Gilbert set to return to the ring | NevadaAppeal.com
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Gilbert set to return to the ring

Mike Houser
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

 Reno super middleweight Joey Gilbert has been called a lot of things during his amateur and professional boxing career: contender, champion…and a few choice unmentionables by arch-rival Jesse Brinkley.

That said, “Aquaman” probably wasn’t a finalist on Gilbert’s list of nom de guerres when he began building his career.

Even so, after Houston businessman Chet Koerner provides some context, maybe being compared with the underwater superhero isn’t a bad thing at all.

Turns out Koerner, who founded TKO Boxing Promotions (which is based in Las Vegas), and Gilbert are big fans of the HBO comedy series “Entourage.”

“I would be Ari Gold to Joey’s Vincent Chase,” said Koerner, who along with Reno attorney Mark Schopper have guided Gilbert’s career for the last five years. “There are a lot of similarities (with Team Gilbert and) that show.”

Followers of “Entourage” are well aware that after a meteoric rise to stardom, thanks in part to starring in “Aquaman,” Vinny Chase is currently in the process of rebuilding his career.

That’s something Koerner and the 32-year-old Gilbert can relate to.

After a 13-month layoff ” including 12 of them due to a suspension after testing positive for one metabolite of the steroid Stanazolol ” Gilbert returns to the ring Thursday against “Flawless” Dan Wallace, of Adrian, Mich.

Koerner said he hoped the bout against Wallace would be the first of “four or five” that Gilbert takes in preparation for his long-awaited fight with Yerington’s Brinkley, tentatively scheduled for January 30 in Reno.

“We want Joey to beat Jesse and then go on to be world champion,” said Koerner, who along with Let’s Get It on Promotions will present the Gilbert-Brinkley card. “We want to get him back to Aquaman.”

Whereas Chase begins his journey back to the top by starring in “Fire Jumpers,” Gilbert will once again get his feet wet by facing Wallace, 9-6 with 3 knockouts, in a six-round bout at Martins Valley Mansion, in Baltimore, Md.

“I’m super-excited,” Gilbert said of getting back into the ring. “I’m absolutely delighted. I’m glad. God’s giving me a second opportunity to make good on what’s happened. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been training so, so hard.”

Gilbert, 15-1 (11) with 1 no-contest, has been staying at the home of mixed martial arts star Tito Ortiz, which is located in Big Bear, Calif., and is the former training camp of six-division champion Oscar De La Hoya.

Gilbert said he has been dividing his training up between Big Bear and San Diego, where he has been under the supervision of De La Hoya conditioning coach Bob Garcia.

“It’s awesome to have these resources at your disposal,” said Gilbert, who has kept a training log that chronicles every workout he’s had since last year. “I keep track of energy in and energy out. My miles are logged. I’m hitting all my marks. It’s going to come down to nerves and what my opponent is doing and hitting me with. I feel good.”

Although Gilbert hasn’t fought since his Sept. 21, 2007, no-contest with Charles Howe, of Grelton, Ohio, he hasn’t lost since Sept. 18, 2004, when he dropped a five-round technical decision to Peter Manfredo Jr. on the NBC reality boxing show “The Contender.” (Gilbert was initially credited with a one-round technical knockout over Howe before the Nevada State Athletic Commission changed the result because of the positive test.)

The 31-year-old Wallace opened his career with eight consecutive victories, but has lost five in a row after facing tougher opposition. Wallace, who like Gilbert is a 5-foot-11 right-hander, is coming off a six-round TKO at the hands of Alexis Hloros on September 19.

Gilbert said the bout with Wallace would give him an opportunity to get used to the real thing after 13 months of sparring and training.

“Like anything, it’s a matter of getting used to seeing things at high speed again,” Gilbert said. “It’s like trying to hit a 95-mile-per-hour fastball after being off one year. I want to get back in there and feel it out. I’m going to let my natural feelings take over. I’m not just going to rush in there; I’m going to be patient. I want to fight smart.”

Gilbert is also pleased that proceeds from the card will benefit the Jonathan Ogden Foundation for Inner City Schools. Ogden is an All-Pro offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and was the first-ever player drafted by the then-franchise team in 1996.

“It’s cool. It’s one of the reasons we did it,” Gilbert said of the foundation. “There were other fights I could’ve taken, but this seemed like a pretty good deal. It’s a big event (in Baltimore). It’s a win-win situation.”

Whereas “Entourage” fans have to wait and see if “Fire Jumpers” gets Vinny Chase back to his “Aquaman” level of success, the Wallace fight will provide Gilbert fans with at least a partial gauge of where he stands on his drive to Brinkley and perhaps beyond.

“I see big things ahead of me,” Gilbert said. “I’m going to get in there and modulate the system, get my coordinates right. From a military perspective, I’m going in on a hunt. I’m going to make sure my bearings are set. I want to be precise. In this fight or the next couple of fights, there are things I have to get right. It’s all about strategy and having a game plan.”

That’s something even the faultfinding Ari Gold would agree with.