Ten fights later, Hall has a title belt to show for that grueling, circuitous journey.

He forced Erik Nelson of Lewiston’s Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to tap out midway through the second round Saturday night in their New England Fights amateur featherweight championship battle at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“It feels good. It’s about time,” Hall said. “I was waiting on it after my win in November. I wanted to see what (previous champion Aaron) Lacey was doing, and he went pro, so it was vacant. I knew it was up for grabs. I knew it was my belt.”

Known previously for his exploits as a high school wrestling champion, Hall has spent those years in the cage honing his boxing and jiu-jitsu skills.

Those lessons paid off with the submission that earned Hall the strap in his first try. Hall (7-3) gained leverage behind Nelson and hooked in a D’Arce choke, a variation of an arm triangle.

Hall and his trainers dissected previous fight film of Nelson (2-3) and believed that he would be vulnerable to the maneuver.


“I knew I’d be a better wrestler. I knew I could submit him from that position,” Hall said. “We went over that submission all camp, and it presented itself right there. I’m still not happy with how I did on my feet.”

Those improvements in Hall’s game have been fast and furious since he joined forces with Choi Institute in Portland.

“My stand-up game, my kickboxing, since I joined up with the Choi Institute, it’s improved my striking a lot,” he said.

Hall won five or his first six amateur bouts out of the gate. The lone blemish in that span was a submission loss to Lacey in 2013.

MMA is a humbling endeavor in which winning percentages tend to look more like those of baseball than boxing, so the requisite highs and lows of the past two years haven’t dampened Hall’s spirits.

“I was always careful from the beginning,” Hall said. “Everyone told me not to go pro too early. I really took that to heart and listened, and here I am in my 10th fight.”


Expect that strategy to continue. Hall said he’s in no hurry to get paid.

“I’m going to defend my belt, then after that fight we’ll see from there if it’s time to go into the pro ranks,” he declared.

In the lone professional title tussle of the evening, Devin Powell (6-1) of South Berwick won the vacant lightweight belt by bloodying and battering Jesse Erickson of Auburn. Powell prevailed by TKO via strikes at four minutes of the opening round.

Nine amateur MMA skirmishes, five pro cage fights and one pro boxing match provided the entertainment at NEF 22.

The latter result irked Brandon Berry’s rabid fan base. Berry (11-1-1) of West Forks battled to a majority draw with James Lester (10-10-1) of Detroit in a six-round junior welterweight affair.

Hundreds in his entourage lustily booed the verdict — two judges scored it 57-57, while one had Berry in front, 59-55. Berry said he was at peace with the decision.


“I told everyone exactly how it was going to be. I said he was going to be slick, tricky, and make me have to do things I’d never done before,” Berry said. “I knew about this fight for eight or nine weeks. I asked for this. I gave it 110 percent in camp, and win, lose or draw, I’m OK with it, because I had the opportunity to fight someone the caliber of James Lester.”

Lester once trained under the watchful eye of the late Emanuel Steward at Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym.

“He gave me a tough fight, and that’s boxing. I’ve been there,” Lester said. “When you come into a guy’s hometown like this, you want to earn everybody’s respect. I think I earned that, and he certainly earned mine.”

Mike Hansen (4-3) of Rumford and Berserkers MMA absorbed two low blows in the first round of his pro bout with Jesse Baughman. Hansen recovered, collected his thoughts, and prevailed via tap to arm bar at 4:21.

Tom Burgess (2-0) later knocked out Alex Payson at 1:49 of the second round of an amateur scrap.

Those wins salvaged what had been a tough night for the River Valley gang, with two Rumford fighters absorbing quick, early-evening defeats.


In a battle of unbeaten amateur heavyweights, Ras Hylton (2-0) of First Class MMA knocked out Matt Glover (1-1) with a vicious kick to the head at 35 seconds of the second round. Jay police officer Nick Gulliver (3-0) needed only 28 seconds to stop Dave Smith (2-2), also in the 265-pound class.

Josh Harvey of Bangor dominated his 150-pound pro bout with Auburn’s Matt Denning, securing the tap 2:11 into the opening round.

Other winners were Bryce Bamford (2-0) of Fayette, with a convincing TKO of Joe Krech; Angela Young, by unanimous decision over Hannah Sparrell; Cory Trial, by split decision over Angelo Rizzitello; Lacey, in his pro debut over Derek Shorey by submission; and Tollison Lewis, who logged his first pro victory at the expense of Zenon Herrera.


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