Justin Rolfe feels good about his last fight. The problem is it was 15 months ago. Brandon Berry thinks about his last fight and doesn’t feel good at all.

“Things were obviously a complete nightmare,” Berry said about his last fight, a six round unanimous decision loss to Bryan Goldsby last December in Skowhegan. “I lied to myself. I lied to the public. Things weren’t right. My last few fights, my mindset wasn’t right.”

Fairfield’s Rolfe hasn’t fought since his pro debut, a win in April, 2018. Last winter, Rolfe had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. Now that he’s healthy, Rolfe realizes he hadn’t been in top shape for a long time.

“The doctor thinks I was dealing with it for a lot longer. It just finally herniated enough where it hit the nerve and felt unbearable,” Rolfe said.

Rolfe and Berry, a West Forks native, are set to fight on the same card Saturday night at the Rim in Hampton, N.H. Both feel this could be a career-defining fight, and both think they have something to prove.

Rolfe (1-0), will take on Steve Vukosa (10-1), a veteran boxer who hasn’t fought since a loss in February, 2015. Berry (13-5-2) is scheduled to fight Clifford McPherson (2-37-1), a boxer who lost his last 36 fights and hasn’t won since May, 2006. Berry knows people will see McPherson’s record and snicker, but knows he’s at a crossroads in his career and can’t turn down any fight.

“At this point, I have to look at myself and realize, I haven’t looked good in a couple years,” Berry, 1-3 in last four matches, said. “I can’t take anybody lightly. If people want to judge me, it is what it is.”

After his December loss to Goldsby, Berry took some time off. He knew he wasn’t ready to retire, but he needed a break.

“I never once thought of stopping for good,” Berry said.

Rolfe fought through chronic lower back pain for a while before one morning he couldn’t get out of bed. After his surgery last winter in Portland, Rolfe realized how much pain he’d actually been in for a long time.

“Once I healed up, I was so scared because I felt so good. I was nervous to do things,” Rolfe said.

Dr. John Wahlig advised Rolfe to stop power lifting, but soon cleared him to resume boxing training. While Rolfe hit the speed bag during a recent workout, his trainer Mike Leary watched with enthusiasm.

“He’s happier. He feels better. When you feel better, your attitude changes. Because of that, it’s motivated him to train better. He looks phenomenal right now,” Leary said.” I can’t imagine having a bad back all these years, and all of a sudden it’s gone away. That’s a great feeling.”

At his heaviest, Rolfe weight 298 pounds. Since the surgery, he’s lost more than 50 pounds and expects to weight in for Saturday’s fight between 240 and 245. Rolfe thinks he’ll be quicker, but being smaller doesn’t mean Rolfe will change his fighting style.

“We’ve worked on a lot of things. I’m the same fighter I was before. You’re going to see a lot of aggression, but you’re going to see some new things. I’m more of a boxer rather than a straightforward puncher,” Rolfe said.

In Vukosa, Rolfe has an opponent with a pedigree, although one with a little rust. Vukosa trained with Freddie Roach for a time and sparred with former world champion James Toney, Leary said. At the same time, four years without a fight is a long time.

“He’s got a lot of experience, but he hasn’t fought in four years. He’s going to want to win, but I’m telling you, I want to win too. I’ve gone through a lot. I’m still here,” Rolfe said.

Added Leary: “We don’t take (Vukosa) lightly.”

In training for this fight, Berry used the embarrassment he felt after December’s loss as motivation.

“I just brought it all back to the beginning. I went back to basics. I’ve been patient and threw all my pride out the window,” Berry said.

For Rolfe, this is a do over on the start of his professional career. The former Golden Gloves champ is eager to get going.

“Like I told Justin, this is your opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the world. What do you want to be? He’s a nice kid. He’s humble. But he’s hungry,” Leary said.

“I’m not going to promise the outcome of a fight, but I always promise I’m going to fight,” Rolfe said. ” That’s one thing everyone knows from me. They’re going to get a fight.”


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