The Tragic Fork​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Road​ ​for Maine Boxer Brandon Berry

PORTLAND, ME​ ​—​ ​Think​ ​of​ ​today’s​ ​boxing​ ​scene​ ​in​ ​Maine​ ​like​ ​a​ ​small​ ​tree​ ​with​ ​strong​ ​roots.​ ​There isn’t​ ​much​ ​new​ ​growth​ ​for​ ​rural​ ​fans​ ​to​ ​pick​ ​fruit​ ​from.​ Two-time​ ​WBA​ ​champion​ ​Joey​ ​Gamache hasn’t​ ​fought​ ​since​ ​2000.​ ​The​ ​state’s​ ​boxing​ ​commission​ ​only​ ​recently​ ​reformed​ ​in​ ​2012.

Positioned​ ​atop​ ​that​ ​organic​ ​food​ ​chain​ ​is​ ​popular​ ​ticket​ ​seller​ ​Brandon​ ​“The​ ​Cannon”​ ​Berry (pictured on the right).​ ​His 2013​ ​professional​ ​debut​ ​marked​ ​the​ ​first​ ​sanctioned​ ​prizefight​ ​in​ ​Maine​ ​since​ ​2005.​ ​A​ ​brawler​ ​in the​ ​ring,​ ​Brandon​ ​wears​ ​his​ ​heavy​ ​heart​ ​on​ ​his​ ​sleeve.​ ​And​ ​in​ ​his​ ​style.​ ​His​ ​favorite​ ​boxer​ ​was Arturo​ ​“Thunder”​ ​Gatti.​ ​“He​ ​fought​ ​hard​ ​even​ ​when​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​he​ ​was​ ​gonna​ ​lose,”​ ​says​ ​Brandon.

Berry​ ​is​ ​a​ ​small​ ​town​ ​fighter.

He​ ​boxes​ ​in​ ​faraway​ ​New​ ​England​ ​places​ ​most​ ​Americans​ ​have​ ​never​ ​visited​ ​like​ ​Skowhegan, Lewiston,​ ​and​ ​North​ ​Anson.​ ​Driving​ ​far​ ​to​ ​train​ ​and​ ​fight​ ​and​ ​spar​ ​is​ ​a​ ​way​ ​of​ ​life​ ​for​ ​Brandon.

When​ ​Berry​ ​took​ ​his​ ​wedding​ ​vows​ ​last​ ​month​ ​in​ ​upstate​ ​Maine,​ ​his​ ​brother​ ​Gordon​ ​Berry presided​ ​over​ ​the​ ​outdoor​ ​ceremony​ ​while​ ​fellow​ ​boxer​ ​Joel​ ​Bishop​ (pictured on the left) ​stood​ ​by​ ​“The​ ​Cannon”​ ​as his​ ​best​ ​man.​ ​By​ ​new​ ​dawn’s​ ​light,​ ​Bishop​ ​was​ ​dead​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Berrys​ ​were​ ​crushed.

Maine​ ​police​ ​discovered​ ​Bishop’s​ ​mortal​ ​remains​ ​Sunday​ ​morning​ ​inside​ ​his​ ​totaled​ ​Toyota​ ​in The​ ​Forks​ ​plantation​ ​on​ ​U.S.​ ​Route​ ​201.​ ​Bishop,​ ​31,​ ​wasn’t​ ​wearing​ ​a​ ​seat belt​ ​when​ ​he crashed​ ​into​ ​a​ ​utility​ ​pole​ ​in​ ​the​ ​wee​ ​hours​ ​after​ ​Berry’s​ ​fall​ ​wedding.​

Almost​ ​immediately​ ​after the​ ​funeral​ ​for​ ​his​ ​fallen​ ​friend,​ ​Berry​ ​announced​ ​on​ ​social​ ​media​ ​his​ ​return​ ​would​ ​be​ ​devoted​ ​to Bishop.

“In​ ​honor​ ​of​ ​my​ ​guy,”​ ​wrote​ ​Berry​ ​on​ ​FB.

