Fighters go through their cycles with managers and promoters and that applies to super middleweight contender Edgar Berlanga. Saturday evening at the Madison Square Garden Hulu Theatre, the Brooklyn, NY Puerto Rican will be fighting with family and friends watching every punch and jab.
An important fight for a 26-year-old, known also as “The Chosen One” because of an auspicious debut of 16 consecutive knockouts. If you calculate, Berlanga (20-0, 16 KO’s) has a 86 percent knockout ratio, In boxing a ratio like that becomes instant stardom. And there is no denying, Berlanga is a fan favorite.
His goal, as with all in the super middleweight division, (168) is getting an opportunity to meet and dethrone unified champion Canelo Alvarez, still considered a face of boxing, perhaps the top pound-for-pound fighter when discussing that controversial topic.
Berlanga, though, has had some setbacks. Before his new promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing, he was the superstar for Top Rank Boxing and a headline attraction on their ESPN televised platforms. He was knocking out opponents and that generated record ratings for ESPN, realizing everyone gravitates to a knockout artist.
The knockout streak stopped and there was constant talk, Berlanga (20-0, 16 K0s) needed more time and tune ups before looking at a clash with Alvarez. He needed more work before testing the power of undefeated and two-time champion David Benavidez, a knockout artist (27-0,23 KO’s) and reportedly next in line to oppose Alvarez for the titles.
So as fighters will do, they look for a better opportunity. Berlanga was no different and decided to not renew his contract with Top Rank. He became that coveted free agent, in a sport with many that seek the lucrative purse and championship.
Call it ego or just plain old talent, Belanga is not shy. He’s outspoken, and with a punch that can dispose opponents, though, not ready for Canelo Alvarez. He also has the ability to be a champion and Saturday evening his toughest test comes when he meets Jason Quigley (20-2, 14 KO’s) a 32-year old from Ireland.
Quigley earned his opportunity (5th ranked WBO) and a win over Berlanga could put him next in line for Alvarez, or any of the other top fighters in a competitive super middleweight division.
But for Berlanga, this is a homecoming fight after being idle last year. He sustained an injury to a torn bicep. There was the status of seeking a new promoter and a call from Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather Jr. He met with Oscar De La Hoya, another Hall of Famer and head of Golden Boy Promotions. The PBC was also in contact and hoped to land Berlanga with a nice offer to be showcased on their Showtime Boxing platform.
In the end, it was Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing that won the sweepstakes and having the DAZN streaming Network in their corner also helped. Berlanga and Matchroom begin their alliance Saturday evening.
“I’m excited, the build-up has been great,” Berlanga said. “Camp has gone well, I’m in my backyard and I’m main event at the garden. Eddie has a vision for his fighters. A lot of promoters don’t have a good relationship with their fighters. Eddie and I have been working for five months and we have chemistry already with the whole team. The vibe is different, the energy is good,”
He said the team wants to get him to the top, no different than what Top Rank and Bob Arum, the Hall of Fame promoter tried but failed to do with Berlanga. There was a difference in the philosophy, a promoter doing what was best for his fighter. Though, Arum and Top Rank are cautious and have that history of slowly developing a fighter before jumping into championship opportunities of pay-per-view magnitude and a huge payday.
Though, when Berlanga and Hearn met, there was immediate chemistry. Whatever was said, his name and a contract was sold. Perhaps it was that chance to finally meet Alvarez, assuming the champion decides to defend his titles at 168, instead of seeking redemption and meeting Dmitri Bivol again for the light heavyweight titles.
This is boxing and Hearn is sold on Berlanga. A sellout is expected at the Hulu Theatre. The journey begins for the fighter and promoter.
“We wanna push for that Canelo Alvarez fight next May,” Hearn said. “There so many fights out there for him to prove he’s worthy of,” referring also to the other contenders that include Jaime Munguia, Benavidez, and former champion Gennadiy Golovkin.
All have good communication with Hearn and Matchroom, fights that Arum and Top Rank were patiently waiting for Berlanga, then again in boxing, patience is a virtue. Berlanga heard the names that Top Rank was not offering for the future.
He was sold. The first step in this new journey begins Saturday night and with a new worldwide audience on DAZN.
The undercard includes Brooklyn heavyweight Adam Kownacki (20-3, 15 KO’s) returning after a year out of the ring and eyeing a win in a 10-round encounter with Joe Cusumano (21-4, 19 KO’s). Staten Island super lightweight Rehat Mati (13-0, 7 KO’s opposes Dakota Linger (13-5, 3, 9 KOs) scheduled for ten rounds.
The DAZN broadcast begins at 8pm ET with Puerto Rican sensation Yankiel Rivera (3-0,2 KO’s) opposing Christian Robles (8-0, 3 KO’s) in an eight-round flyweight bout.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso