Gilbert hopes to break the house with event |

Gilbert hopes to break the house with event

Appeal Sports Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Reno's Joey Gilbert, a former contestant on the NBC reality show "The Contender" and now the North American Boxing Organization middleweight champion poses for a photo at MontBleu Resort in Lake Tahoe on Sunday. Gilbert is hoping to break the house with his latest venture. The 30-year-old Gilbert will not only headline Friday's seven fight card at MontBleu Resort and Spa, but he will promote it as well.

Reno’s Joey Gilbert has so much mojo working for him that success guru Anthony Robbins may want to step back and take some notes.

Not content enough to be a boxer, lawyer, male model and consultant (while holding down several other job descriptions as well), the 30-year-old Gilbert – a former three-time national champion for the University of Nevada who shot to international fame on the NBC reality show “The Contender” – has decided to become a promoter.

After the Nevada State Athletic Commission activated his license in January, Gilbert elected to call his first card the “First Annual Snow Brawl” and stage it at MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa on March 2.

But a power higher than Gilbert had some other plans as of last week.

“I name it the ‘Snow Brawl’ and when I got up here from Florida a few weeks ago, there wasn’t an inch of snow,” Gilbert said from Stateline Tuesday. “Then what happens? It delivers. It’s the Law of Attraction, for sure.”

For those not up to speed on the New Age/New Philosophy term, the general tenets of the Law of Attraction is to never dwell on the negative and you will get whatever it is you think about.

Whether it was Gilbert’s personal magnets, with their own electrical frequency reaching out and merging with similarly charged thoughts to attract physical reality, or a mere convergence of good fortune, Mother Nature delivered a prodigious amount of snow.

Meanwhile, the relentlessly self-improving Gilbert is taking his game to another dimension, morphing into boxing’s version of Gordon Gecco or King Midas.

Next stop, mergers and acquisitions? Turning heavy bags into gold at the touch of a glove?

“Like everything else, it’s an incredible experience,” Gilbert said of his promotional involvement in Friday’s card. “It’s an exciting challenge. It’s something I enjoy being involved in.”

Ever the multi-tasker, Gilbert, who holds a record of 13-1 with 10 knockouts to go with his North American Boxing Organization middleweight championship, will also be a big part of the show, headlining the seven-fight card with his 12-round bout against Michi Munoz, 17-0 (12).

Gilbert was originally scheduled to make his second defense of his NABO belt against journeyman Rob Dula, 15-2-1 (8), but Dula fell out last week with a shoulder injury. When offered the bout with the unbeaten Munoz, of Topeka, Kan., via Guanajuato, Mexico, Gilbert looked at the change of opponents as a challenge, not an inconvenience.

And challenges are what fuels Gilbert and his seemingly endless pursuit of higher mountains to climb – the figurative ones for now.

As president of Joey Gilbert Companies, Gilbert has learned the valuable tool of delegation. For his first promotional venture, Gilbert has appointed matchmaker Chris Middendorf as his team consultant, Donna Duva-Brooks as his site coordinator, friend Bret Summers as his chief operating officer and girlfriend Molly Mentaberry as his executive vice president.

Gilbert’s trainer, Dan Birmingham, acts as his manager and Drew Kachurak is his executive assistant, who at 22 and with three semesters left at Nevada, serves as his “eyes and ears.”

“I’ve always had the opportunity to work with good people,” Gilbert said. “Ever since I began to branch out and do things, I look for people who have a unique fit.”

Gilbert said he has taken his own unique experience and exposure on “The Contender” and parlayed it into his role as a promoter. He has found several boxers who respect someone who is their own age and knows what it’s like to take punches and can relate what they go through in training.

As far as swimming in the same promotional ocean with the Don Kings and Bob Arums – a dicey proposition to be sure – Gilbert said he remains undaunted.

“I love the challenge,” he said. “I don’t look on it as a risky move at all. Boxing is changing. Boxers are ready for a younger promoter, a new generation of guys who have done it themselves. That’s made it appealing.”

Gilbert said he’s an open book; that the person people saw on “The Contender” is the real deal.

“I use my brain to outsmart people. I don’t quit. I never give up,” Gilbert said of his traits. “I have that Italian, emotional side with my family and friends. I don’t see it as a hindrance. I see it as a strength.”

Whereas Alexander wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, Gilbert looks at our age of technology and globalization and salivates.

“There’s quite a few doors out there and I have help to knock on and go through them all,” Gilbert said. “I want to tap into new markets and harness new technologies. I want to use boxing to attract the corporate dollar and mainstream interest and change the dynamics of the game.

“There are some very brilliant people working on the team and I’m not naming them for a reason. They’re in Mexico, Japan, China and areas of the (United Kingdom). I want to tap into new markets and use technologies like the Internet and streaming video.”

Perhaps the world isn’t enough for Gilbert, who is ranked No. 8 in the world by the WBO and sees himself as a world champion in about a year and a successful promoter who’s working his way into motion pictures and the entertainment industry within five years.

While he’s future-minded, Gilbert lives in the now as a boxer. He’s looking for a vast improvement on his last performance, a sixth-round stoppage of Keith Sims, on Oct. 11.

“I should’ve got him out of there a lot quicker,” Gilbert said of his first NABO title defense. “(Sims) moved a lot. He didn’t stand in front of me. I felt frustrated – a good frustration. Dan (Birmingham) said my performance was absolutely fine. I had sparred a lot with (former IBF super middleweight titlist) Jeff Lacy. He’s like my older brother. I was frustrated with myself, that I didn’t execute a lot better.”

Gilbert said fans will notice one salient difference in his boxing game.

“Defense, defense, defense,” he said. “With Dan Birmingham, I’m working on being relaxed in the ring. I’m not using my machismo. When you get hit, you don’t immediately answer back and take shots. Bad things can happen.”

A thinking man out of the ring, Gilbert is becoming a thinking man in the ring.

“I’m working on keeping my hands high, using movement, rhythm, angles, footwork – I’m making sure I’m not all offense,” said Gilbert, who was known as a free-swinger at Nevada and early in his pro career. “I fight at my pace and dictate the tempo. I control the fight with my jab and footwork. But the battle plan can always change.”

In other words, the 1950s Italian middleweight in Gilbert can resurface at any moment.

Gilbert also said he’s not approaching the fight with Munoz with the same mentality he did when he faced his more experienced opponents on “The Contender.”

“Sugar Ray Leonard taught me that records don’t mean s—,” Gilbert said. “Records don’t mean anything except that they’ve never fought Joey Gilbert before. I don’t underestimate anybody. But the bottom line is (Munoz) hasn’t fought Joey Gilbert. He hasn’t fought an athlete as conditioned as I am or as determined. I’ll do what I need to do to pull this fight off. This is do or die. This is a big step.”

Asked if Yerington super middleweight Jesse Brinkley, another participant on “The Contender,” was part of his future plans, Gilbert kept his answer short and direct.

“I haven’t thought about him in a year,” Gilbert said. “He’s the least of my concerns right now.”

Of greater concern to Gilbert now is taking care of his show and Munoz and living up to three words that have gotten him this far: “Yes, I can.”

On Friday, Gilbert will once again find out how far positive thinking and the Law of Attraction can take him.

The card will be held in the MontBleu Showroom. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the first fight scheduled for 7. Call (775) 586-2044 for ticket information.