Fred Lear of Bangor (left) fights Christopher Arsenault in 2016 at Dexter. The former John Bapst Memorial High School wrestler will launch his professional mixed martial arts career in January. Credit: Josh O'Donnell

The holiday season generally is a quiet time within the state’s combat sports community, but there’s plenty of planning already under way for early 2018.

Bangor’s Fred Lear, crowned New England Fights’ amateur bantamweight champion with a second-round victory over Walt Shea at the Cross Insurance Center on Aug. 5, will vacate that title to make his professional debut on Feb. 3, 2018, in Lewiston.

The former football player and wrestler at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, who was 6-2 as an amateur based at Young’s MMA in Bangor, will face Dominic Jones (1-1) of First Class MMA in Brunswick in a three-round professional test at NEF 32.

“My opponent is big, strong, and dangerous,” said Lear recently. “Styles are what make big fights, and the fans will be in for another barn burner here. I have dreamt of this opportunity and will work hard to ensure that it is not squandered.”

Jones went 5-1 as an amateur before turning pro last spring.

“Fred is a great matchup,” said Jones, who defeated Tollison Lewis in his pro debut but lost his most recent bout to Matt Denning in June. “He is great fighter with a future in the sport. I’m excited to see our wrestling skills compete. It’s going to be a fun and explosive fight and something the fans want to see.”

Among other fights already scheduled for NEF 32, former Erskine Academy of South China and Husson University basketball player Josh Jones will return to the cage for an amateur middleweight bout against Mark Gardner.

Jones, who also trains at First Class MMA, debuted in the cage last year with two knockout victories that lasted a combined 24 seconds but has lost his last two bouts, including a first-round defeat against former University of Maine football player Carlton Charles on the Aug. 5 NEF card in Bangor.

Gardner (1-0) debuted in Portland last month with a second-round technical knockout victory over Charles.

Berry to box in January

Brandon Berry of West Forks will return to the boxing ring on Jan. 27, 2018, in a six-round welterweight match against Bryan Goldsby at Windham, N.H.

Berry is 11-2-2 after fighting to a majority draw against Eric Palmer last month at the Portland Exposition Building, his first fight after a 17-month layoff due to shoulder surgery.

That bout originally was announced as a majority decision for the Pennsylvania-based Palmer, but a review of the judges’ scorecards determined that two of judges actually scored the bout a draw while just the third judge had Palmer winning the decision, thus the majority draw.

“I immediately felt awful for Eric because he was riding a huge high out of the arena after he thought he had gotten a big win, and it was well deserved,” said Berry. “Obviously when it got changed to a draw a part of me was satisfied because a draw is better than a loss, but a bigger part of me felt bad for him because he’s such a good guy.”

Berry said he felt no lingering effects from the shoulder surgery after the fight, a rematch of a six-round battle against Palmer in Lewiston three years earlier that Berry won by unanimous decision.

“I threw it hard, I used it often and I never really thought about the shoulder during the fight,” he said. “I came out of that fight with a couple of minor issues, but I feel so great to get that behind me because my arm feels so good.”

Goldsby (4-5) has spent time both in the boxing ring and MMA cage professionally, with the Philadelphia product’s mixed martial arts experience including a berth in the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship tournament.

“I’m excited,” said the 31-year-old Berry, who travels to Boston for much of his training work. “I know this is my last run at this and hopefully I can get a few more years out of my body. I’m really enjoying it again, it’s kind of like going back to square one for me.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...