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Brinkley to face Johnson on Saturday

MIKE HOUSER
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

Yerington’s Jesse Brinkley still has one more test to pass before he steps in the ring with arch-rival Joey Gilbert, but as he spoke from his training camp in Providence, R.I., on Sunday, the 32-year-old hellraiser didn’t sound concerned, choosing to split his time between watching football and grilling up a couple of lamb chops.

Brinkley, 31-5 with 21 knockouts, will meet journeyman “Gentleman” James Johnson, 23-30-3 (13), of Dallas in a six-round light heavyweight bout Saturday at Howard University, in Washington, D.C.

Brinkley said he gained only one pound during Thanksgiving and weighed 173 pounds on Sunday as he prepared his repast.

“I’m confident in my discipline,” said Brinkley, who against Gilbert will defend his WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (USNBC) super middleweight crown at a catch-weight of 166 pounds.

Against the 32-year-old Johnson, Brinkley will fight at the heaviest weight of his 11-year professional career. His previous high was 171 pounds in his last loss, against former WBC super middleweight champion Robin Reid, on March 30, 2007. Brinkley has since won all five of his bouts ” four by knockout.

“I felt fat at (171) and I’ll fight this one at 175,” Brinkley said with a self-deprecating laugh. “I’ll still (expletive) him up, even with 50-some fights. It’s just one step closer to going for the one big fight, the one big opportunity of my life.”

That “one big opportunity” would be a shot a world championship. Brinkley is currently ranked No. 11 by the IBF and is eligible for a world title shot ” should IBF beltholder Lucian Bute be kind enough to give him an opportunity, that is.

The “one big fight” Brinkley was referring to is his fight Feb. 14 at Reno Events Center with Gilbert, 17-1 (13) with 1 no-contest, of Reno.

“He’s not the best fighter I’ve fought,” Brinkley said of Gilbert. “He’s not the strongest fighter I’ve fought. I have everything to beat this guy. He knows it. He’s never been tested for a fight of this caliber.”

When it comes to Gilbert, Brinkley has bordered on obsession and rather than talk about Johnson, he chose instead to strike again at his favorite target.

“(Two fights with) Jimmy Lange never prepared him (Gilbert) for this,” Brinkley said of the Feb. 14 showdown before ticking off a list of his own opponents. “Go fight Cleveland Corder. Go fight Danny Perez. Go fight Dallas Vargas, Jason Naugler. Go fight Joey Spina. Go fight Robin Reid. Go fight Anthony Bonsante twice. Go fight Alfonso Gomez ” he’s a little guy. They all prepared me.

“(Former Brinkley trainer) Miguel Diaz threw me in with guys who are good. They prepared me for each step.”

After further attacking Gilbert’s credibility in the ring, Brinkley went on to bash him out of it, saying he had his doubts that Gilbert is drug-free.

Gilbert, who has since returned to action and been drug-tested by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, served a yearlong suspension after testing positive for one metabolite of the steroid Stanazolol following his Sept. 21, 2007, bout with Charles Howe, of Grelton, Ohio.

Brinkley is an early minus-180 favorite (a $180 bet on him wins $100). Gilbert is a plus 160 underdog (a $100 bet on him wins $160).

If Brinkley were a pitcher, he’d have one great changeup. After essentially throwing fastballs at Johnson and Gilbert, Brinkley threw an off-speed pitch that would catch most boxing insiders off guard.

Brinkley said he could announce his retirement as soon as Feb. 14.

“With Peter (Manfredo Sr.) in my corner and Terry and Tommy (Lane) as my promoter, I’ve got everything you would want at the end of your career. I know it,” Brinkley said. “This is a moment. I may not be at the period at the end of the sentence, but I’m one or two words away from the end of the sentence. I’ll fight Gilbert, maybe one more and, depending on how I feel, this is my career. I may announce it in the ring at the end of the (Gilbert) fight.

“If I don’t get a title fight after (Gilbert), that’s it. If it goes well, I’ll do one more. I’m not going to hang around and get injured or hurt. I don’t need to do much more. If a world champion is too afraid to fight me, that’s something to be proud of.”

Brinkley said those close to him have asked him to retire for the last four fights and that he’d have no problem in doing so, saying at the level he competes, the sport is very tough on the body. He said he may take between 300-400 punches in a fight ” not to mention the punishment he receives in sparring ” and that during the last 11-plus years, it has added up.

When asked if he’d given any thought as to what he’d be doing after retiring, Brinkley said he wanted to stay grounded in the immediate future and focus on Johnson ” and Gilbert, of course.

“I don’t care what he looks like ” he can look like Mike Tyson and I’ll still beat his ass to get to Gilbert,” Brinkley said of Johnson, who has fought and lost to former champions and contenders such as Lou De Valle, Bronco McCart, Willie Guthrie, Yuri Foreman, Sechew Powell and Spina. “I think I’ll box pretty on Saturday.”

Brinkley decided to end Sunday’s interview with a parting shot at none other than Gilbert.

“I hope Gilbert thinks I’m underestimating him,” Brinkley said. “I got a fire under my ass. This area (Northern Nevada) is like one big house. Yerington is the backyard. I’m the big dog. Reno is the living room. It’s my living room. I’m going to throw him out.”