September 8, 2013

Trainer defies the odds to help boxer beat them

Skeet Wyman's boxing career was cut short when he lost a hand, but he's still a fighter.

By MICHAEL G. SEAMANS Morning Sentinel

When the bell rings Thursday night and Brandon Berry makes his way back to his corner, his closet ally, trainer Skeet Wyman, will be there waiting for him.

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Skeet Wyman works with Brandon Berry to prepare him for the 12th annual Fight to Educate on Thursday.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

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They are an unlikely pair: a one-armed lobsterman training a professional boxer from rural Maine.

But it's a perfect match for Berry and Wyman. The hardworking boxer is fighting not only for a name in the game but for his family, the family business and his hometown. He is joined by a man who not only brings knowledge and hard work, but a positive attitude that defies the odds, after his own promising boxing career was cut short.

Berry, 25, of West Forks, will face off against Jesus Cintron Thursday night at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H.

The light welterweight bout, Berry's third professional fight, is part of the 12th annual Fight to Educate. The six-fight card, which raises money for disadvantaged and at-risk children, usually draws thousands of spectators.

Like all boxer-trainer relationships, the one between Berry and Wyman is a sacred bond, built on trust, honesty and respect. But it goes deeper -- deep enough for Berry to make the 225-mile round trip from West Forks to Wyman's gym in Stockton Springs three times a week to train.

The relationship began in 2006 at the Northern New England Golden Gloves tournament in Burlington, Vt.

From the start, Berry said, "I knew he was going to be a friend in the boxing world."

Wyman, 49, whose given name is Kenneth, inherited his love of boxing from his father, Kenneth Sr., who boxed in the Air Force.

"I was just a young kid and started watching boxing with my dad," Wyman said. "I just fell in love with the sport."

Wyman found an ad for a boxing gym in Belfast run by former boxer Bruce Copson and started training.

"It was my intention to become a professional fighter," Wyman said.

Skeet was an 83-pound 14-year-old when he first stepped into the ring, determined to make a career of it. By the time he was 19, he had a 22-2 amateur record and was on his way.

On Oct. 15, 1983, everything changed.

Wyman was scheduled for a rematch with Joe LaRue in Laconia, N.H., whom he'd beaten the first time around. To take his mind off the upcoming fight, Wyman headed into the woods with some friends to do some hunting.

"We sat down around 11:30 a.m. for a rest and as we got up to leave, my shotgun discharged, taking my right hand," Wyman said.

"And that was the end of my boxing career for me as a boxer."

Something like that can make a person bitter. But not Wyman. When he woke up three days after the accident, "I was very excited to be alive."

"I thought I was done, for sure, when everything went down," he said. "But I never got away from boxing. I thought about it continuously."

He began working with some of the young boxers that his trainer, Copson, was working with and in 1985, met Mel Peabody, a Lawrence, Mass., trainer known widely in New England boxing circles. Peabody is now the cut man in Berry's corner -- the guy who keeps the boxer physically fit during the fight.

Wyman and his son, Travis, then 14, sat down to watch Oscar De La Hoya fight Fernando Vargas in September 2002. The power the skinny De La Hoya showed when he beat the more muscular Vargas motivated Travis to start training.

After a couple of months watching his son put in the work, Wyman built a gym above the garage. He began training Travis in the same ring where he trained 30 years earlier. Copson had given it to him two weeks before he died.

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