Windsor’s Gilbert Returns to Ring

  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, keeps his keys tethered to a boxing glove keychain Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, keeps his keys tethered to a boxing glove keychain Friday, April 18, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, left, and Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I., right, wish each other well after weighing in Friday, April 18, 2014, for their boxing match Saturday.  <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, left, and Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I., right, wish each other well after weighing in Friday, April 18, 2014, for their boxing match Saturday.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, coaches Patrick Dickinson, 14, of Windsor through his workout at the Windsor Boxing Club Friday, April 18, 2014. Gilbert is headlining a fight night at the Windsor Recreation Center Saturday with a fight against Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, coaches Patrick Dickinson, 14, of Windsor through his workout at the Windsor Boxing Club Friday, April 18, 2014. Gilbert is headlining a fight night at the Windsor Recreation Center Saturday with a fight against Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, keeps his keys tethered to a boxing glove keychain Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, left, and Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I., right, wish each other well after weighing in Friday, April 18, 2014, for their boxing match Saturday.  <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Chris Gilbert, 29, of Hartland, coaches Patrick Dickinson, 14, of Windsor through his workout at the Windsor Boxing Club Friday, April 18, 2014. Gilbert is headlining a fight night at the Windsor Recreation Center Saturday with a fight against Eddie Soto, of Pawtucket, R.I. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Windsor — Having gone seven months since his last fight, Windsor boxer Chris Gilbert is highly anticipating tonight’s scheduled bout against Rhode Island’s Eddie Soto. That the 29-year-old welterweight will be able to do so in his home ring will only make it more enjoyable.

Gilbert-vs.-Soto is the main in event in a pro-am card beginning at 8 p.m. at Windsor Recreation Center, where Gilbert has trained since 2004. It’s his second career hometown fight, after knocking out Luis Viramontes in the fifth round last year in front of a large crowd.

For someone who travels regularly to Maine and southern New England for bouts and sparring partners, Gilbert is relishing the opportunity to fight at home.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Gilbert, who’s 10-0 and captured two Vermont Golden Gloves amateur championships prior to turning pro in 2011. “So many of my local supporters are going to be able to come out and see me fight without having to travel. They’ll get to see all of the hard work I’ve been putting in and see it paying off.”

Gilbert would certainly prefer to fight more frequently than once every seven months, and several tentatively scheduled bouts have fallen through since his third-round technical-knockout win over Anthony Chase last September in Manchester. Yet the fact that Gilbert has just 10 fights in an almost three-year pro career is at least partially by design.

The shifty, aggressive Gilbert is consciously maintaining a patient approach to his career, refusing to thrust himself into situations that would render him heavily overmatched.

“My coach (Mel Peabody) and I are taking a slow approach, building my style and technique,” Gilbert said. “I don’t mind taking risks, but I want to have at least a 50 (percent) chance of beating an opponent. It’s easy to get thrown to the wolves for a big payday in this sport. But that’s not what I’m looking for; I’m looking to make a career out of this sport.”

Soto, 37, started his pro career 12-0 before losing his last seven bouts. He’s lost via knockout in five of the last seven, four times before the fifth round.

“He’s an experienced fighter who has more fights under his belt than I do, so he’s going to be a tough opponent,” Gilbert said. “He lost his last seven fights because he jumped up in competition a little too high. He started going for big fights against guys who were 19-0, 24-2, things like that, instead of staying at his level.

“The problem with that kind of approach is that it changes you from ‘the fighter’ to ‘the opponent.’ You’re no longer a draw, you’re the guy who the next up-and-comer wants to fight. I don’t want to be the opponent. I want to be the next guy coming up.”

He’s maintaining that path nicely, according to Peabody, a boxing coach of 35 years who trains with Gilbert several times per week at his club in Lawrence, Mass.

“I call him ‘the Green Mountain Machine,’ because he truly is like a machine in the ring,” Peabody said. “He’s got excellent movement, great hands and great footwork. You’ll see (tonight). He’ll be bobbing and weaving and it’s very hard to get him centered and work on him inside.”

Gilbert has been working on increasing his number of combination punches on counters, and causing opponents to lean back.

“(Soto) is about 6-foot-1 and rangy, so it will be key for me to back him up and make him (punch) off of his back foot,” Gilbert said. “It takes away their power if you push them back. If you make them fight with their hands up, you can work on the body. When they move their hands down, you’ve got to go over the top.”

A satellite TV subscriber, Gilbert said he records 30-40 boxing shows per week to study. He coaches up to up to nine amateur boxers per week with Windsor Boxing Club, including three — 17-year-old Nick Majeski, of South Woodstock, Brattleboro, Vt., resident Tucker Leary and Windsor’s Shawn Hunt — who will be fighting tonight.

Once expenses are covered, proceeds from tonight’s event will help Gilbert provide equipment to new Windsor Boxing Club boxers, he said.

“Every dime we make will go back into the club,” Gilbert said. “When new guys come in here, we want to be able to provide them with basic equipment like head gear and gloves. That’s what an event like this supports.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.