LEWISTON — Brandon Montella started boxing at the age of 30, a dozen years removed from roaming the hallways of Carrabec High School. As much as he loves getting in the ring, he doesn’t regret that he’s waited so long to come back and show his home state that through a traumatic childhood and personal tragedy, he’s learned to become a fighter.

“I think because I got into it late, I was able to self-analyze and realize that this is making me face my demons,” he said. “I have no choice but to think about everything right or wrong or otherwise that I’m doing in my life because it’s all coming out.”

Montella was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, grew up in North Anson, and left to join the Marines 17 years ago to escape the abuse, alcoholism and drug use that surrounded him. Life and a late start in the ring have brought the 2012 New England Golden Gloves heavyweight champion back to Maine for his fourth professional boxing match on Saturday night.

Montella, now 35, will face Crowsneck Boutin (0-0-1) in a lightweight bout as part of Saturday’s New England Fights 22 card at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

The card includes 15 mixed martial arts bouts and one other boxing match, which pits West Forks’ Brandon Berry against James Lester in a welterweight fight.

Montella and Berry grew up 45 miles (and a few years) apart, but met only recently.

“We met each other as amateurs and we were, like, wait a second. We’re from the same area. We know all of the same people,” Montella said. “We’ve been talking about fighting on the same card for a while.”

Montella believes he and Berry’s legion of supporters will come down from the western mountains and likely find a common bond. Montella sees the event’s moniker, “All Roads Lead Here,” as fitting for what he said is his first trip back to Maine since he left.

“All roads lead here. It doesn’t get much more prophetic than that. So I’m really excited about being back here in Lewiston and fighting in front of my friends and family. Everybody from my past and everybody from my gym, my present, I’ll have them all under one roof.”

Montella is 3-0 with two knockouts since turning pro last year. A certified trainer with his own fitness training and boxing gym in Woburn, Massachusetts, the right-handed, 6-foot, 172-pound ordained minister is still learning to box, but looks to be the aggressor and fight inside-out in his four-round battles.

“I’m a pressure fighter,” said Montella, who counts Roberto Duran and Mike Tyson among the inspirations for his style. “I’m not a tremendously polished fighter. I do well in the gym, but you do make more mistakes in front of a larger crowd. I punch hard. Every punch I try to put through you, and I’m in very good shape to do that. I can box a little bit. But I’ve only been doing it for five years.”

Montella joined the Marines after graduating from Carrabec in 1998 and graduated first in his boot camp class. He spent four years stationed at Quantico, Virginia, rising to the rank of sergeant. He met his wife, Tonya, in Virginia and, after an honorable discharge from the service, bounced from job to job in construction, equipment sales and finally fitness training.

Montella cashed in his 401k and the couple moved to Saugus, Massachusetts, where he started training people in his basement before buying his own gym in a 3,800-square foot warehouse and naming it ‘The Way LLC.’

The name explains Montella’s approach to training clients of all ages.

“Every goal has a way, and that’s kind of how the company was born. It’s a way of life,” he said.

Boxing became a way of life after a friend talked him into fighting in a Toughman contest in West Virginia. Montella had no experience and didn’t train but managed a split decision against a veteran fighter. He decided right then to train for boxing and noticed it helped him overcome the fear of his abusive childhood and become a calmer, more self-reflective person — and more determined to change his life.

He compiled a strong 14-7 record as an amateur, winning the prestigious Rocky Marciano Tournament and later the Golden Gloves title. Part of his growth as a person and a fighter was featured in a reality boxing show that ran briefly on the Discovery Channel and Velocity called “The Fighters.” Clips of the show and Montella’s professional fights can be seen on YouTube.

A couple of weeks after his Golden Gloves triumph, Montella watched a friend fight a professional bout and figured he could more than hold his own in the ring.

“I said ‘Man, I can beat that guy. I’m turning pro,” he said. “It was Ralph Johnson, a real tall, lanky MMA veteran. I got him for my first fight for a good test, and I overcame it and here I am now, 3-0.”

Helped by mentors in the boxing community, Montella is starting to establish himself in New England professional boxing circles.

He won his last fight on Thanksgiving eve with a second-round knockout. Two potential opponents failed to make weight, but it didn’t bother Montella because he and Tonya were expecting their first child.

“The pregnancy was great. I was fighting all year. We were hiking down mountains when she was three months pregnant. No problems,” he said. “On Christmas Eve, she started going into labor.”

“We called to go in (to the hospital) thinking we’re delivering our child on Christmas Day and… our child has no heart beat,” he said. “My wife went through 17 hours of labor and our child was dead.”

The shock of what had happened hit when Brandon returned home to pack up the baby’s room. He focused on helping his wife through her grief while dealing with his own. Both quickly realized they needed to take on the tragedy with a positive outlook and become stronger. With Tonya’s encouragement, he returned to training himself and others to help him process what they were going through.

“She’s strong, and she is without a doubt the largest reason why I’m here right now, doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Part of what keeps him going, he said, is the knowledge that others will look at his life story and his late start in the fight game and be “inspired to find their way,” he said. He suspects returning to Maine for his first fight will stir up a lot of emotions in him and is counting on the closest thing he’s had to a hometown crowd in his career to get him through another test.

“I feed off the energy. I don’t hear the walk-out music. The crowd is my music,” he said. “There’s such a connectedness that happens. And to be fighting here, where Ali and Liston fought, on a card with Brandon Berry, in front of people that I haven’t seen in 17 years … I can’t think of that as a coincidence.”

“I’m a fortunate man to be where I am right now,” he said. “Who would have thought 17 years ago when I left on that journey to change my life I’d come back here for a fight?”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.