BT: Joey, first let’s put this fight in perspective. This is a rematch of one of the closest fights from season one of “The Contender”, with most people scoring it 3-2. You overcame injuries and used heart and determination to win that fight. What’s there to gain for you in this rematch? "
Well, obviously there’s the NABO belt to gain now, as well as a sizeable purse to win. Then there’s a lot to gain as far as all the excuses made by Jimmy and others that I wasn’t hurt or injured, when I was. I had to fight hurt, more than anything it was my hamstring, but other things too. The one thing I’ve learned from that particular fight and just from being around Sugar Ray Leonard and now Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy, is that a fighter is never 100%. That doesn’t exist."
BT: How much different is your preparation and mindset for this fight compared to the first?
JG: For this fight, I’m definitely in much better shape than I was during “The Contender.” I’m not beaten down by the challenges and I’m actually in a training camp. I have 500 times more confidence now. I was scared and apprehensive when I showed up on “The Contender” set when I saw the guys who were there. Records meant a lot to me then. And ever since that day when I beat Jimmy and then had a very close loss to Peter Manfredo, Jr., my confidence has changed dramatically. Now I’m in camp with Winky and Jeff, and Chad Dawson everyday. Being around those Champions has taken my game to a new level, and I’m back to the Joey Gilbert I was in Golden Gloves and in college. I’m going to walk into the ring with confidence, knowing that this is my fight to lose rather than lucky to pull out a win.
BT: The big thing that stands out about this fight is that being a title fight, this is the first time you’ve been scheduled to go 12 rounds. None of your previous fights have gone past 6 rounds. Do you have any concern about your stamina and how did you take this into account during training?
JG: Dan Birmingham has put together a plan from the beginning to prepare for 12 rounds. During my last fight in Tahoe, I felt that 6 rounds was too short! I felt fresh and thought I could stop him had the fight been longer, because I had so much energy left. We train so hard down here in these camps that 10 rounds or 12 rounds, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m in the best shape of my life and getting better. Conditioning-wise, (laughs) if you’re expecting me to be an easy opponent on conditioning or rounds, then you really should watch my fights and see that I get stronger as the fight goes on, and I keep myself in outstanding physical condition.
BT: You’ve got one of the best trainers in your corner in Dan Birmingham. Tell us about your camp in Florida. Did going overseas to be with the troops hinder your training schedule?
JG: I never really stopped training for my last fight on November 5th. I actually came back to camp within a week of that fight and was planning on fighting on Winky’s fight December 10th, training and sparring thru Thanksgiving, but then we decided that it wasn’t worth fighting with my hand bothering me. I left Florida December 3rd and went to Nevada for meetings and was training there with the Nevada team until I left for Afghanistan. Once I got there I was running every day at 8000 feet. They set aside about two hours every day for me to train while there. I was doing mitt work with the guys, holding mitts, hitting mitts. I stayed busy every day. We were doing plyometric drills and medicine ball training. That’s just how I am. I never get out of shape.
BT: Let’s talk about the situation with Gary Shaw. You didn’t sign a promotional contract with him after the last fight, so he doesn’t have any part of this match. Is there any future between Joey Gilbert and Gary Shaw?
JG: I’ve got nothing bad to say about Gary. More than anything else, there was a breakdown in communications. I was under the impression that we were more than welcome to search for other fights. Especially a fight that’s not on television or very big on the radar, we didn’t think he’d care or want any part of anyway. While I was at a seminar in Southern California, I received a call asking if I wanted this fight with Jimmy, and I said yeah, and it was literally done very quickly in only a couple of days. We’d left messages for Gary, but never heard back from him. He then just fired back at us without us talking. He said what he had to say, but I’ve got nothing bad to say about him or his organization. I thought they were all stand up people. I was just kinda let down that we didn’t “talk it out”, and just had some bad exchanges and that was it. But no hard feelings there, it is what it is, it’s business and that’s the way it is in this game. I’ve been advised by top people that I have to do what’s best for myself. And I’m fortunate I have the best in boxing, guys like Dan and Winky and Jeff around me, who I consider mentors, and they give me the best advice. So, at this present time, I don’t see a need to sign with a promoter, but in the future I’d sit down and talk with anyone, including Gary, as long as it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
BT: Tell us about your trip to Afghanistan and how it went and did you organize any boxing clinics or tournaments.
JG: It was absolutely one of the most rewarding trips I’ve ever been on, impact wise. Boxing is a sport, especially in the military, there’s always someone at every fort or base that boxed or knew me. And we would get together, and didn’t have any tournaments, but we’d set up training and sparring sessions. There were so many guys who wanted to box, or learn how to box, that there were just lines of guys who’d want to workout. It was unbelievable feeling to give back and see the smile on these guys’ faces. It’s my joy and I’ve committed to doing four tours a year from now on, or up to six weeks. I’ll probably go back to Iraq in the spring. It’s an amazing way to give back, and especially after having someone so close, my father being there, and knowing what it’s like from both perspectives being there and from home. I really enjoyed it and the feedback I’m getting. They appreciate it and we’ll continue doing them.
BT: Joey, I’ve interviewed you before for “The Contender” fan sites whose readers are avid fans of yourself and know you intimately. This interview is for Boxingtalk.com fans who are more mainstream boxing fans and probably don’t know Joey Gilbert and how far reaching all of your activities are. I think it’s important if you want to take a minute to tell or list all the things which you are involved with and working on.
JG: I think, most importantly, is that I’m not just a fighter. I love what I do and right now I’m in this fight game to be the best fighter I can be and am continuing to develop. I graduated from the University of Nevada. I was three-time National Champ in college, four-time Regional Champ, and four-time All-American. I won the Nevada Golden Gloves before I turned pro. I spent a year in the Air Force and then started law school in 2000, graduated in 2003 and passed the bar exam. I opened a law practice in Reno with a satellite office in Las Vegas, Gilbert and Schopper, with my partner Mark Schopper. I went to law school so I could be a sports agent, like “Jerry Maguire.” I’m involved in sports entertainment, doing commentary for boxing.
I’ve also done a lot film, live stuff, and a few public service things. That’s something I’ve really enjoyed. I’m 30 years old now, and don’t see myself doing it for more than a couple more years. After I finish boxing, I’ll be moving more into the business side of the sport. Also, I’m very committed to a few organizations. Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund is one I’m really involved with. I’m very involved with our military. I’m the main spokesmodel for Sly Stallone’s nutritional company, Instone.
That’s been fun and kept me close with him. And now I’m representing another product called Aquis, which is an advanced hydration product. The other big thing I do is speaking engagements for kids and organizations. I did the eCollaborative, which was a mathematics initiative. And I also try to put athletic equipment back into the classroom. It’s not mandatory anymore in K-12, and I’m trying to change that, or else it’s going to be a big problem with kids’ health later on, and that’s something I’m committed to. The President’s Council on Fitness is something I’m working on. I’m just trying to make an impact on kids, I think they’re the future and I’ve spent a great deal of time doing that and putting together things for kids. In the next few years people are going to see a lot of me, in film, in education initiative, and in and around the ring. People will get to know me more and more.