Saturday Is Special For Berlanga

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Miguel Cotto, the first four division champion from Puerto Rico will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of fame Sunday afternoon in Canastota, New York. On Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, he will be at ringside.

For years it was Cotto and Hall of Famer Felix Trinidad who provided the main event at a Top Rank Boxing card at the Garden the night prior to New York City’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

This time, though, Cotto, who retired in 2017, will present the first Madison Square Garden Miguel Cotto Trophy to the winner of a main event between NABO super middleweight champion Edgar Berlanga and two-time world title challenger Alexis Anguelo.

Top Rank went on hiatus with this annual event the past two years due to the Pandemic and Berlanga was scheduled to be part of a main event last June.

Now with Cotto at ringside, and with the Hulu Theater expected to be sold out, there is added significance to this boxing card. Boxing fans (and many from Puerto Rico that reside in New York) will see the next Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, and Berlanga the rising superstar.

And it’s an honor for Berlanga to be at the Garden on a special weekend. He specifically said how this event will be the first one in two years.

“I’m excited,” he said Thursday. “It’s Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend since the pandemic, two years. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid. I feel like I spoke it into existence. My hard work paid off and now we’re here.”

Trinidad and Cotto always said a highlight of their careers was main eventing a Top Rank Boxing card at Madison Square Garden the evening before New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Those events over the years in the main arena sold out. Cotto is an icon in New York. He set records at the gate because of his popularity as did Trinidad who held multiple championships in three weight classes.

Though Berlanga (19-0, 10 K0’s) may not be fighting in the Garden main arena Saturday night, the atmosphere in the adjacent Hulu Theater will be no different from those days when Trinidad and Cotto had their fame on a special weekend of Puerto Rican pride.

In fact, Berlanga, who began his career with 16 consecutive knockouts, in the past year has been anticipating this event. Top Rank and the ESPN televised event is highlighted with an entire card of fighters representing Puerto Rico.

Berlanga, who has family in New York City and makes his residence in Las Vegas, is proud of the Puerto Rican heritage. Significantly, Trinidad and Cotto are boxing icons he knows well, and they frequently meet in San Juan.

But this is also an important fight for Berlanga. He is capable of a quick knockout but that has not happened in his last three fights, decided either with a unanimous or split decision. Though the knockout is nice to have, getting the win and moving up in the ranks of a tough 168-pound division are more important.

“It’s part of the process,” Berlanga said. “I’m young, 25 years old. What can I say? I have 16 first-round knockouts, so I didn’t really gain the experience I needed. Definitely, these last three fights, I got the experience I needed. That’s the most important thing to make yourself a real professional athlete. But not only that, at that top level, you need those rounds. You need that feeling of what it’s like to get in the eighth, 10th round,”

The fight is important for Berlanga and his quest to face top notch fighters in the super middleweight division, a goal of course to vie for a major title. But there is that importance of winning in New York and for the people of Puerto Rico.

I am ready to win big for all my Boricuas,” he said. “This is a dream come true for me. I’m very excited and can’t wait to get in the ring in Madison Square Garden, just like Tito (Trinidad) and Cotto used to do. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, and it will not be easy, but I’m up for the task and I’m ready to do my own thing and put on a great show for all my people.”

And the task has been preparing to fight two-time world title challenger Alexis Anguelo (27-2, 23 K0s) in a 10-round main event Saturday.

With this fight, I will set the tone and show everyone what I’m capable of,” Berlanga said. “I have to win big and I will. Get ready for some fireworks. I have been working very hard. I have been working on polishing all aspects of my game. Don’t get me wrong, he (Anguelo) is a tough fighter and he will come to fight, but I will break him down.”

Thing is, if Anguelo comes to fight and wants to come to Berlanga, there will be fireworks. We have learned that Berlanga has a powerful punch and if he gets hit, an arsenal of punches comes right back and that aggression will show early signs of a quick stoppage.

Regardless, a win is significant in New York City. It’s the Garden on a special weekend for boxing and the pride of Puerto Rico. More so, Berlanga is persistent about making a statement about contending for a title at super middleweight. The division has talent and Canelo Alvarez holds the unified and undisputed titles.

He set up a training camp in Puerto Rico. That was his preference to avoid distractions of New York and Las Vegas. Because Berlanga was born in Brooklyn NY, he does have a tremendous fan base that always offers support.

A torn left bicep is not going to be an issue that was sustained in the third round in a tough win over Marcelo Esteben Coceras last October at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Surgery and recovery went well with a comeback unanimous decision over Steve Rolls in March, also at the Hulu Theater, which paved his way to this main event.

“”We decided to do training camp on the Island because we knew that we had a big task ahead and we needed to be fully focused,’ he said. “As I said, I want to win big. This has been one of the best decisions I have made. It’s great to feel the support from the fans. That actually motivates me even more. I’m so ready! I can’t wait!”

Rich Mancuso Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso. Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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