Brinkley, Gilbert ready for Civil War | NevadaAppeal.com
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Brinkley, Gilbert ready for Civil War

Mike Houser
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” Jesse Brinkley and Joey Gilbert hadn’t seen each other for years, and when they went nose-to-nose in front of the media Thursday at Reno Events Center to hype their long-awaited fight on Feb. 14 ” which is being billed as “Civil War” ” it was time for the former friends to share a few words.

“Your ride on the gravy train is over,” said Yerington bad boy Brinkley to a smiling Gilbert, who looked to be enjoying his 2-inch height advantage over his 5-foot-10 opponent. “This is where it all ends.”

“(Expletive) you,” Gilbert shot back. “You’re done.”

“(Expletive) you,” responded Brinkley. “Right now.”

The gathered media, guilty in their shared and unstated hopes that something was about to happen, let out a collective but somewhat disappointed laugh, as both boxers wisely went back to their seats.

“I’m ready for this guy,” said Brinkley, the WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship super middleweight beltholder and who possesses a record of 31-5 with 21 knockouts. “I’m after him for a few reasons. First, because he’s a fighter and fighters fight each other. He also avoided me after (the pair appeared on the NBC reality show ‘The Contender’). We made a deal to fight each other and could have made a lot of money together.

“Then he bad-mouthed me when he had a belt, saying I was poorly managed. He’s disrespectful. They’re paying me to fight him now. I would have done it for free in a back alley somewhere.”

Gilbert, 17-1 (13) with 1 no-contest, of Reno, said the fight was merely business for him and not personal.

“I don’t have this internal hatred, this childish ” I don’t know what you call it,” Gilbert said. “I don’t have this juvenile, drawn-out bitter resentment that he has for me. It makes no sense.”

But to boxing fans and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who sat next to Brinkley during the press conference, the fight itself makes perfect sense.

“It’s great for the community,” Cashell said. “It’s been talked about for a long time. To have it in Reno is fantastic. It’s a civil war between two native sons.”

“It’s been three years in the making,” said Chet Koerner, Gilbert’s promoter and whose TKO Boxing Promotions will present the show along with Reno-based Let’s Get It On Promotions. “I feel it’s what the people want. Feb. 14 we want the community to come out and support us.”

That shouldn’t be a problem. Gilbert-Brinkley is the fight that local boxing fans have been talking about ever since “The Contender” aired in 2005 (it was filmed in 2004). To add to the fighters’ visibility, they will be appearing in public workouts and functions ” including visits to local high schools.

In addition to holding the USNBC belt, Brinkley is ranked No. 11 by the IBF. The 32-year-old Gilbert was once ranked No. 4 at 160 pounds.

Gilbert held the WBO-affiliated North American Boxing Organization (NABO) and USNBC middleweight belts before he was stripped of them during a yearlong suspension after testing positive for one metabolite of the steroid Stanazolol following his Sept. 21, 2007, fight with Charles Howe, of Grelton, Ohio.

The bout, which Gilbert won via one-round knockout, was changed to a no-decision by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The commission also fined him $10,000 for testing positive for a banned substance.

Gilbert is coming off a pair of two-round stoppages ” over Dan Wallace on Oct. 30 and William Johnson on Nov. 20 ” and said he won’t be staying at 168 pounds after facing Brinkley. He said he would be moving back down to middleweight and fought at 168 to specifically ready himself for Brinkley.

“The fights were like a dry run in the military,” said Gilbert, a licensed attorney and a three-time national champion for the University of Nevada club boxing team. “You have to drill, drill, drill. You show up, get taped up, wrapped up and go in and execute.

“My competition wasn’t spectacular. They were the kinds of fights where, if you get caught slipping, you go on your ass. I did what I was supposed to do. If I had won two back-to-back unanimous decisions, I’d be worried.”

Brinkley will have a tuneup fight Dec. 20 against journeyman “Gentleman” James Johnson, 23-30-3 (13), of Dallas, Texas. The pair will meet in a six-round light heavyweight bout at Howard University, in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t know anything about (Johnson), except that he has around 50 fights,” said Brinkley, who weighs between 177 and 180 pounds since starting training camp about eight weeks ago in Providence, R.I. “Right now I’m ready for a fight. On Feb. 14, I’ll be ready for 15 rounds.

“He’s not the man here. I am. After I beat him, I’m going for a world championship. I have to get through two hard fights like this first. This is a big one here. Unfortunately, it’s not for a (world) championship. But this is our area and here it’s a mega-fight. Someone’s done, someone moves on. You lose this fight and you’re done.”

Gilbert did end up conceding defeat on two fronts.

“When it comes to words and making mean faces in the mirror, he’s won,” Gilbert said of the 32-year-old Brinkley. “But when it comes to the three judges and maybe a referee counting him out, he hasn’t. You’ll find out I’m a game-day fighter. I don’t get emotional in the gym. Some guys are world champions in the gym. I’m a fight-night fighter.”

Gilbert said he doesn’t understand why Brinkley holds such a grudge against him, but he’s not worried about it.

“He’s hard to gauge. You never know with him,” Gilbert said. “Sometimes I think his boyhood antics are to hype himself up. I didn’t know animosity could reach that high. But I’m more than willing to accommodate him. He shouldn’t take my clean-cut style for anything. When you punch me in the face, it’s on.”

For his part, Brinkley said Gilbert is a fraud.

“I want to prove to everybody here that he’s not what they think he is,” Brinkley said. “I’m the man to beat here. He has everyone fooled. My motivation is to win. My will is bigger than his. I’m a better fighter than this guy. And I’m not ready to go get a better job.

“What more could you ask for. You have two guys from the same area who will put on a helluva fight that night.”

And that is what Northern Nevada fans have been banking on for years. On Feb. 14, they will find out if their feelings pay off.

Tickets went on sale at noon on Thursday. They are available at the Reno Events Center or by visiting http://www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are priced at $253.25, $153.25, $78.25 and $43.25. A $5 discount is available for tickets priced at $43. 25 for students, active military, police and fire department personnel with valid identification.