Brinkley provides fireworks during and after fight |

Brinkley provides fireworks during and after fight

Appeal Sports Writer
Jesse Brinkley hits Dallas Vargas during their boxing match at the El Dorado Hotel Casino in Reno, Nev., on Friday, July 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn, Nevada Appeal)

RENO – The Jesse Brinkley-Dallas Vargas fight Friday in the outdoor parking lot at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino lit up the Reno skyline well enough on its own, but the 30-year-old Brinkley and his trainer, Peter Manfredo Sr., supplied plenty of post-fight verbal fireworks as well.

Brinkley, who improved to 28-5 with 19 knockouts after scoring a ninth-round technical knockout, wasted no time in jumping on Vargas, now 21-4 (15), of Toledo, Ohio.

A 13-punch combination rocked Vargas in the first round after Brinkley opened the bout with a big left hook and strong right hand. But in what would prove to be a pattern, the popular fighter from Yerington would dish it and the game Vargas would soak it up and return fire.

“I didn’t have any gas left in the first round at one point,” said Brinkley, who earned his second victory in three weeks, including a six-round TKO of Luis Lopez, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on June 14. “I just decided to let it all go.”

The second round was no different as the two fighters stood toe to toe and let it all hang out in a sizzling, mid-ring exchange. Brinkley followed that exchange by pounding on his chest with his glove as if to say, “Bring it on,” and the two boxers punched a respectful glove before resuming the action in earnest.

“We were both out of gas (after the exchange),” Brinkley said. “After that we tapped gloves. You had two 30-year-old men in the prime of their lives.”

Make that two 30-year-olds who showed a ton of resolve. Vargas ate punch after punch and kept coming forward for more, while Brinkley, maintaining a consistently brisk pace, kept punching with a damaged right hand that he hurt in the third round. At one point in the sixth round, Brinkley scorched Vargas with an unanswered 32-punch volley.

“It’s sore – not broken,” Brinkley said of his hand. “It’s in good shape. I don’t know, maybe I’m not hitting as hard I could.”

Maybe. Maybe not. Brinkley landed a brutal three-punch combination that floored Vargas at the end of the ninth round and he was too stunned to get up and continue. Vargas, a veteran of more than 200 amateur fights and a finalist in the 2001 National Golden Gloves held in Reno, was advised by a physician to get a CAT-scan done on his head and bruised and swollen face.

Several ringside fans shouted out, “Where’s Joey Gilbert?” before Brinkley concluded his night by grabbing a microphone by calling out Joey Spina and Gilbert in mid-ring.

There is no doubt that Gilbert, a former University of Nevada boxer, is popular in Reno, but so is Brinkley, who was greeted by a huge ovation as he entered the ring to the beat of Trapt’s “Head Strong.”

Before Brinkley could be interviewed, his trainer – Peter Manfredo Sr. – got the ball rolling for a group of reporters.

“Jesse threw a lot of punches like he was supposed to,” said Manfredo, whose son, Peter Manfredo Jr. – along with Brinkley and Gilbert – was a competitor on the NBC reality show “The Contender.” “That’s how we trained. He threw a lot of punches (in training) and went through a lot of drills. He ran a lot and dieted correctly. I have no complaints. He’s a hard worker and an inspiration to the younger guys in the gym.”

Asked how he thought Brinkley would do in a rematch with Spina, who was behind on the scorecards before catching Brinkley with a fight-ending left to the liver in the 11th round of their May 10, 2006 fight, Manfredo spared no words.

“If he trains with me, Jesse Brinkley will knock Joey Spina out,” Manfredo said. “He (Spina) is susceptible to the right hand. My son showed that (Manfredo Jr. stopped Spina in three rounds). Jesse would also knock out Joey Gilbert. He (Gilbert) is afraid to fight (Brinkley). Let’s see what (Gilbert’s trainer) Dan Birmingham has got.”

Manfredo also disputed Gilbert vis-a-vis a pair of Birmingham’s fighters, former junior middleweight champion Winky Wright and former IBF super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy.

“Listen, Gilbert’s not working with Lacy or Winky Wright,” Manfredo said, contradicting Gilbert’s past claims of sparring with the pair. “I know people in their camp. They think Gilbert’s a dork.

“My son sent Gilbert to the hospital the first time (Manfredo Jr. took a five-round technical decision over Gilbert on “The Contender”). Brinkley would send him to the hospital the second time. Let’s see how good he is. Let’s see how good Dan Birmingham is.”

When questioned by reporters about his future, Brinkley started off somewhat quiet before building steam.

“I don’t like to predict what I’ll do to a fighter,” said Brinkley, who added that he’d like to fight in Reno on an October show promoted by Let’s Get It On. “I want Joey Spina bad and I want to dethrone Gilbert here in town.”

Brinkley said he’d like to meet Gilbert, a natural middleweight, at a catch-weight of 165 pounds.

“I’m not asking for belts. I’m not asking for a million dollars,” Brinkley said. “He has a fan base here. I have a fan base here. I’m not afraid to fight him. Is he afraid to fight me? I talk s*** about this guy. Why doesn’t he shut my mouth?

“He says he wants to fight for a world championship, that he doesn’t need me. I never fought him on ‘The Contender.’ I saved that fight for Reno. Let’s fight.”

As passionate as he was about getting Gilbert into the ring, Brinkley said he had other plans first.

“Before I fight Joey Gilbert, I want to fight Joey Spina,” said Brinkley, who felt that Spina had gotten lucky with the body shot that ended the fight. “I want Spina, then Gilbert – in that order. I want Spina just for pride. He took my pride – half of my pride. Let’s do it right here in Reno.”

Judging by the reaction of the 1,500 fans present, they wouldn’t mind seeing Brinkley bring some more fireworks to town – with or without Gilbert.