Joey Spina stops The Contender’s Jesse Brinkley in Dramatic Victory
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally published 5/10/06 on KOFantasyBoxing.com
On May tenth, ESPN2’s Wednesday Night Fights featured a special attraction super-middleweight bout pitting NBC’s The Contender star, Jesse Brinkley, moving up in weight against ProvidenceRhode Island’s undefeated KO Kid Joey Spina. After a grueling contest and getting the worst of a beating for more than ten rounds, the heavy-handed Joey Spina finished Brinkley with a vicious body shot which scored him a dramatic come-from behind win at Foxwoods.
One thing that was different about Spina-Brinkley was the fans that turned up to see it. It seems The Contender draws in the groupies and although Joey Spina was a huge crowd favorite, there were blondes in tight pants and short denim skirts snapping photos of Jesse Brinkley with their cell phones and digital cameras. But neither fighter was on site to charm the fans, billed as “Put Up or Shut Up” the bad blood between both men was palpable before the opening bell as Spina paced like a caged beast in his corner during the introductions.
When the fight got underway it was Spina landing the heavier flashier blows from the outside while Brinkley tried to dig down on Spina’s body. Spina shook his head and mocked Brinkley often in the early going, showing lots of flash but not enough bash. In the second round Brinkley was timing Spina well with a counter right cross to the head and in the third he continued landing chopping damaging shots in close making Spina miss him on the way inside. Brinkley had done his homework and seemed prepared for most anything Spina would throw. When Spina threw the big right Brinkley made him miss and then made him pay with his own right hooker-cut to the side of Spina’s head. Again and again when Spina threw that right hand Brinkley would come back with that hooker-cut and make Spina pay; the right became a dependable tool, a heavy old wrench to use on stubborn lug nuts. Brinkley was banging Spina into the corners and along the ropes, countering the big man’s wide looping haymakers effectively.
By the fourth round the crowd was sensing the desperation in Spina, but the KO Kid dug down, working the belly of Brinkley. But Brinkley was having fun in there and boxing well in the face of Spina’s chaotic enthusiasm, even if he stood and slugged too often. As Brinkley’s confidence was building at one point he looked down over Spina’s shoulder at ringside Dr. Anthony Alessi and winked at him.
The scorpion sting of Brinkley’s punches were taking their toll and having an effect. Brinkley kept right on countering Spina’s long punches with short, chopping, damaging shots of his own. But Spina kept pressuring even when it wasn’t effective.
There were lots of guts displayed and plenty of face-making from Spina but not much in the way of punches landed. Every time Spina threw the wide looping right Brinkley threw that right uppercut and nailed him. In the sixth they slug and Spina was able to cut Brinkley over the right eye. In the seventh Spina was hoping to finish things and he hits Brinkley with several hellacious body shots. The crowd senses that Spina is making a move but when Brinkley lands with 3 successive counters in close to Spina’s chest and makes Spina miss him it’s clear who took the 7th round. Spina’s girlfriend screamed at him from the ringside seats: “He’s winning, get `im!!”
As the fight wore on both men grew more and more exhausted and as they did Brinkley was less and less cautious about standing and trading with Spina. In the eleventh, Spina unleashed on the guts of Brinkley and dropped him. Clearly gasping for breath it was unclear whether Spina had hit Brinkley low at first especially since Brinkley had absorbed numerous body shots up to that point. Rising from the first knockdown Spina went right back at that body and Brinkley went down again gasping as Referee Mike Ortega halted the bout at 1:50 of round 11.
Brinkley claimed it was low at first but he also had a sore/bruised rib going into the fight and it’s likely Spina hit him right on that rib. Later a replay showed just how well-placed a shot to the guts Spina had landed and all doubts were erased.
“He was ducking really low and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad kept saying go to the body,” said Spina. Trainer Muhammad, a former light heavyweight champion, was credited with the winning advice by his fighter whose guts clearly kept him in the fight when things weren’t looking good.
Spina improved to 18-0-1 (13) with the win while Brinkley dropped to 26-4 (17).
In the co-feature, cruiserweight Shaun George entered the ring with the power corner of veteran trainers Tommy Brooks and Lou Duva; to face Matt Godfrey. But neither Brooks nor Duva were to be much help to George on this night. For much of the first round, Shaun George peppered Godfrey with tapping irritating jabs and straight rights, testing Godfrey’s reaction. Halfway through the round Godfrey stepped in and fired a right over a sloppy jab from George and turned his lights out with his eyes till open.
