NORTH ANSON, Maine — Brandon “The Cannon” Berry spent the first few hours of Saturday night’s boxing show at Carrabec High School working the room.
In his case that meant thanking as many of the sold-out crowd of 1,000 as possible for their support of the event and his fledgling professional boxing career with a handshake or a picture or an autograph, followed by a turn at the microphone to acknowledge anyone else he might have missed.
Then at the end of the night, the light welterweight (140-pound) fighter from the tiny northwest Maine town of West Forks worked the ring with equal thoroughness, pounding out a unanimous four-round decision over Skowhegan’s Josh Parker in the main event of the six-fight pro-am card.
“This is something I’ve been building for six years, a fan base like this,” said the 26-year-old Berry, the 2013 Northern New England Golden Gloves champion who is 5-0 since turning pro last spring.
“It’s come together so much the last couple years and tonight was another night of breaking records.”
The atmosphere was festive yet polite — no alcohol was sold at the event — throughout the evening, which began with three amateur bouts followed by two pro fights preceding the overwhelming reason fans had gathered from throughout northern Somerset County and beyond.
The crowd rose virtually as one when Berry entered the ring, and he and Parker then battled over four rounds with no knockdowns but plenty of action.
“It makes you feel good as a coach, as a trainer, as a human being, to come out and put on a show like we did tonight and have the enthusiasm and the power you could feel in the gym,” said Ken “Skeet” Wyman of Stockton Springs, who serves as Berry’s trainer and owns Wyman’s Boxing Club, which staged the show.
“I don’t think the hydro plant at Wyman Lake produced any more energy than what was produced here tonight.”
Parker, a veteran of 12 professional mixed martial arts bouts, was making his boxing debut. And while the final scoring on the three judges’ cards was lopsided — 39-34, 39-35 and 39-36 — he gave a competitive performance and landed some heavy punches.
“He surprised me with his boxing ability,” said Berry. “I didn’t expect him to be as polished as he was. I figured he’d lose concentration and get into some wild stuff. It was a close fight all the way through, but the third and fourth rounds I thought I probably won noticeably.”
Berry fought conservatively in the first round as he sought to learn about his opponent, then took more of an aggressive approach in the second round. A countering right to the jaw staggered Parker, but he was able to avoid more serious damage.
Berry continued to press the attack during the final two rounds, and while Parker had his moments, “The Cannon” won the night.
“My power was getting to him whether he wanted to show it or not,” said Berry. “I think I was slowing him down, especially when I was attacking to the body. When I stayed busy he didn’t, so as long as I was throwing punches I was safe.”
Berry is expected to return to the ring on a June 14 card scheduled for the Portland Expo, where nearly 3,000 fans turned out last November for that site’s first boxing show with professional fights in 21 years.
He plans to fight a six-round bout for the first time in that Expo appearance.
“I’m anxious to get back in the ring,” he said. “Although it may have looked like I got a little winded in there tonight, I think I was throwing all my punches with a lot of authority. I am in tip-top shape and I’ll just get in better shape, so six-rounders are next. I’m ready.”
In the meantime, it’s back to the gym for Berry, including several 268-mile round trips a week from his hometown just south of Jackman near the Canadian border to Wyman’s gym along the Maine coast.
“We’ve got to get better at everything,” said Wyman. “Everyone can improve. I don’t care if you’re Brandon Berry or Manny Pacquiao you get back in the gym and work, but Brandon Berry’s come a long way. He can take a punch, he can slip a punch, he can give a punch. He’s the full package.
“But it’s one step at a time. Nobody started off as a world champion, but the bottom line is Brandon Berry is the real deal. He’s got what it takes. The next fight we’ll take it to the next level, and then we’ll take it as far as the good lord will allow us.”
Abiague, Brewer stay unbeaten
Two other pro fighters remained unbeaten in Saturday’s co-main events.
Jorge Abiague, a native of Cuba now fighting out of the Portland Boxing Club, improved to 5-0 with a six-round unanimous decision over Shane Tenney, a former Skowhegan resident now living in Arcadia, Fla., in their 125-pound matchup.
And Brandon “The Lumberjack” Brewer of Fredericton, New Brunswick, scored a third-round technical knockout of Noel Garcia of Springfield, Mass. Brewer, the Canadian Professional Boxing Council light middleweight (154-pound) champion, is now 10-0.