Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brinkley defeats Stevens by unanimous decision

I have to admit I was rather skeptical of "big-time boxing" in Reno, especially when one of the boxing capitals of the world is some 450 miles to the south. But the fact that this was my first live boxing event made those doubts somewhat irrelevant.

As it turned out, I couldn't have been more wrong. I could feel the buzz as soon as I entered Grand Sierra Resort, and the main event delivered with drama, energy, and flair—and left the hometown crowd satisfied.

The ESPN2-televised event on January 29, hosted in conjunction with Star Boxing and Let's Get It On Promotions, included six matches. The marquee bout featured super middleweights Curtis "Showtime" Stevens, from Brooklyn, and Jesse Brinkley, from Yerington, about an 80-mile drive southeast of Reno.

Stevens got to Brinkley in the first round with a few big punches—Brinkley's eye was black, it seemed, before the crowd got settled in their seats. But the Nevada native forced Stevens into two 10 counts, one early and one late, and used a persistent jab to wear Stevens down and win by unanimous decision. The judges rewarded Brinkley's impressive 12th round with scores of 117-109, 118-108, and 119-107. Brinkley improved to 35-5, while Stevens fell to 21-3.

There was a group of Stevens supporters close to where I was sitting who tried to motivate their boxer throughout, but the majority of the crowd was for Brinkley. It was a tremendously entertaining fight from beginning to end, but the fact that the hometown guy won added a nice heroic element to the affair.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, Brinkley will be the No. 2-ranked fighter in the IBF and is expected to take on champion Lucien Bute in April. Promoter Terry Lane says negotiations are underway for a bout April 17 in Canada (check out the RGJ article, link above, for results from the other matches).

As I watched the fights, I couldn't help but think back to Nevada's storied boxing history, including the famous Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight of 1910. There will be a centennial anniversary celebration in Reno on July 2 and a story in Nevada Magazine's May/June 2010 issue. Photos & story by Matthew B. Brown

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