” Gilbert had 28, going 27-1 and winning three national championships as a member of the University of Nevada club boxing team.

That gives Gilbert an actual 47-43 edge in total bouts.

Before testing positive for one metabolite of the steroid Stanazolol in 2007, Gilbert was ranked No. 4 by the WBO at 160 pounds and held the USNBC and North American Boxing Organization middleweight belts.

Gilbert backers also will trumpet the fact that their fighter has only one close professional loss ” to Peter Manfredo Jr. on the NBC reality boxing show “The Contender.” (Gilbert lost via five -round split-technical decision.)

I’d like to deal with each point one by one.

First, regarding Gilbert being scared and lacking confidence, I challenge anyone to look at his 47 total bouts and show me in which one he has been a coward. That would be a difficult task, because he hasn’t. He also has a solid chin and has never been down.

Brinkley has been dropped three times ” twice by body shots, including one (against Danny Perez) that was incorrectly ruled a low blow. In his fifth pro bout, Brinkley got caught with a wild right hand and stopped in the second round by Concepcion Gutierrez, who was 1-4 at the time.

And, after he was convincingly outboxing rugged Joey Spina, Brinkley got caught with a left to the liver and was stopped in the 11th round of their 2006 contest.

But to say Brinkley has never fought anyone is pure folly. He has fought two former world champions (Robin Reid and Sergio Mora) as well as three others (Perez, Jonathan Reid and Alfonzo Gomez) who have challenged for world titles.

Gilbert’s best opponent was Manfredo, who lost in his bid for a world championship.

Whereas Gilbert’s two most convincing wins came over former welterweight Jimmy Lange, Brinkley has faced and beaten naturally bigger and stronger fighters in Anthony Bonsante, Cleveland Corder (twice), Joe Garcia, Dallas Vargas and Otis Griffin.

While Gilbert was taking the least path of resistance to a world title shot (see his bouts with undefeated but unproven Michi Munoz and Juan Astorga), Brinkley was fighting more dangerous and more experienced opponents.

Advantage Brinkley.

Maybe Gilbert has the edge in athleticism and conditioning, maybe he doesn’t. In getting ready for this bout, Brinkley has trained under Peter Manfredo Sr. for the last six months. He’s never been in better shape.

For me, it all will boil down to boxing skill and here’s where Brinkley holds a decided edge. Beginning with the Vargas fight in 2007, Brinkley has stepped over the threshold from being a good boxer to a very good one.

Gilbert drops his hands and throws his punches from a lower plane than is desirable. He doesn’t pronate his shots as well as he could and his balance and footwork go askew when he throws bombs. He’s also vulnerable for a counter left hook-right hand when he switches to southpaw after hurting his opponent.

Conversely, Brinkley’s punches are sharper, thrown in a straight line and, while boxing relaxed, he mixes up his shots well and throws in combination ” head and body.

Advantage Brinkley.

Like every fight fan, I hope this fight is as exciting as Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns, but it won’t be. Both boxers are too smart for that and both will look to avoid making mistakes.

If there is a chance of an early knockout, it’s more likely that Brinkley will score it. Against raw Jason Aaker in 2006, an enormous left hook in the first round caught Gilbert. But thanks to Aaker’s inexperience and Gilbert’s chin and moxy, Aaker wasn’t able to follow up. Brinkley would.

Gilbert is a devastating body puncher and if Brinkley lets his guard down, he could pay. But since training with Manfredo, Brinkley has tightened up his defense and is aware of that former chink in his armor. Plus, he is letting his hands go more than he did in his losses to Reid, Mora and Gomez.

I see Gilbert moving a lot and trying to outjab, outbox and outvolume a pursuing Brinkley, who is better when he moves back. And Brinkley will likely try and force Gilbert to come to him, which will get restless fans to start booing.

But when the rubber hits the road, Brinkley will begin to connect with his jab, followed by some hard shots. Gilbert always fights back gamely when he’s hit, but this will only play into Brinkley’s hands even more.

If Gilbert can force Brinkley to chase him and at the same time stay more active, it could go the distance and influence the judges, who like to see busy hands.

But I see Brinkley’s skills taking over by the middle rounds, with Gilbert trying to retaliate, only to get hit even harder and more often. At that point, the fight will last only as long as Gilbert’s chin, big heart and the referee allow it to.

I’m taking a focused, intense and motivated Brinkley, possibly via late-round stoppage in the Biggest Little Fight in the Biggest Little City.