Gilbert stripped of his NABO title |

Gilbert stripped of his NABO title

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Reno’s Joey Gilbert has been stripped of his North American Boxing Organization middleweight title, NABO executive director Mark Reels said Tuesday.

After rising to international prominence on the NBC reality show “The Contender,” the 31-year-old Gilbert, 16-1 with 12 knockouts, won the vacant belt with a third-round technical knockout over Jimmy Lange on Feb. 18, 2006, in Fairfax, Va.

The bout was a rematch, with Gilbert having defeated Lange via five-round decision on “The Contender” in their first meeting on Sept. 7, 2004.

Reels, who said he had yet to inform Gilbert of the decision to strip him of his WBO-affiliated title, also said the reason had nothing to do with the fighter being on temporary suspension after testing positive for five banned substances following his first-round knockout over Charles Howe Sept. 21 at Reno Events Center.

“Not at all. I’m supporting him regarding his issue,” Reels said. “I have to move his title. The last time he defended it was in March (against Michi Munoz at MontBleu Resort and Casino in Stateline). The rule is you have to defend it every four months.”

Gilbert defended his title twice – against Munoz (a 12-round unanimous decision) and Keith Sims, whom he stopped in six rounds Oct. 11, 2006, in White Plains, N.Y.

Gilbert, who still owns the WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (WBC USNBC) middleweight belt, had risen as high as No. 4 in the WBO, but has fallen out of the organization’s rankings. The WBC doesn’t have Gilbert ranked in its top 40 and lists him as “not available” on its Web site.

“The NABO is a great organization,” Gilbert said in a written statement. “Outside of that, all I can say is that I am honored to have represented the NABO as its middleweight champion. I’m not concerned about rankings and titles at the moment, however.

“What I am focused on is providing all of the necessary information to the (Nevada State Athletic Commission) and clearing my name for my family and for all of the people who have helped, believed in, and supported me throughout my amateur and professional boxing careers.”

Gilbert defended his WBC USNBC belt against Howe and Juan Astorga but Reels said the NABO wasn’t at stake.

“We originally approved (Howe) as a title defense, but the kid (Howe) didn’t want to fight 12 rounds,” Reels said. “With Juan Astorga, I called commissioners in his state (Missouri). He wasn’t a credible challenger – to me, anyway. He lost every round, I hear.”

Gilbert dominated Astorga, knocking him down two times before the fight was stopped in the 10th round of their May 12 fight at Reno Events Center.

“We expected the title to be pulled at some point, because Joey was unable to defend it in the allotted time frame,” Gilbert’s attorney, Reno’s Mark Schopper, said in a written statement. “It was Joe’s hope to defend the NABO title before the end of the year. That not currently being possible, however, we completely understand the NABO’s decision.”

Reels said that “there are a bunch of promoters and fighters interested” in the now vacant belt and that he planned on matching up an unnamed opponent with New York’s “Mean” Joe Greene, 17-0 (12).

Gilbert has been on temporary suspension since testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol metabolite, amphetamine, noriazepam, oxazepam and temazepam in pre-and post-fight urinalyses following his fight with Howe.

Gilbert originally tested positive for methamphetamine, but after his B sample tested negative the Nevada State Athletic Commission dropped its pursuit of the charge last week.

The commission and Gilbert are currently awaiting word on the results of a steroid test being conducted on his B sample at the Center for Human Toxicology at the University of Utah.

Gilbert also tested positive for steroids in an independent test conducted Oct. 5 and is facing several possible penalties, including an indefinite suspension, fine up to $25,000 and having his victory over Howe changed to a no-decision.

No hearing date has been set.