SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Professional boxing has been a non-entity on the Maine sports scene for the better part of a decade — replaced in recent years by the emergence of mixed martial arts.
Brandon “The Cannon” Berry believes there’s room for both fighting disciplines, and on Saturday night, he will take a first-person approach toward bringing pro boxing back to the Pine Tree State.
The 25-year-old West Forks native will make his professional boxing debut in the main event of a pro-amateur card scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Skowhegan Area High School.
Berry will fight Billy Jones of Berwick in a four-round junior welterweight (140-pound) bout, believed to be the first pro boxing match held in Maine since 2005.
“I’m glad to be part of bringing boxing back to Maine,” said Berry. “It’s a good step in the right direction for the sport.”
Berry has been boxing as an amateur since age 18, and for the past four years, he has competed out of Wyman’s Boxing Club in Stockton Springs.
Stockton Springs is 134 miles from West Forks, where Berry has a full-time job in the family business, Berry’s General Store on Route 201. That means he travels some 800 miles each week to train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday under gym owner Ken “Skeet” Wyman, a commercial lobster fisherman and former boxer.
That commitment has led Berry to pursue a pro boxing career.
“My brother did some boxing and I always looked up to him, so that’s why I started,” he said. “Turning pro was something I thought I might want to do someday, but I started thinking about it more when I got together with ‘Skeet’ four years ago.
“Then the last 12 months we really talked about doing it.”
Berry has been a familiar face on the New England amateur boxing circuit for the last six years, regularly competing in the annual Northern New England Golden Gloves tournament.
And while he has looked forward to making his pro debut this year, Berry also has remained busy in the amateur ranks.
He scored a three-round unanimous decision over Julio Perez of Hudson, Mass., as a late replacement on the Jan. 26 “Night at the Fights” card held at the TD Garden in Boston.
A week later he advanced from the Northern New England Golden Gloves championships in Burlington, Vt., via walkover to the New England finals in Lowell, Mass., where he won his semifinal before falling to Tim Ramos in the championship bout.
“Brandon’s a pretty aggressive kid but his boxing is very fluid,” said Wyman. “He’s accomplished about everything he can accomplish as an amateur, and I think he’s better suited for the pros just because of his style of boxing.”
And while Berry agrees that aggression is a key element of his fight plan, he said he has been training to add to his skill set.
“I like to come forward,” he said. “I like to rely on my power, but in the last six to eight months, I’ve really tried to become a more well-rounded boxer.
“I just want to take this as far as I can. The top of the game is a long way up, but this is a start.”
Berry’s first professional opponent comes to boxing from the mixed martial arts world, where Jones has compiled an 11-7 record. His most recent MMA bout was a first-round knockout loss to Brian Kelleher last September 15 on the World Cup of Mixed Martial Arts card at the Foxwoods resort in Ledyard, Conn.
“I’ve seen very little film on him,” said Berry. “I’ll probably take my time in the first round and see what he has to offer, establish my jab and go to work.”
Eight amateur bouts are scheduled on the undercard including several other Wyman’s Boxing Club fighters — among them are Dalton McGowan of Skowhegan, Chris Sarro of Ellsworth and Phil Kaiser of Belfast.
Public weigh-ins are scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at T&B’s Out-Back Tavern in Skowhegan.