Curtis Stevens predicted that he'd dispatch foe Jesse Brinkley 50 seconds into round one of their scrap, the feature bout on ESPN's Friday Night fights at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. The seconds ticked by, and then the minutes. Jesse Brinkley was still in the game. His confidence blossomed and the Nevada native showed that the New Yorker came to town too cocky.
I'll show you, Showtime.
He mixed his shots, scored two knockdowns and earned himself an IBF title shot after 12 rounds of mostly intelligent pugilism. Mostly, I say, because he might look back at the tape of this fight and wonder why he was trading with Stevens when all he had to do was coast to the unanimous decision, but you'll not hear any complaints from viewers, who were treated to a fine scrap.
Brinkley (167 1/2; age 32; now 35-5) and Stevens (165; age 24; now 21-3) couldn't even look at each other during the prefight staredown session. They did however hug after the cards (all Brinkley–117-109, 118-108, 119-107) were read. The win earns Brinkley the number two slot in the IBF, behind IBF champ Lucian Bute.
In the first, Stevens scored with his left hook several times, and nicked Brinkley's right eye, and directly underneath the peeper. Brinkley showed a decent jab and mixed in some body work. His trainer, interestingly, was Peter Manfredo Sr., who oversaw Brinkley while his son Peter Junior headlined a show in Connecticut.
In the second, Stevens kept headhunting, and Brinkley loosened up. He moved more and looked like he belonged in there. Stevens regressed, and by the third Brinkley looked confident he could emerge with an upset win. In the fourth, Brinkley's diet of one-twos, and underneath handiwork were impressing judges.
Brinkley kept fighting smart in the fifth. He didn't get too cocky, and forget that Stevens can bang. The two kept trading after the bell. Trainer Manfredo ran into the ring and pulled Stevens away, before the ref yanked him away. Stevens doesn't own a superior jab, or rather, the resolve to use a jab as a weapon and a tablesetter. Brinkley rights hurt Stevens with a minute to go in the sixth, and the New Yorker waved Brinkley towards him, indicating that he wasn't hurt. To the contrary…Brinkley had him on the ropes, and Stevens went to his knee with 15 seconds left. He looked totally gassed and had to be overjoyed when the bell rang to save him. Atlas thought that the dynamic was reminiscent of the Tyson-Holyfield scenario, when the bully bashing lost steam, and the bully's resolve crumbled.
In the seventh, Stevens came out awake. He jabbed more, and was back in the fight. Atlas recommended to Manfredo that Brinkley look to take out Stevens, rather than let the hitter hang around during the eighth. Stevens buzzed the underdog in the eighth. In round nine, we learned Manfredo was removed from the corner, on order of the commission. The distance closed, with Stevens having some luck with long rights. In the 10th, Stevens kept leading with his left hook. Brinkley saw it, and slipped it. His own left hooks told Stevens he didn't have that market cornered. In the 11th, Brinkley stayed busy. He made sure to keep proper distance, got in, got out, and likely got another 10 on the cards. The couple solid shots he took, he shrugged off. In the 12th, Manfredo must've been crazed as he saw Brinkley trading, instead of running out the clock. Atlas lauded Stevens here, admitting that the Tyson-bully hat didn't fit. Brinkley scored a knockdown, his second, with 35 seconds left, as the ropes kept Stevens from hitting the mat. Two right hands and a left hook did the damage. “That is good stuff! Good stuff here in Reno. Jesse Brinkly puts on a show!” screamed Joe Tessitore at ringside. We'd go to the cards, as both men's face told anyone who looked at them their vocation after the 36 minutes of combat.
SPEEDBAG Analyst Teddy Atlas took a slap at Freddie Roach, noting that Roach abandoned Peter Manfredo to go train Oscar De La Hoya, going for the moolah instead of adhering to his word. Did that smackdown come out of nowhere? Nope; Roach busted on Atlas for talking on air three weeks ago about that email that went from a Pacquiao teammember to a Mayweather teammember, wondering what might happen if Pacquiao tested positive for a PED. Atlas brought up Roach again in the eighth as well.
–Atlas guessed that Stevens might take out Brinkley in a round or two. He offered a mea culpa during round six, to his credit.
—No shame for Stevens. He's just 24, and now he knows better. Don't predict a KO within a minute, because your opponent knows what's coming, and will be emboldened if he makes it through the stated time period.