“Now​ ​I​ ​know​ ​what​ ​I’m​ ​fighting​ ​for,”​ ​he​ ​says.

An​ ​emotional​ ​wreck,​ ​now​ ​inactive​ ​for​ ​16​ ​months,​ ​Brandon​ ​is​ ​on​ ​the​ ​comeback​ ​trail​ ​for​ ​Bishop while​ ​some​ ​people​ ​close​ ​to​ ​the​ ​30​-year-old​ ​welterweight​ ​are​ ​understandably​ ​concerned​ ​for​ ​his own​ ​safety​ ​and​ ​well ​​being.​ ​It’s​ ​not​ ​that​ ​folks​ ​don’t​ ​comprehend​ ​boxing​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​dangerous enough​ ​endeavor​ ​but​ ​competing​ ​just​ ​weeks​ ​after​ ​losing​ ​your​ ​best​ ​friend​ ​and​ ​training​ ​travel partner?

That’s​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​to​ ​expect​ ​from​ ​anybody.

Still,​ ​that’s​ ​what​ ​Berry​ ​plans​ ​to​ ​do​ ​when​ ​the​ ​now​ ​medically​ ​cleared​ ​“Cannon”​ ​makes​ ​his​ ​return​ ​to boxing​ ​at​ ​Bobby​ ​Russo’s​ ​next​ ​EXPO​ ​show​ ​in​ ​less​ ​than​ ​a​ ​month.​ ​

Scheduled​ ​for​ ​November​ ​11, Russo’s​ ​34​-​year-old​ ​“Haitian​ ​Sensation”​ ​Russell​ ​Lamour​ ​15-2​ ​(7)​ ​is​ ​slated​ ​to​ ​appear​ ​opposite Newark,​ ​New​ ​Jersey’s​ ​17-3​ ​(6)​ ​John​ ​“Apollo​ ​Kidd”​ ​Thompson​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Saturday​ ​night middleweight​ ​main​ ​event.​ ​Thompson​ ​is​ ​coming​ ​off​ ​a​ ​2016​ ​UD​ ​loss​ ​to​ ​Willie​ ​Monroe​ ​Jr.

Berry​ ​and​ ​Lamour​ ​are​ ​presently​ ​Maine’s​ ​top​ ​draws​ ​with​ ​7-0​ ​(5)​ ​middleweight​ ​firefighter​ Jason Quirk​ —  in the EXPO co-feature — ​coming​ ​up​ ​quickly​ ​behind​ ​them. Lamour​ ​trains​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Russo’s Portland​ ​Boxing​ ​Club​ ​(PBC)​ ​while​ ​Berry​ ​is​ ​now​ ​cornered​ ​by​ ​Boston​ ​Boxing’s​ ​Ed​ ​LaVache.

“Back​ ​in​ ​Maine,​ ​I’d​ ​spar​ ​maybe​ ​one​ ​night​ ​a​ ​week,”​ ​Berry​ ​told​ ​me.​ ​“I​ ​wasn’t​ ​allowed​ ​to​ ​train anywhere​ ​else.​ ​Now​ ​I​ ​drive​ ​down​ ​from​ ​Maine.​ ​In​ ​Boston,​ ​I​ ​get​ ​much​ ​better​ ​training​ ​sessions.​ ​I get​ ​a​ ​new​ ​sparring​ ​partner​ ​every​ ​week.​ ​Coach​ ​Ed​ ​is​ ​such​ ​a​ ​good​ ​person.​ ​He​ ​cares​ ​so​ ​much and​ ​pushes​ ​me​ ​so​ ​hard.​ ​He​ ​works​ ​his​ ​whole​ ​schedule​ ​around​ ​me​ ​and​ ​won’t​ ​take​ ​a​ ​dime.”

