This is the fight for Northern Nevada
Appeal Boxing Columnist
Sit back and think about this question a minute before answering yourself: Which fight would you most like to see happen in Northern Nevada?
I can tell you the most anticipated matchup I hear about when I’m out covering local fights: Joey Gilbert versus Jesse Brinkley.
That’s right. Not Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman. Not Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins. Definitely not any Chris Byrd fight.. And not even Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales.
No, what locals want to see here is a good old-fashioned turf war between Gilbert, Reno’s three-time collegiate champion, and Brinkley, Yerington’s own bad boy.
Short of a Samuel Peter-David Tua, Ricky Hatton-Diego Corrales or Hatton-Jose Luis Castillo bout, I have to agree with the fans. I think Gilbert-Brinkley is the most compelling fight that could be staged. It would sell out the Reno Events Center, which seats around 5,000 partisan fans.
So will we see Gilbert, 9-1, with 7 knockouts, take on Brinkley, 26-1, with 17 KO’s?
The answer is yes, but probably not for a while.
Before getting into explaining why we must delay our gratification, it’s worth examining why the fight should be made to begin with.
First, it all boils down to the most basic element in any conflict: Territory. Looking back, the most anticipated fights I can remember occurred in middle school and high school. A couple of kids would build up a winning streak on the playground or in a field after school and before long everyone was playing matchmaker and pestering the two guys until they eventually got it on.
Brinkley-Gilbert goes way beyond who’s the toughest kid on the block or the school. This is about who is the toughest guy at 168 pounds in Northern Nevada. It’s Washoe County against Mason Valley. It’s the city boy and attorney, Gilbert, against the kid from the sticks and perceived renegade, Brinkley. It’s a scrap between two guys who grew famous on the NBC reality show “The Contender.”
According to Brinkley it’s about a relationship gone sour. In a phone call last week Brinkley said he thought Gilbert, who until recently served as Brinkley’s publicist, had done him wrong financially (Gilbert denied any malfeasance last week).
“It’s silly. He (Gilbert) gets the best of everything and I get the leftovers,” Brinkley said of their business relationship. “I put my trust in him. It’s slap in the face. I get laughed at. I want to punch that kid’s face. I’ve been used, abused and thrown away by Joey Gilbert.
“He’s a fake. He makes you believe him. You’d buy a piece of dog (crap) off of him for $20. He ought to be a car salesman.”
Beyond the business dispute Brinkley made it sound personal, pointing out what kind of car Gilbert drives and what kind of clothes he wears.
“Hey, I don’t wear a suit and tie and act like a celebrity,” Brinkley said. “I still am who I am and I’m from where I’m from – Yerington. I’m disgusted with the kid. When it’s all over I’ll have the last laugh. Come out and play, mister. See what you get.”
As the saying goes, “Them’s fightin’ words.” Be that as it may, Gilbert wasn’t biting last week.
Gilbert signed recently with Gary Shaw Productions and will be in the ring for the first time in more than 13 months when he faces James North (7-7-1, with 2 KO’s) on Nov. 5 at Caesars Tahoe.
The bout will be on the undercard of a Showtime Championship Boxing event which features IBF super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy and IBF bantamweight beltholder Rafael Marquez defending their championships.
“It’s ludicrous,” Gilbert said of Brinkley’s verbal assault. “I’m not going to dignify his rude, disrespectful comments with a response. I’m not going to say anything bad about him. He’s a great guy. He’s just misguided and misinformed.”
Gilbert said he would fight Brinkley, but not just because he’s been called out.
“I’ll get in the ring (with Brinkley) when everything – the money, the promotion, the event – is right,” Gilbert said. “I’ve had (10) pro fights. I’m smart enough to know I’m still in a learning phase. I’m not going to be pushed into the ring by rude comments. Log onto http://www.jessebrinkley.com and support him. Log onto http://www.joeygilbert.com, too. See you at Tahoe. Thank you.”
Brinkley and Gilbert are the yin and yang of Northern Nevada boxing. You have Gilbert, the popular lawman, dressed in white. And you have the equally likable Brinkley, tattooed, outlaw dressed in black. They’re both the same age (Brinkley will also be 29 in November), roughly the same height (Gilbert is about an inch taller at 5-foot-11) and both are moving up from middleweight to super middleweight.
Brinkley, in spite of his last three outings (two losses and Saturday’s controversial win over Anthony Bonsante on “The Contender”), can box and bang. Gilbert, although learning to box more, is an exciting big puncher with a ton of heart.
Forget about Brinkley’s poor showing Saturday. Styles make fights and these two have the styles to produce one that will bring you to your feet and make you feel like you did when you watched your first fight.
This matchup not only can be made, it has to be made. The public demands it. But give it about a year or so. Brinkley needs to get away from “The Contender” and fight 10-rounders again. Gilbert needs to fight about five times in 10 months against increasingly tough opposition.
Then, after every seat in the fan-friendly Reno Events Center is occupied, it will be time for two local boys to find out who is Northern Nevada’s undisputed super middleweight champion.
n Mike Houser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org