It could have been the music. It could have been the story of a scrappy underdog defying the odds. All Casey Kramlich knows is when he was watching television at age 11, the original Rocky movie came on.

Kramlich was transfixed.

“I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen,” he said. “I went and told my parents that I wanted to get into boxing.”

Fourteen years later, the native of Gray has four New England Golden Gloves titles under his belt and is preparing for his seventh professional bout Saturday night as part of an eight-fight card at the Portland Expo. Kramlich, 25, now lives in Raymond. He will take a 5-0-1 record into the ring for a junior middleweight bout against Larry Smith, a 37-year-old journeyman (10-29-1) from Dallas.

Kramlich’s background in boxing began with that first Rocky movie and the rest of the films in the series. He even poured himself a glass of raw eggs, as did Rocky Balboa in the first movie.

“When I was young I tried it once,” Kramlich said with a grimace. “Once was enough.”

His interest in boxing didn’t wane after enrolling in Portland Boxing Club Coach Bobby Russo’s class for beginners. Kramlich found a second home in the gym and after his first year at Gray-New Gloucester High gave up basketball and football to concentrate on boxing.

“At first my mom was a little iffy about it,” Kramlich said, “but she supported me because it was something I wanted to do.”

Kramlich’s amateur career included those four Golden Gloves championships as well as the 2010 USA New England title. Boxers who reach Golden Glove finals are required to fill out a brief biography, and each time Kramlich wrote, “There’s no one in this building who’s in better shape than me.”

Russo said Kramlich keeps himself in tip-top shape, and that knowledge adds his confidence.

“That’s the biggest fear in boxing,” Russo said, “running out of gas when somebody’s trying to take your head off.”

It was Russo who suggested Kramlich’s ring name, Buzzsaw, upon his ascension to the professional ranks. Outside of the ring, Kramlich works as an arborist for Whitney Tree Service in New Gloucester, climbing trees as high as 130 feet with a chainsaw strapped to his belt.

“We didn’t want to call him The Hedge Trimmer,” Russo said. “The thing about him is that he’s very busy in a fight. He’s always active.”

“My fighting style is like a buzzsaw,” Kramlich said. “I throw a lot of punches and fast, and eventually I’ll cut through you.”

While training Monday night, Kramlich wore a sweat-soaked T-shirt depicting Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston at the abrupt conclusion of their famous 1965 championship bout in Lewiston.

The gym hummed with activity; more than a dozen boxers sparred, hit a heavy bag, worked a speed bag and shadow-boxed in front of a mirror. Mixed with the rhythmic thumpita-thumpita of the speed bag was music that included “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from “Rocky.”

Kramlich has a brush cut and an earnest manner. At first glance he seems to be wearing long sleeves. Closer inspection reveals ink rather than fabric. Tattoos on his right arm revolve around family and close friends. His chest features the names of his grandparents, Ninna and Papa. His left arm is a work in progress, dedicated to his great-grandfather.

“It’s a Viking battle scene,” Kramlich said. “My great grandfather was really into Vikings.”

Other PBC boxers on Saturday night’s card include Russell Lamour Jr., Jorge Abiague, Josniel Castro and Gabriel Morales. Former world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is expected to be on hand, the latest in a long line of boxing notables to visit Portland in support of the not-for-profit PBC.

“When he first started you could see his drive,” Lamour Jr. said of Kramlich. “He was always pushing himself. He’s a good sparring partner for me because of his quickness. He gives me a good workout.”

Joanne Kramlich burst into tears and had to leave the gym before her son’s first amateur bout, when he was barely a teenager. Now she’s his most vocal supporter.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “He’s come a long way.”

Others in his corner are wife Abigail and son Kaysen, who is 18 months old. Last November at the Expo, Kramlich fought Antonio Chaves Fernandez to a draw.

“I want to give my family a good life,” Kramlich said, “so I’m fighting and fighting until I get to where I want to be.”

And how high does this arborist hope to climb? All the way to the top.

“A world champion,” he said. “That’s my dream. That’s what I want to accomplish. It’s a long way but I’m willing to put in the hard work to get it done.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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