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

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

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    BY JEFFREY FREEMAN

    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​ ​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.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    That's the late Joel Bishop on the left and Brandon "The Cannon" Berry on the right.

    #NoseToNoseBros

    Comment


    • #3
      Good job Jeffrey

      Comment


      • #4
        Terribly sad story to tell.

        Incidentally, I covered Berry's pro debut up in Skowhegan with Jack Obermayer.

        Covered Bishop too, his was the first bout at the resurgent EXPO in many years.

        And Bishop won it too, got awarded the USA Outstanding Boxing honor.

        RIP Joel and Jack, these men will be (ARE!) missed.

        Comment


        • #5
          Jack was an interesting and very decent guy. I covered a fight with him in Ocean Springs, MD involving the comeback of Boone Pultz. We exchanged valuable information on diners in the East.He was impressed by my knowledge of the better diners.

          Comment


          • #6
            Jack wanted to add a new town (Skowhegan) to his list.

            And oh yes, he was asking about the diners up this way.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KO Digest View Post
              Jack wanted to add a new town (Skowhegan) to his list.

              And oh yes, he was asking about the diners up this way.
              Maine diners are OK, and Becky's in Portland rules.

              Comment


              • #8
                Exactly 25 years ago today in 1992, Tony "The Tiger" Lopez comes all the way out to Portland, Maine to win the WBA lightweight title from Mainer Joey Gamache. Lopez stopped Gamache in the penultimate round (eleventh) of a classic local title bout aired on NBC. Down from a series of unanswered punches, the bruised and battered Gamache rose to his feet but was waved off on wobbly legs. Professional boxing is back in Portland on 11/11 at the EXPO Center featuring Russell Lamour, Jason Quirk, and Brandon Berry. KO's got your credentialed ringside coverage for The Sweet Science on Veterans Day.

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