The sweet science isn’t so sweet these days.

The science itself is still there, of course, and there are amateur boxers still trudging to and from dimly lit gyms all over America, in big cities and little rural towns. But the fight game has been turned upside-down, flipped all around, on its head.

Next month, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter of our generation, Floyd Mayweather Jr., will square off against a fighter without a single professional boxing match on his resume. Mayweather against Conor McGregor is expected to be the highest-grossing pay-per-view in the sport’s history.

Less than a month ago, decorated multi-time world champion Manny Pacquiao fought on free television, not in an exhibition bout but in a real, honest-to-goodness championship fight. The shocking result, a Pacquiao loss, lit up websites and social media channels and got mainstream media talking about boxing again.

On Saturday, in Skowhegan, 26 fighters of all ages and ability levels, from professionals to amateurs, will climb into the ring and put pride, ego and fear aside in the name of exhibiting what they’ve learned of the sweet science.

Pundits everywhere seem to agree, there won’t be much “science” to the Mayweather-McGregor clash.


“There is a little bit more of a circus act going on now in the professional end of things,” said Brandon Berry, a pro fighter from The Forks who is promoting Saturday’s card at the Skowhegan Community Center. “I don’t agree with the way they’ve promoted it. I’m embarrassed for both of them, but, hey, I’ve got no money in my bank account and they’re cashing out. So, do I blame them?”

The blockbuster PPV event has been built on a rude, profanity-laced world tour of promotion designed to turn non-believers into paying customers on Aug. 26. Instead of inciting any kind of ill-will, the tour has simply generated laughter — the staged nature of the entire thing seen as nothing more than a sham by a public clamoring for any shred of validity it could grab hold of.

Meanwhile, fans of sports at large have only been given the appearance that “boxing” is nothing more than a scripted presentation of professional wrestling’s alter-ego.

That circus is not professional boxing, not at the grassroots level where it is still battling for both relevance and survival.

Berry is “ashamed” that it’s been two years almost to the day since boxing was held in Skowhegan.

“I believe in this sport, and I want it to continue,” Berry said. “Boxing here died. If you don’t consistently have shows, crowds won’t come out. They won’t believe in it.


“This is great for the area. Any event like this is good for the area. … (The two-year hiatus) shouldn’t have happened,” Berry continued, adding that he’d originally planned to fight on a card he promoted before being hurt. “I blame myself, but injuries happen and we still should have provided fights.”

Amateur boxing is taking place in Maine and elsewhere. Gary Cugno, who lives in Canaan and operates a gym in Lewiston, promotes two boxing events annually in Lewiston and estimates that there are roughly a dozen each year in states like Masschusetts.In the wake of the “circus” that Mayweather-McGregor promises to be, local boxing’s health is as important now to the long-term survival of the sport as ever.

“To people that know what they’re looking at, a local show like this will be a lot better and will be a lot more exciting than (Mayweather-McGregor),” Cugno said this week. “This isn’t two guys just running around a ring. This could generate a lot of interest in the sport.

“If that type of fight was on the same scale as this, we would pack more people in to see it. This is boxing.”

Berry promises that this Saturday won’t be a one-off boxing card followed by another two-year hiatus. He’s begun looking forward to what’s next, and he’s eager to build on what he’s started as a promoter while he’s sidelined by injury.

“I take my fighters to as many fights as I can get for them,” Cugno said. “Even if I’ve only got one fighter going to Massachusetts or New York or wherever, I get in the car and we go. It’s important to keep them motivated. It’s important for them to have something to work toward.”


With boxing superstars like Pacquiao and super featherweight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko appearing on ESPN over the next two years as part of the cable giant’s agreement with the Top Rank Boxing promotion, more eyeballs will be back on the sport. If there’s any chance of a trickle-down effect, any hope of more young boxing talent taking up the sport, there has to be an outlet for them.

And that’s why Berry and Cugno are so passionate about what is going to take place this weekend.

It’s a stepping stone of sorts.

“When you have a small community and there’s so much interest in a sport like this, a sport that isn’t offered in school or isn’t a common sport that every kid does, when there’s interest like this in a town this size, it’s so important to run the events,” Berry said. “It gives these kids a chance to fight in front of their grandparents that aren’t going to travel to Massachusetts or in front of their schoolmates that aren’t going to travel. Things like that will keep these kids interested, will keep them motivated to do it.

“The reason I know that is because I was that kid.”

On Saturday night in Skowhegan, science will trump sweet, athleticism will win out over showmanship.


It will be a small step toward righting boxing’s upside-down world.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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