After upset win, Brinkley has eye on title bout
RENO – In the week leading up to the Jesse Brinkley-Curtis Stevens fight, Brinkley was the quiet one between the two. He never seemed outwardly confident, rather feeding Stevens with praise and claiming that he is going to be in for the fight of his life. Stevens on the other hand, told ESPN2, who broadcasted the fight as part of its “Friday Night Fights,” prior to the bout that he was going to knock Brinkley out in 50 seconds.
But after 36 minutes in the ring it was Stevens who had the fight of his life as he was given two eight-counts and lost Friday in a unanimous 12-round decision, while Brinkley will move on to finally achieve the dream fight he has sought since he won his first bout in 1997.
“A world title fight’s coming and I know it’s coming,” Brinkley said. “My coach and I, now, are going to have to go a 6-foot, 6-foot-1 left-hander that’s one of the nastiest in the world to get ready for a fight that’s completely 180 (degrees) opposite of this bout. We just fought a short right-hander, now we have to fight a tall, lean left-hander. So, I know it’s coming. I’m not going to turn it down. Offer me a high-six digits and we’re going to go fight.”
Brinkley (35-5, 22 KOs) is now the International Boxing Federation’s No. 2-ranked contender and will likely face Lucian Bute on April 17 in Canada, where Bute lives, for the IBF super middleweight championship.
The Yerington native’s road to being a contender has been a long one. He was just short of his 22nd birthday when he won his debut by way of knock out. He then reeled off two more KOs in his next three fights. But in his fourth fight he tasted canvas for the first time when he was KO’d in the second round by Concepcion Gutierrez, who had won only one fight coming into the bout and had never knocked out his opponent in his previous five matches.
Brinkley got back in the ring four months later against William Amato and rebounded mightily by knocking him out in the first round. He went on to win his next 19 fights and steamrolled his way into fame when he was selected to be a contestant on NBC’s “The Contender,” in 2004.
He won his first two fights on the show and looked like a favorite to win the show, but he fell to eventual champion Sergio Mora in the semifinals by unanimous decision. He would lose three of his next four fights as it looked like his once promising career would fall to the way side.
He rebounded again, though. Since falling to Robin Reid in 2007 by unanimous decision, he was won nine straight fights and has recemented his place in the super middleweight division.
“That performance on TV basically lets the world know that he is one of the best super middleweights in the world,” said Terry Lane, president of Let’s Get It Promotions, which promotes Brinkley. “In Reno with our fights, we’ve been putting that out there but Jesse was supposed to lose that fight. He was supposed to lose, he was the underdog. Stevens thought it was going to be an easy fight. He completely underestimated Jesse and basically it’s an affirmation that Jesse is one of the best super middleweights in the world.”
While Brinkley was a 2-1 underdog against Stevens, he will face even bigger odds against Bute (25-0, 20 KOs). Bute has dominated all of his opponents so far in his career, having earned all but three of his knockouts in the first eight rounds. In his five bouts won by decision all have been unanimous.
Additionally, Bute is a southpaw, a style Brinkley is known to have trouble with. Brinkley last faced a southpaw in Mike Pascal, his fight before Stevens, and while he won a unanimous 10-round decision he was never able to show the same tenacity as he did against Stevens.
“One of the reasons we made the fight with Pascal was because Bute was an option and we saw this coming,” Lane said. “He’s fought a bunch of them (southpaws). It’s just a totally different angle. This guy is big and strong and physical … But Jesse’s got one thing that’s bigger than anybody and that’s a lot of heart.”
Let’s Get It Promotions began tentative negotiations prior to Friday’s fight to face Bute as part of a doubleheader that will also feature Kelly Pavlick vs. Sergio Martinez for the middleweight title, which would be a pay-per-view fight put on by HBO. Brinkley has never fought a PPV bout and looks forward to the chance, but there are still some stumbling blocks that could hold the fight up.
“It’s looking a lot like it’s going to be me,” Brinkley said of the possibility of facing Bute. “If the money’s not right then I’m not going to hop in there with him. It’s for the world championship, that’s what I want but I’m not going to jump in there for peanuts with him. I want at least a half ($500,000), $350,000-$400,000 to get in there with him.”
What does Brinkley think his chances are of defeating Bute?
“Honestly, I’d like to knock him out or catch a heart attack trying.”