Edgar Berlanga is in the midst of change regarding his identity as a boxer. The NY native, a 25 year old KO specialist, had been enjoying a smooth ride with promoter Top Rank setting the table for a takeover. His parents were from Puerto Rico, his power from hell, as proved by his 16 bout KO1 winning streak.
The smooth ride turned bumpy when the KO streak ended. The allegiance to Top Rank ended, with TR and Team Berlanga, headed by Wall St player/indy advisor Keith Connolly, agreeing to part ways. Eddie Hearn over in England decided he’ll roll the dice, thinking maybe Berlanga can re assert himself and propel himself into a meaningful and lucrative bout. Canelo would be a smart target, from a purse perspective, Hearn knows.
Maybe. Berlanga is only 25. (Click this Abe Gonzalez Q n A with Edgar to learn more of his back story.) It’s no given, though, that his career rebounds, and he gets to the mountain tops he’s pictured himself atop. Maybe a return to an old trainer helps. Berlanga has been working with Marc Farrait, a New Yorker who has made Florida home for a spell. They worked together before—Berlanga turned pro with Farrait (click here for story on him and his fighting family) in his corner. Garry Jonas functioned as a manager, back then, his crew featured at times Erickson Lubin, Sammy Vasquez, fellow New Yorker Jose Vargas, and more.
I won’t speak for all involved, but part of the plot then was to see what Miguel Cotto built up in NYC, making the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC part of his annual campaign. Top Rank did bang-up business at Madison Square Garden, THE BIG ROOM, knowing that Puerto Rican boxing fans will be loyal customers. But it hasn’t panned out that way for Berlanga—yet.
And if I had to guess, I’d say it won’t.
No, it won’t be for Berlanga like it was for Cotto, he won’t be selling out Madison Square Garden.
Now, does Edgar Berlanga know that? Likely not—it’s in his best interest to see himself as someone with plenty of time to grow and get those gaudy purses that he’s dreamt about.
For Eddie Hearn, depending on what he's paying, if he's not playing fast and loose with OPM, it’s not a bad move, on paper, to see if Berlanga can’t regain some of the vibe he sported in 2017-2018, into 2019.
Some Of What Might Be Wrong With Berlanga
It’ll be hard. Berlanga has been doing this a long time. He put on gloves at age 7, went something like 162-17. And at times, it shows, not in a good way. People with that much amateur “experience” can often look like they are going through the motions in fights, and that’s because they are. They can almost do it in their sleep, and when that happens, they sort of stop pushing themselves.
A comfort zone is a safe and smart place to be—outside of boxing. In the sport, the fighters need to be pushed by a foe to show a heroic and compelling side of themselves. Do that, and the paydays will follow. That was the thinking, back in the day, but it’s a new era. Fighters can indeed get skillfully managed to a place where they are making juicy purses without having had to assume dangerous risks along the way. In taking those risks, and fighting through severe difficulty to make it out the other side, that's where one grows in skill and character and confidence.
So…At some point, Berlanga’s view of what certain risks were “worth” changed from the ballparks Top Rank was thinking. (Here is Edgar explaining split from TR.) Let’s see the course plotted by Edgar, dad Edgar Sr, and advisor Keith Connolly now, what sort of risks will Edgar take? Will he be moved faster, or slower..or roughly the same as during the Top Rank stint (2017-2022)?
A Berlanga with the throwback mindset, which he’s alluding to in some recent posts…
…, is that guy recoverable?
When Berlanga Was On the Come Up As a NY Tyson Type
Who Berlanga might become was fun to ponder in 2017. I wasn’t early, I first became aware of Berlanga only because I was present at his fifth pro fight, calling it in the analyst chair, next to Barry Tompkins on blow by blow.
It was a Sal Musumeci show, on Sept 9, 2017, a Saturday night, or as it was referred to then, an Evander Holyfield/Real Deal Promotions show. Berlanga went in with a 4-0 mark against a foe, Saadiq Muhammad, also with a 4-0 record, and smashed him the heck out of there with brutal authority, KO1.
I put him on my watchlist, it's true, power guys always get extra attention. And then I watched from the media chair as his KO streak got longer, the attention paid to him more.
Coverage turned gush-y. That’s no knock, beleaguered boxing fans deserve to let their imaginations roam and compare possible future stars to established resumes.
Or serve to distract him, dilute his focus?
At some point, currency/purse/bag size focused posts on his social grew more frequent. And while he kept the KO streak alive, public sentiment stayed with him, largely. His April 2019 first-round stop of Samir dos Santos Barboza, his first Top Rank assignment , came under a Terence Crawford-Amir Khan main event.
Appetites were being whetted, seeds of interest planted and the Top Rank machine, tended too and well oiled and upgraded since the mid 60s, expertly tended to the process. After Berlanga downed Georgy Varju in Kissimmee in May 2019, he got a slot on the August 2019 TR card in Philly against Gregory Trenel. Both bouts ended in KO1 wins for the budding star. Another first round stoppage came Dec 14, 2019, the victim was Cesar Nunez (16-1-1 entering).
