Brinkley, Gilbert to meet Feb. 14 at Reno Events Center | NevadaAppeal.com
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Brinkley, Gilbert to meet Feb. 14 at Reno Events Center

BY MIKE HOUSER

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

On July 4, 1910, Jack Johnson and James Jeffries met in Reno in arguably the biggest fight of the 20th Century. Terry Lane, chief executive officer of Reno-based Let’s Get It On Promotions, is hoping that Feb. 14, 2009, goes down as the date of the biggest fight of the 21st Century in Northern Nevada.

That will be the date that Yerington’s Jesse Brinkley and Reno’s Joey Gilbert will finally settle their differences in a 12-round bout for Brinkley’s WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (USNBC) super middleweight belt at the Reno Events Center.

Tickets for the bout, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 30, go on sale Thursday at noon at the Reno Events Center and at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $253.25, $153.25, $78.25 and $43.25. There will be a $5 discount on the $43.25 tickets for all students and military personnel who show valid identification.

The rest of the card begins at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6) and the entire card will be shown on a two-week delay by a network to be revealed and will be announced at a later date.

“It’s been a very complicated process ” it’s been an adventure,” Lane said of locking down a venue for the fight between the local rivals. “So many partners need to agree on this ” to get everyone on the same page has been challenging.”

Lane, a fan of boxing’s rich history, said it’s no accident that the bout will be held on Valentine’s Day.

“Not only is the date the best for the fans, sponsors, fighters, television and everyone involved, there is some historical precedence for having a fight on Valentine’s Day,” Lane said. “A lot of people associate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre with Al Capone, but that’s also what the (sixth match) between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake La Motta was called (in 1951). We just might see a St. Valentine’s Day massacre (on Feb. 14).”

Lane said the bout could be billed as “Love and War.”

“It’s about two guys who love to fight, but who hate each other,” Lane said.

Since Lane’s fighter is Brinkley, it’s no secret whom he’ll be rooting for in the match, which is also being presented by Houston businessman Chet Koerner, of the Las Vegas- based TKO Boxing.

It’s not a stretch to call the fight between Brinkley, 31-5 with 21 knockouts, and Gilbert, 17-1 (13) with 1 no-contest, the biggest bout between local fighters in state history.

Both fighters are 32, about the same height (Gilbert is an inch taller at 5-foot-11) and thanks to a propitious confluence of the Internet and the first season of the NBC reality boxing show “The Contender,” both are well-known beyond Northern Nevada.

“I feel that Northern Nevada has always been a mecca. Big fighters and world champions have always come here to fight,” Lane said. “This fight shows that fighters can live here, grow here and become champions.”

The fight also figures to be a big draw because of the dichotomous personalities of the two fighters, who had a falling out shortly after their appearance on “The Contender.”

While Brinkley had only a 3-3 amateur record, Gilbert won three national championships for the University of Nevada club boxing team. Whereas Brinkley is at home off in the woods where he fishes and hunts, the glib Gilbert ” who is a licensed attorney “is at the top of his game as a celebrity, whether it’s signing autographs, attending The ESPY awards or going to Afghanistan or Iraq to visit U.S. troops.

If opposites attract, these two opposites should attract a good crowd at Reno Events Center, where Brinkley had his last fight ” a 12-round unanimous decision over Canadian light heavyweight champion Jason Naugler on June 13.

Since returning from a 13-month absence (including a yearlong suspension for testing positive for one metabolite of the steroid Stanazolol following his Sept. 21, 2007, fight with Charles Howe, of Grelton, Ohio), Gilbert has scored a pair of two-round stoppages over Dan Wallace (on Oct. 30) and William Johnson (on Nov. 20).

The bout will also be the first Saturday card that Terry and his brother, Let’s Get It On president Tommy Lane, have staged since taking over in 2007 the company founded by their father, Mills Lane.

“We think Saturday is a better day (than Friday) for people who want to drive in from Yerington, Fallon, Sacramento or the Bay Area,” Lane said. “I feel excited to move forward with this fight.”

If Lane were to take a poll of local boxing fans, not to mention Brinkley and Gilbert, he’d find out he’s not alone.