Yerington boxer Brinkley puts his career on the line | NevadaAppeal.com
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Yerington boxer Brinkley puts his career on the line

Justin Lawson
jlawson@nevadaappeal.com

RENO – It has been a long time since Northern Nevada has seen a fight of this magnitude being played out in front of a live audience. Jesse Brinkley, though, realizes that if he doesn’t get past Curtis Stevens he won’t get another chance to bring an even bigger bout back to the area.

“This is my last chance and I know that for a fact, that’s the reality of it,” Brinkley said. “This is the championship game for the Super Bowl. In boxing, that’s just the reality.”

Brinkley will face Stevens at 7 p.m. today at the Grand Sierra Resort in an International Boxing Federation mandatory No. 2 ranking bout that will give the winner a guaranteed title shot against super middleweight Lucian Bute. The fight also will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

The Yerington native is definitely on his last legs in the sport at the age of 33 and a 34-5 (22 KOs) record. Brinkley has never had a chance to win a major title and with him being just one fight away from doing so, his future is in his hands. Now, this isn’t another bad Rocky sequel where Rocky Balboa trots out with nothing to lose but everything to gain, but that’s the mentality that Brinkley is bringing into the ring.

“This, to me, is a real fight, that’s what I’m in for,” Brinkley said. “I’m just going to put my mouthpiece in, punch my time card and go to work.”

Despite being the sentimental favorite because he is fighting essentially in his backyard, Brinkley comes in as 2-1 underdog against Stevens (20-2, 15 KOs). The line isn’t much of a surprise to boxing enthusiasts. Stevens comes in as perhaps the best fighter Brinkley has ever faced, having knocked out 13 fighters in the first four rounds. He also went the distance against current top super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell (10-round unanimous decision). Stevens is on a four-fight win streak after the June 2007 loss to Dirrell and is coming off of a TKO over previously undefeated Piotr Wilczewski (22-1).

“Actually, I thought I was going to be the underdog because I’m in his hometown,” Stevens said. “People aren’t stupid. Like I’ve said before, I’ve fought 20 Jesse Brinkleys and decapitated them. Jesse Brinkley has never fought a Curtis ‘Showtime’ Stevens, a man of my power or my skill level. So come Friday, we’ll see how he’ll dance in my ring.”

Brinkley is on an eight-fight win streak dating back to June 2007. His last fight was a less-than-spectacular win over Mike Paschall (19-2-1, 4 KOs) in bout that Brinkley clearly wasn’t well conditioned for. But in his previous fight, conditioning was not an issue for Brinkley. He came into the Valentine’s Day 2009 match in perhaps the best shape of his career for an opponent that he was clearly focused on. Brinkley dominated a 12-round unanimous decision over rival and former friend Joey Gilbert.

At Thursday’s weigh-in, Brinkley looks to be in similar shape as when he faced Gilbert. During Wednesday press conference, his first public appearance since leaving for training in Rhode Island in December, he looked visibly tired but said that was a result of his training.

“This is some of the best condition I’ve been in in my entire life,” said Brinkley, who weighed in at 167.5 pounds, just under the 168-pound contract weight. “I feel great physically. I definitely feel like everything he does I’ll have an answer for it and I’ll be able to get through it and then I’ll start giving my own too.”

Against Dirrell, Stevens’ heavy hands were neutralized as Dirrell spent much of the time avoiding Stevens and scoring points on the judge’s cards. But it isn’t likely that Brinkley would use a similar tactic after admonishing Gilbert for doing so in their fight. Instead, Stevens is sure Brinkley will come forward, as he is known for, and the Brooklyn native promises that if he does it will be a mistake.

“He did what he had to do to win the fight,” Stevens said of Dirrell. “Same thing with Jesse, I don’t believe in his right mind, or him and his coach’s right mind, that he’s going to step into the middle of the ring and slick it out with me because I’m too fast for him and definitely too strong for him. So, my worst-case scenario I think he’s going to try to run, but like I said, he can barely move forward good. So him trying to run would be another worst-case scenario for him.”