With​ ​no​ ​opponent​ ​officially​ ​set​ ​yet,​ ​Berry​ ​is​ ​hoping​ ​for​ ​a​ ​rematch​ ​with​ ​Uniontown,​ ​Pennsylvania journeyman​ ​Eric​ ​Palmer​ ​on​ ​Veterans​ ​Day.​ ​“I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​an​ ​easy​ ​fight,”​ ​Berry​ ​says.​ ​“I​ ​feel​ ​he would​ ​be​ ​a​ ​tough​ ​fight​ ​right​ ​now​ ​for​ ​me​ ​given​ ​the​ ​circumstances.”​

​Berry​ ​defeated​ ​Palmer​ ​in Lewiston​ ​by​ ​hard​ ​fought​ ​decision​ ​in​ ​2014​ ​but​ ​while​ ​Berry​ ​has​ ​only​ ​fought​ ​six​ ​times​ ​since​ ​with stretches​ ​of​ ​inactivity,​ ​Palmer​ ​has​ ​been​ ​busier​ ​with​ ​fourteen​ ​bouts​ ​in​ ​that​ ​three​ ​year​ ​span.

And​ ​if​ ​he​ ​loses​ ​in​ ​November​ ​or​ ​re-injures​ ​his​ ​surgically​ ​repaired​ ​left​ ​shoulder​?​ ​Would​ ​he stop​ ​fighting?​ ​“Losing​ ​won’t​ ​stop​ ​me,”​ ​Berry​ ​proudly​ ​tells​ ​me.​ ​“But​ ​if​ ​my​ ​shoulder​ ​goes​ ​out​ ​again, I’d​ ​have​ ​to​ ​swallow​ ​my​ ​pride​ ​and​ ​realize​ ​this​ ​isn’t​ ​going​ ​to​ ​happen,”​ ​he​ ​says​ ​realistically.

Working​ ​his​ ​104th​ ​event​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Portland​ ​EXPO​ ​since​ ​1992,​ ​USA​ ​Boxing’s​ ​Bobby​ ​Russo​ ​is bringing​ ​in​ ​former​ ​WBO​ ​world​ ​heavyweight​ ​champion​ ​“Merciless”​ ​Ray​ ​Mercer​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​and​ ​greet with​ ​autograph​ ​seeking​ ​fans.​ ​Past​ ​special​ ​guests​ ​at​ ​the​ ​EXPO​ ​have​ ​included​ ​Evander​ ​“Real Deal”​ ​Holyfield,​ ​Michael​ ​“The​ ​Jinx”​ ​Spinks,​ ​“Boom​ ​Boom”​ ​Mancini,​ ​and​ ​“Big​ ​Daddy”​ ​Bowe.

As​ ​an​ ​amateur,​ ​Mercer​ ​won​ ​a​ ​Gold​ ​Medal​ ​at​ ​the​ ​1988​ ​Olympics​ ​in​ ​Seoul,​ ​South​ ​Korea.​ ​“I​ ​owe​ ​a lot​ ​to​ ​USA​ ​boxing,”​ ​Mercer,​ ​a​ ​United​ ​States​ ​Army​ ​Veteran,​ ​told​ ​Russo​ ​in​ ​accepting​ ​his​ ​offer​ ​to appear​ ​at​ ​the​ ​2017​ ​Veterans​ ​Day​ ​fight​ ​card.​ ​In​ ​2009,​ ​Mercer​ ​infamously​ ​knocked​ ​out​ ​former UFC​ ​heavyweight​ ​champion​ ​Tim​ ​“The​ ​Maine-iac”​ ​Sylvia​ ​in​ ​ten​ ​seconds​ ​with​ ​a​ ​single​ ​punch.

Tommy​ ​Morrison​ ​was​ ​treated​ ​far​ ​less​ ​mercifully.

For​ ​Berry,​ ​it’s​ ​do​-​or​-die​ ​time​ ​in​ ​Portland.

