Edgar Berlanga is 23, and already one of the most feared punchers in boxing. A super middleweight, Berlanga is 13-0 with 13 first-round knockouts heading into Tuesday’s bout at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas with Eric Moon.
This is new territory for Berlanga, who fought 179 times as an amateur and never considered himself a hard puncher.
“To start off my career so well like this, it was pretty shocking to me because I wasn’t a big puncher while I was an amateur,” Berlanga told Yahoo Sports. “The transition to amateur and pro definitely did me well. I learned how to throw my punches, how to set things up and I really learned how to punch. I was shocked, though, when I first started hitting guys and [they would be hurt or go down].”
Berlanga said it was his former trainer, Mark Farrait, who saw the potential in him. Berlanga mentioned that he felt he lacked power.
Farrait told him that he had it but didn’t know what to do with it.
“He told me, ‘Believe me when I tell you this, you have a lot of power,’” Berlanga said. “He told me that I moved too much and because I was moving as much as I was, I wasn’t sitting down on my punches.”
Berlanga is now trained by Andre Rozier, who was the long-time trainer for Daniel Jacobs and has a slew of other high-level fighters. He’s kind of the finishing guy.
Berlanga’s manager, Keith Connolly, said the power is real and believes that he’ll be successful with it even as the competition improves.
“The thing I really like about him is what happened in his last fight,” Connolly said, referencing Berlanga’s KO of Cesar Nunez. “He gets the guy hurt and he doesn’t go crazy. He stays compact and calm, but he’s still throwing powerful punches. I’m 47 years old and I have watched boxing for 40 years and there aren’t that many guys you see who don’t go crazy looking for the KO when they have you in trouble.
“He knows now that he has that. He has that big kind of punching power that if you have ever been there when he’s fighting, you know this: You can hear it in the upper deck. It’s a different sound.”
That power can make him a rich man. He’s from New York, where there is a large Puerto Rican population, and where fighters such as Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto have fought their way to hero status.
Top Rank, which promoted Cotto and has Berlanga, put on fights on the day before the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York every June. That helped build Cotto and it’s eventually the plan for Berlanga if he keeps progressing.
Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman said, “He’s a superstar in the making if he’s the real deal.”
Goodman is hoping that Berlanga’s first-round KO streak ends soon, not only so he can get the rounds that a young, developing prospect needs, but also to take the pressure off him.
Goodman believes that Moon will be able to do that for him.
“Marketability-wise, he’s sensational, especially in the New York area,” Goodman said. “If he keeps developing and proves he’s the real deal, then they’re going to fall in love with him. But it remains to be seen how he’s going to be [as the competition] improves and guys get past the first round. How does he react? I’ll have a better feeling [Tuesday].
“The guy he is fighting has gone rounds before; he’s gone 10 rounds before and he’s fought decent opposition. On paper, I think it’s fair to say this is his toughest opponent and I’m expecting it to go some rounds. He’s with very good people. Andre Rozier is a very competent trainer, and they’re not worried if it gets to the second, third, fourth round how he’s going to react. I have faith in that. But once that first-round crap goes out the window, I think he’ll be a much better fighter.”
Berlanga said the ring experience is the thing he needs the most. He’s pleased with his development and said he can tell by sparring elite opponents where he stands.
Connolly said that if Berlanga continues to perform as he has, that he’ll wind up so rich he has what Connolly described as generational wealth.
Berlanga said he’ll rely on his team to guide him, but he’s never going to say no to an opportunity.
“To be honest with you, if they called me and said, ‘Hey, we got Canelo for you,’ I’d be like, ‘OK. Where and when?’” Berlanga said. “That’s the fighter in me. I have a great team and they know what they’re doing. They’ll get me the right fans. They’ll help me build the fan base. I’m still a young guy and I have a lot to work on, so I’ll do that and I know I’ll be ready when my team says the time is right.”
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