Boxing: Carville’s in charge as sweet science returns to Lewiston

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Two hundred forty-four dollars. Eighty-five cents.

“This is the difference, right here,” Carville, a 30-year-old, former New England Golden Gloves champion from Lisbon, said Saturday night after his professional boxing debut at Androscoggin Bank Colisee before more than 1,000 fans. “It isn’t much, but it’s the contract I signed.”

And it’s the life he chose. Sort of.

Carville, who jabbed his way to a unanimous decision over Paulo Souza of Sao Paolo, Brazil, in a welterweight bout, is a veteran of 65 amateur fights.

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“41 wins, 24 losses,” Carville rattled off, proudly.

He once trained under two of the state’s best trainers, Joe Gamache Sr. of Litchfield and Bobby Russo of Portland.

But in 2010, with the prize fighting game forbidden in Maine for a brief period, Carville hung up the gloves and tossed the mouthpiece in the bucket. He settled into life as a husband, father, and a pipe fitter at Bath Iron Works.

New England Fights’ summer announcement that it was adding boxing to its successful mixed martial arts promotional program changed everything.

“I was 12 years old the first time I walked down into the basement of the Lewiston Armory into the Gamache gym. I’ve fought everywhere and everyone,” Carville said. “Twenty years I’ve been waiting for this moment. It’s a silly dream, but it’s one that I had, and I made it come true.”

Carville had his hand raised in the center of the same arena where Muhammad Ali stood triumphantly and mockingly over Sonny Liston in 1965, and where his local idol, Joey Gamache, defeated the world-class likes of Floyd Mayweather’s uncle, Jeff, among others.

He gave up almost 15 pounds to Souza, a late replacement for Johnny Frazier, and didn’t know the opponent’s identity until Thursday night.

As was the case with several personalities on the six-fight card, Souza was making the transition from MMA, and specifically Muay Thai.

“That much weight is a big difference,” Carville said. “You think of physics.”

Souza’s free-swinging style had Carville doing that math at the end of the opening round, backing the local favorite into a corner with a four-punch combination to the head.

“The first round I got too much adrenaline going and got a little too excited and got out of my game plan. But once I settled down, I found my jab,” Carville said. “The end of the first round he caught me with a big punch, and I felt that. I said, ‘This is isn’t going to happen.’ I gutted it out, tough. The guys in the corner, they know me well, they said settle down with that jab and don’t get too excited. That made the difference.”

Carville began to stick that left-hand lead with authority in the second round, using it to blaze the trail for at least one effective looping right.

That form prevailed for the balance, with Carville successfully averting Souza’s haymakers and hammering out a 40-36 on one judge’s card and 39-37 on the other two.

“He was a game fighter. He surprised me, and again, having that extra bit of weight,” Carville said. “I found my jab, but I was disappointed because I thought I was going to be able to connect with different punches. He stayed far enough away that I was constantly lurching in and lurching in. He was just far enough outside that I didn’t want to lurch in with my right and get tagged.”

Debut or not, Carville wasted no time issuing a challenge to NEF boxing’s first main-event poster man.

Given a few seconds to discuss his win over the public address system, Carville called out Brandon “The Cannon” Berry of West Forks.

“I’ve known Brandon since he was a young, young man. I’ve been in the gym with him. I’ve sparred with him,” Carville explained. “By calling him out, I’m not saying that I don’t respect him. But if he wants to step up to that next level, he needs to fight legitimate fighters. The audience needs to call that out, because that’s what we want to see, right? He’s a big Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward fan. Outside the ring those two were the best of friends. In the ring, they made wars.”

Berry stayed undefeated as a pro with a six-round unanimous decision over Eric Palmer of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Palmer, past winner of a Toughman competition, lived up to that reputation by taking everything the 140-pound Mainer could dish out.

“My hat is off to him. I never imagined anyone could take the kind of shots I was giving and just smile,” Berry said. “We were talking during the fight. We were literally having a conversation.”

Hundreds of Berry’s fans made the two-hour, one-way trek from Central and Eastern Maine and roared their approval throughout. They watched him walk off with NEF’s first-ever title in the weight class.

“He deserves it,” Palmer said. “He’s a tough son-of-a-gun.”

In the co-main event, Stevie Gamache of Lewiston (see related story) pounded away at the body and outpointed Ohio’s Damon Antoine in a four-round junior middleweight skirmish. Gamache is the son of Joey Gamache, who is training fighters in Europe and was not in attendance.

Three other undercard bouts went the distance, highlighted by 46-year-old John Webster’s game performance in a four-round light heavyweight loss to Tollison Lewis.

Webster, of Portland, fought the last time Lewiston hosted a pro card in 2004, and he slugged it out on multiple Gamache bills in the 1990s.

Windham’s Lewis knocked down Webster twice, the second time out of the ring and onto a ringside table. Webster soldiered on. Two judges credited him with winning an early round. The final scorecards read 39-36, 39-35 and 40-35.

Bruce Boyington decisioned Nate Charles with ease. The crowd lustily booed the other decision, a majority draw between Joel Bishop and Jarod Lawton.

All four were making their pro debut. Some simply were staying sharp for their next cage fight. Boxing remains Carville’s true love in combat sports.

It’s well down the list in the real world, however.

“I’m only going to do this for a while. I’ve got a family. I’ve got a full-time job. I’ve got two or three years and then I’m going to get out of it,” Carville said. “I’ve got three little boys, and I don’t want them in this ring. I want them to be farmers and dentists.”

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