Five months. That’s how long Brandon Berry figures he went without wearing his boxing gloves. When you’ve been fighting for years, when you’ve made it a career, five months may as well be five years.

On Jan. 15, Berry had surgery to repair a labral tear in his left shoulder. A little more than three months removed from the surgery, Berry eyes his return to the ring.

“I feel awesome,” Berry, a native of West Forks, said. “There’s no pain. When I woke up from the surgery, I knew. I could tell everything went well.”

A light welterweight of approximately 142 pounds, Berry injured the shoulder in his Nov. 15 fight against Freddy Sanchez at the Portland Expo. In the first round, Berry felt the shoulder partially pop out of its socket. In round two, it popped out completely for a second before sliding back into place. In round three, Berry’s left arm was pretty much useless. He could barely get it up to block Sanchez’s punches, and he certainly couldn’t counter punch. Two minutes into round four, the ref stopped the fight.

Berry’s professional boxing career spans almost three years and nine fights, and the loss to Sanchez was his first pro defeat, but that didn’t concern him. Fighters lose. What concerned him was the injury, the first serious one of his career. He pushed negative thoughts away.

“I knew I’d fight again,” Berry, 28, said. “I’m still just as positive as I ever was. Anything can happen. I only have so many years to do this.”

For the first four weeks following surgery, Berry wasn’t allowed to train at all. His left arm was in a sling, slowly healing. Six weeks after surgery, the sling came off, and Berry was allowed to do some light running on a treadmill.

Eight weeks after surgery, Berry started shadowboxing. Muscle memory sometimes needs a boost. As much as the exercise worked his shoulder, it helped him relearn his footwork. It helped Berry feel like a boxer again.

When he couldn’t take part in boxing exercises, Berry rehabbed with resistance training, pushing an elastic bungee cord away from his body, then pulling it towards himself.

Recently, Berry was finally able to hit the bag again. All the positive thoughts a brain can hold still can’t keep doubt from creeping in. What’s going to happen to my shoulder when I make contact with the bag? Is it going to give way, or will I be fine?

“I was a little leery, because I didn’t know what to expect,” Berry said. “I was nervous to throw the hook.”

Berry threw the hook, and it felt good.

“I have nothing to worry about now,” Berry said.

Berry hopes his doctor will give him the OK to spar soon. If he can get in the ring for sessions by mid-May, Berry can get a firmer grip on his progress, and he and trainer Ken “Skeet” Wyman can decide if he’ll return to competition on June 20 in Portland. If not then, Berry looks at a July 18 show in Skowhegan he and Wyman are planning.

“By mid-May I should know,” Berry said. “I can guarantee I’ll be in Skowhegan in July.”

The injury cost Berry money. How much, he’s not exactly sure, but surgery and rehab prevented Berry from fighting three or four events he planned on. That’s a few thousand dollars, at least, Berry didn’t earn, he said.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but in a harsh winter in West Forks, a few thousand dollars helps fill the oil tank. A few thousand dollars puts gas in the plow truck Berry drives and helps pay for repairs that keep it on the road.

So Berry waits for the go ahead to spar. That will make his time table firmer. It will determine when he can resume his boxing career.

“At the minimum, I’ll need a month to get ready,” Berry said. “If it’s in Portland in June or July 18 in Skowhegan. Either way, it’ll be coming soon.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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