Brinkley determined to be champ
Story by Andreas Hale
Photos by Marty Rosengarten / RingsidePhotos.com
Jesse Brinkley dreams of one day becoming a world champion.
The former contestant on “The Contender” has yet to see those dreams materialize, but it hasn’t stopped him from working towards that goal. Five years removed from the reality show, Brinkley is again in the national spotlight as he prepares for his upcoming fight with Curtis Stevens when ESPN’s Friday Night Fights broadcasts from Reno, Nevada on January 29.
But the road back to a grand stage has not been easy.
“My life has always been great in and out of the ring,” Brinkley says when speaking of his life before and after “The Contender.” “Before ‘The Contender’ I was still chasing becoming a world champion. That’s what I always wanted to be. The Contender was just a chance to win a million dollars. It was like playing the Megabucks.”
Unfortunately, Brinkley wouldn’t be able to win his jackpot as he watched Sergio Mora walk away with the prize. Since then, he hasn’t had his face on the television like his Contender castmates. But Brinkley doesn’t find a sore spot for his lack of exposure.
“It’s not their fault,” the Nevada resident exhales when asked if he has any issues with the amount of exposure former Contender Season One alums Sergio Mora and Alfonso Gomez have obtained. “They got lucky and had promoters with TV power. I think boxing has a lot of luck in it. But when I get my opportunity I have to seize the moment.”
After losing four of five fights shortly after “The Contender,” Brinkley decided to take a brief hiatus from boxing to collect his thoughts. “Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” Brinkley reflects on going 1-4 after beginning his career 25-1. “I lost something. I just don’t know what it was. I couldn’t tell you.”
Reevaluating his boxing career, Brinkley decided to get back in the ring and scored June 2007 stoppage over Luis Lopez and hasn’t looked back since, winning eight in a row.
“It was me wanting to give it one last run before I hung the gloves up,” he says. “I’ve been getting my butt in shape and I haven’t lost since.” With the father of former Contender combatant Peter Manfredo Sr. in his corner, Brinkley found his groove and has racked up victories while adding the WBC USNBC Super Middleweight title to his trophy case.
He will have his opportunity to make an impact on national television and the hard hitting Curtis Stevens stands in his way. But there is no added pressure on him. “I’m not looking at this fight any different than I have looked at any of my last eight fights,” Brinkley explains. “I train as hard as I can for each of them.”
Assuming that he gets past Stevens, could he be looking to get a shot at one of the Super Six Tournament boxers?
“I think we’re going to go in a different direction,” Brinkley says. “It’s one of the coolest things I have ever watched on TV (but) provided everything goes well against Stevens, I think we’re going to go after Lucian Bute or Kelly Pavlik. Those are the two guys I want to fight on HBO.”
If the Yerington, NV product gets by Stevens convincingly, who can deny him a high profile fight? Perhaps nobody, and that is what Brinkley wants – to go from a “Contender” to a Champion.