It​ ​was​ ​there​ ​in​ ​2014​ ​that​ ​Berry’s​ ​inspirational​ ​boxing​ ​dreams​ ​began​ ​to​ ​unravel,​ ​turning​ ​into​ ​a “living​ ​nightmare.” ​The​ ​then​ ​undefeated​ ​up-and-coming​ ​Berry​ ​was​ ​bloodied​ ​and​ ​beaten​ ​down​ ​by Worcester,​ ​Mass​ ​spoiler​ ​Freddy​ ​Sanchez.​ ​To​ ​add​ ​injury​ ​to​ ​insult,​ ​the​ ​West​ ​Forks,​ ​Maine​ ​native tore​ ​the​ ​labrum​ ​in​ ​his​ ​left​ ​shoulder​ ​in​ ​the​ ​TKO​ ​loss​ ​and​ ​was​ ​immediately​ ​sidelined​ ​for​ ​surgery.

Berry​ ​was​ ​back​ ​less​ ​than​ ​a​ ​year​ ​later​ ​but​ ​with​ ​mixed​ ​results​.​ ​Three​ ​wins​ ​were followed​ ​​by​ ​a​ ​pair​ ​of​ ​unsatisfactory​ ​results​ ​against​ ​10-10​ ​opponent​ ​James​ ​Lester​ ​up​ ​in Lewiston.​ ​The​ ​outta-towner​ ​drew​ ​with​ ​Berry​ ​in​ ​April​ ​of​ ​2016​ ​before​ ​decisioning​ ​him​ ​that​ ​June.

Now​ ​11-2-1​ ​(7)​ ​as​ ​a​ ​pro,​ ​Berry​ ​went​ ​back​ ​under​ ​the​ ​blade​ ​for​ ​more​ ​shoulder​ ​work​ ​after​ ​the painful​ ​loss​ ​to​ ​Lester.​ ​In​ ​2015,​ ​Berry​ ​was​ ​charged​ ​with​ ​excessive​ ​speed​ ​for​ ​operating​ ​his​ ​Saab at​ ​128​ ​miles-per-hour​ ​on​ ​the​ ​same​ ​Route​ ​201​ ​where​ ​Bishop’s​ ​Camry​ ​lost​ ​control​ ​in​ ​the​ ​fog.

“Joel,”​ ​says​ ​Brandon,​ ​“was​ ​my​ ​other​ ​half.”

With​ ​that​ ​tragedy​ ​and​ ​other​ ​career​ ​slip-and-falls​ ​now​ ​in​ ​his​ ​proverbial​ ​rearview​ ​mirror,​ ​Berry​ ​sets out​ ​on​ ​a​ ​long​ ​and​ ​dangerous​ ​road​ ​in​ ​memory​ ​of​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​whose​ ​life​ ​was​ ​lost​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​wheel. Berry’s​ ​new​ ​bride​ ​now​ ​passes​ ​the​ ​exact​ ​spot​ ​where​ ​Joel​ ​died​ ​every​ ​day​ ​on​ ​her​ ​way​ ​to​ ​work.

For​ ​Berry,​ ​the​ ​memories​ ​of​ ​Bishop​ ​will​ ​be​ ​everywhere​ ​he​ ​looks​ ​and​ ​goes​ ​in​ ​the​ ​great​ ​northern outdoors.​ ​While​ ​there​ ​should​ ​be​ ​no​ ​rush​ ​to​ ​get​ ​there,​ ​Berry​ ​knows​ ​that​ ​at​ ​30,​ ​his​ ​fighting​ ​clock​ ​is ticking​ ​fast​ ​and​ ​that​ ​there​ ​are​ ​many​ ​miles​ ​to​ ​go,​ ​and​ ​promises​ ​to​ ​keep,​ ​before​ ​he​ ​can​ ​sleep.

The​ ​sport​ ​of​ ​boxing​ ​doesn’t​ ​come​ ​standard​ ​with​ ​a​ ​seat belt​ ​but​ ​even​ ​if​ ​it​ ​did,​ ​I​ ​doubt​ ​Brandon Berry​ ​would wear​ ​his.

It​ ​might​ ​hold​ ​him​ ​back.

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