If you were hours from realizing one of the biggest goals of your life, what would you do?
Brandon Berry went to work.
“It’s not like it was a regular schedule, but I was there for a few hours,” Berry said.
Berry, 25, made his professional boxing debut Saturday night, fighting Bill Jones at Skowhegan Area High School. But before that, he was behind the counter at his family business, Berry’s General Store in West Forks. He didn’t open the store at 5 a.m. like he normally would, but Berry was there at 8 a.m., and he stayed for a few hours, helping out his father.
Maybe it was nervous energy that prompted Berry to spend a few hours working on the morning of his professional debut, but more likely, it was the work ethic that made Saturday night possible in the first place. If you can get up before dawn to open the store and make the coffee and breakfast sandwiches for truckers on their way to or from Quebec and river guides, you can find a way to drive 111 miles one way to Stockton Springs to train at Wyman’s Boxing Club.
Work ethic doesn’t care what the work is, only that it gets done.
Saturday night was both the culmination of years of Berry’s work, and the start of something new. Berry’s trainer, Ken “Skeet” Wyman, saw it as the latter.
“This is the first night of a whole new venture,” Wyman said.
Berry found his rhythm a few years ago when he found Wyman. The trainer had Berry drop down from 152 to 141 pounds, and he excelled. Earlier this year, Berry won a fight at TD Garden in Boston. In February, he was runner-up in his weight class at the New England Golden Gloves championships in Lowell, Mass., losing a split decision to Tim Ramos.
A few hours before Saturday’s fight, Berry knew he’d made the right decision. He had nothing left to prove at the amateur level.
“It’s crazy how quick it’s come,” Berry said. “It’s crazy that it’s here.”
Berry spent the afternoon trying to relax. He watched recordings of Arturo Gatti fights for inspiration. The first of Gatti’s three fights with Mickey Ward is one of Berry’s favorites. He paid particular attention to the ninth round. There’s Gatti, practically out on his feet, yet refusing to give up.
“If he goes down, they probably don’t have the other two fights,” Berry said. “That first one really does it for me.”
A few hours before the fight, Berry helped Wyman with the last minute details, making sure the Skowhegan Area High School gym was set up perfectly and reserving ringside seats for friends and family.
West Forks has a population of around three dozen. More than half that many people turned out for Berry’s weigh in Friday at T & B’s Tavern in Skowhegan. On Saturday, many of Berry’s supporters arrived at the fight in black baseball caps and T-shirts that read “The Cannon,” Berry’s nickname. If nothing else, Berry hit the professional boxing ranks with the promotion part down cold.
Berry was asked, has there been another professional athlete from West Forks?
“No,” he said, and smiled.
An hour before the first of a handful of amateur fights set to precede Berry’s bout with Bill Jones, Berry was still working the gym, greeting as many people as he could. He waited for his mother, who he knew would be worried. He’d reassure her, then he’d grab a bite to eat.
“The hard part is over,” Berry said.
Berry’s work ethic knew better, and did what it always did. It kept going.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242