Gordon Berry had his own boxing aspirations as a teenager back in the day, training in Lewiston a couple of times a week and taking on some amateur fights.
But his ultimate fighting legacy will be as an inspiration for younger brother Brandon Berry, who emerged from the small town of West Forks in northwestern Maine to become the state’s most prolific professional pugilist since Lewiston’s Joey Gamache was a world champion during the 1990s.
The younger Berry — known as “The Cannon” — is 23-6-2 in the pros, and on Saturday night he will fight undefeated Argentinian Juan Manuel Witt (33-0-2) for the United Boxing Organization Intercontinental welterweight championship at the Skowhegan Community Center.
It’s there where the Berrys’ boxing partnership will come full circle, as 40-year-old Gordon Berry will return to the ring after a 12-year layoff to make his professional debut on the card promoted by his brother.
“It was always something I thought about over the years, but life and working and business and the commitment it would take to get in shape and train and travel and do everything it would take to prepare for it, I just never made the move to do it,” Gordon Berry said.
“But I would see my brother go to the gym all the time, and I was looking to get into shape myself, so a few months back I started going to the gym and sparring with some of the guys. Brandon Berry mentioned that he was going to put a card on in Skowhegan in June so as I was texting him back and forth I said, ‘Do you think maybe I could get a fight on that card?”
Brandon Berry quickly agreed, and now Gordon Berry will compete in a four-round welterweight bout against 35-year-old Lucinei Santos, a Brazilian now living and fighting out of Concord, New Hampshire.
“I know there’s still a little window where I can be athletic and my body can still respond well to training, but I’m planning on this being a one-shot deal,” Gordon Berry said. “I’ve dreamed of it off and on throughout the years, and I really just want to be able to give it this one go to say I did it.”
At 34, Brandon Berry is beginning to appreciate that narrowing competitive window because he knows he, too, is closer to the end of his own boxing career than the beginning. But as the promoter of several boxing shows in Maine over the past few years he’s happy to help his brother realize his fighting ambition.
“Boxing would not be in my life if not for my brother,” Brandon Berry said. “He was the one who originally took interest in it and was an amateur fighter years ago. He had a limited, spread-out amateur career as far as competing, but he was in the gym all the time and I always looked up to him.
“This is something he’s wanted to do, to have a professional fight, and why not? He’s in great shape and has taken this seriously and worked very hard.”
Gordon Berry began boxing while in high school during the late 1990s, and Brandon Berry was quick to follow in his footsteps.
“When we were little guys sometimes we’d get to sparring in the living room,” Gordon Berry said. “Then we’d get mad and throw the gloves off and start wrestling each other, but it’s been a long time since anything like that happened.
“That’s when I was training a lot and having some amateur matches, and I was pretty well dead set on being a professional boxer at some point in my life.”
Gordon Berry continued to box periodically, but hasn’t competed since 2011 at an amateur tournament in Portland.
That was around the time Brandon Berry’s boxing career began to take off, leading to a professional career that began in 2013.
“Even when I wasn’t fighting I would hang around the gym and spar with him from time to time,” said Gordon Berry, who works for Adventure Bound, a family adventure vacation destination in nearby Caratunk. “I’d always work in the corner in his fights and travel around with him for every fight I could. There was one fight I missed, but other than that I went to every one of them.”
These days the brothers aren’t sparring with each other as fight night approaches, but they are traveling together to train at Cugno’s Boxing in Lewiston or working out at their home gym.
“That’s probably the most special thing about all this, that we’re spending so much time together again,” Brandon Berry said. “It used to be he and I going to the gym when I was a kid, and then we started bringing my friend Joel [Bishop] with us and it was us three. Then my brother faded off and it was just Joel and I, and then Joel tragically passed and it was just me for the last 4 or 5 years.
“Now all of a sudden here comes my brother again and it’s like we’re back at the beginning.”
The training trips to Lewiston often bring back memories.
“I can remember when Brandon was just a little guy, like 12 years old, coming into the gym and hitting the bags, and I never could have imagined that someday he would have been going to Golden Gloves championships and then turning pro and having 30-plus fights and winning a couple of different title belts and traveling all around,” Gordon Berry said. “I can’t express enough how proud I am of him.”
Gordon Berry weighed 156 pounds three months ago when he started training for his pro debut, not much above the 147-pound welterweight limit.
“The weight wasn’t too big of a problem,” he said. “Then the focus became endurance and stamina. I told Brandon the other night I can tell the running is paying off because each time I go to the gym and spar I’m seeing more endurance. I’m able to go more rounds in sparring without being as tired. It’s going well.”
The two plan to be in each other’s corner on Saturday night, but while both are fighting in the same weight class there was never any chance they’d be fighting each other.
“I don’t think my mom would let that happen,” Brandon Berry said.