George rose on wobbly legs but was able to continue, if not for long. Godfrey charged him and unloaded with both hands, staggering George again before Referee Dick Flaherty stepped in and stopped the bout as George’s legs went rubbery. Within moments Shaun George’s trainer, Lou Duva was in the face of Flaherty, upset with the stoppage and Duva could be heard from press row as he shouted at Flaherty.
“I thought you were better than that!” said Duva.
But Flaherty made the right call. Unfortunately for Team George, Godfrey caught their fighter with very hard punches while George was still cold and just starting to warm up. The end came at 2:21 of the first.
Later, Godfrey described the fight in detail.
“That’s one of those shots you get hit with that you’re not gonna recover from…Once I went back to the neutral corner and I looked at him trying to get up and he kinda fell over a little bit I knew that was gonna be the endﾅI lulled him to sleep, I went nice and slow and you know I waited for him to make a mistake.”
Matt Godfrey is still undefeated with a record of 12-0 (7) while Shaun George falls to 11-1-2 (5).
Boxing makes for a great TV sport, but what’s not seen on TV are the sometimes long and awkward pauses in which the live audience, and especially the fighters, wait for the network producer in charge to signal that the commercial break is over and the cameras are rolling. The result is a stale and peculiar interruption in the natural flow of the live event while the network, in this case ESPN2, gives their corporate sponsors their ad-time. Meanwhile, the athletes pace in their corners cooling down after spending the time in the locker room warming up for the bout, the referee stands in center ring waiting for the bell and drunks in the crowd slowly realize something’s not quite right in the flow of things.
Such was the way Manchester CT native Matt Remillard‘s televised undercard bout began. But once the action began, junior lightweight Leo Martinez met Remillard’s aggression with immediate resistance and an energetic quick-fisted attack. Both fighters began trading immediately with Martinez bulling his way in close to chop at Remillard with short hooks before tying him up and grappling with him. Martinez was smothering Remillard’s punches and blunting Remillard’s attack with his charges and pressuring offense.
Digging down, Remillard kept up the pressure, working to keep Martinez away to give himself some punching room and to keep Martinez in range of several wicked body shots. After a difficult third, Remillard picked up the pace in the fourth and kept Martinez on the outside where he was able to land and Martinez could not.
Martinez, undaunted and persistent, kept pressuring Remillard and grappling with him in close but by the end of six it looked as if Martinez just couldn’t be successful enough with his pressuring offense to win enough rounds.
After the live audience waited again for TV to return from their commercial break, the ring announcer read the judges’ decision, it was unanimous for Remillard. The local product remained undefeated at 9-0 (6) while the tough Leo Martinez fell to 8-8 (4).
New Haven super-middleweight Elvin Ayala continued his unbeaten streak with a fourth round TKO over Virgil McClendon in the evening’s walkout bout. Throwing left-right-lefts in the second round, Ayala softened McClendon up a bit, finding a rhythm versus the gritty journeyman. In the fourth Ayala caught McClendon with a hard shot which made him pause for a secondﾗstunnedﾗAyala followed up with a quick left hook and then finished him with a left-right that made McClendon fall face first onto his hands and knees. Referee Dick Flaherty called a halt to the bout at 1:22 of round number 4. Ayala is now 14-0 (6) while McClendon drops to 22-9 (8).
Cruiserweight Aaron Williams opened the first round of his fight with Lloyd Wilson by picking Wilson off with straight shots from outside, preventing Wilson from getting in close. Turning up the pressure, Williams connected with a hard left hooker-cut off the jab followed by a right that traveled maybe 10 inches and dropped Wilson hard. Going down, Wilson lost his mouthpiece, so he gets it replaced after beating the count. The action resumed and in came Williams unleashing with both hands. Hit hard in the flurry, for a moment Wilson’s eyes glazed over and he was staring out over the crowd before a left hook to the chin sat him right down on the seat of his trunks with a thump. Ringside physician, Dr Tony Alessi was up and into the ring as referee Mike Ortega waved off the fight giving Williams a first round kayo. Williams is now 8-0-1 (6) and Wilson stands at 3-4 (3).
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com