Eric Moon came to the table with an 11-1 mark, and Berlanga again closed up shop early, the KO1 occurring on a “bubble” card on July 21, 2020. The interest level climbed more when 21-5 Lanell Bellows promised on Oct 17, 2020 he’d make it out of round one, no doubt. He didn’t, Berlanga kept the stoppage streak alive in Vegas on a bobble card topped by Vasiliy Lomachenko v Teofimo Lopez. Yes, visions of a refurbished NY fight scene got fantasized about as Teofimo’s walk matched his talk, and Berlanga’s did too. To end the year on a soaring note, Berlanga finished Ulises Sierra in round one of their Dec 12, 2020 clash on a card built around Shakur Stevenson and Felix Verdejo in Vegas.
That would be the last ever fight for Verdejo, he is out of commission. And Berlanga’s leverage got upped, because people would pay to see this young wrecker, cocky but cool, because he was giving us that entrancing footage, of foes crumpling. Yes, 2020 was a helluva year for Berlanga. If this continued in this fashion—-and with that momentum, why the hell shouldn’t it— then it was soon time to start building around Edgar in earnest. A win over Demond Nicholson on an April 24, 2021 show, with a continuation of the stoppage streak, well, Team Berlanga would need more wheelbarrows, maybe another Brinks Truck to fill up with Bob-bucks.
Here’s where the vehicle went off the road. Or, at least, started showing signs of not being as advertised. Nicholson went the distance, taking Berlanga eight rounds, snapping his streak, and forcing a re positioning of the budding bomber.
The Oct 29, 2021 ring return for Berlanga didn’t go to script, though. Maybe the one fate is fashioning, possibly. Marcelo Cojeres, 32-1-1 entering, not only went the distance with Berlanga but took rounds from the prospect. He could’ve made a fat splash on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder 3 card, instead he over promised and under delivered.
The boxer could have helped the narrative get straight, if he realized he was pushing too hard against criticism. Berlanga’s messaging sometimes didn’t match the moment.
His word choice changed; whereas before he was about giving people what they want, entertainment the masses with old school destruct and destroy styling, he was kind of pissing on legs and saying it was rain.
People didn’t want to hear about being happy with the win, they had been promised this rising star was a power hitter who didn’t need no stinkin' judges. And what was going on behind the scenes, as his course got plotted, I don’t know. But the offered valuation of Edgars’ worth as he gained a UD10 win against Steve Rolls (who’d been stopped by Gennadiy Golovkin a year before, here is my recap of the outing) didn’t match what Top Rank executives were picturing.
Edgar headlined the little Garden Against Rolls, and his legion of haters rose in victory. He didn’t get a KO, and instead of handling that matter with facts, he interpreted the outing with flawed reasoning. The reason he didn't get slayed more came because Top Rank has longevity and respect built up over time.
Berlanga and Top Rank maybe could have gotten back onto the same page, I bet, if he stopped Alexis Roamer Angulo on June 22, 2022, as the headliner. The table got set smartly by Brad Goodman and Bob and Carl, stop a decent vet, guy who'd been stopped before, and we will get chugging again.
Nah; now a new streak was in play. For the third straight outing, Berlanga went the distance, and took unanimous decision. It would be one thing of along the way the rounds were thrilling. Instead, Berlanga off and on seemed distracted, unfocused, unsure of his identity, disinterested—-he has a tendency to clock watch during hard rounds.
And the capper—Berlangas’ anti fan collective grew when he made light of biting Angulo during their faceoff.
Comparing himself to Mike Tyson, the Holyfield ear chomper, drew crickets and scorn on Twitter.
A boxing lifer with knowledge of the kid and his arc and insight into his prospects for the future agreed with me when I asserted that moving forward, attention will be paid to Berlanga from “haters” and that can be bad and/or good. For every five accounts, liking one of his currency or lavish life centered posts, three of them are low key wishing him ill. And plenty of non commenters are hoping he gets knocked down a peg or three. Not sure how much Berlanga gets it, that his “fan base” has a healthy share of “anti fans” in its ranks. Does he throw out posts to lightly troll? How much does that stuff play out in his head, how much energy does he expend in battling haters' perceptions of him? Is he sensitive because he isn't thoroughly convinced that he's what he'd been built up to be? That potential psychological element aside, the lifer sagely noted that time is on Berlangas’ side in terms of potential success of this reboot. It will be hard, the lifer said, but Edgar is a decent kid, plenty of people are rooting for him, still. And so if he gets into the right frame of mind, he could regain career momentum. We agreed, posts like this one aren't probably an indicator of a changed mindset:
Oh, another potential positive, his dad isn’t a negative influence, the lifer added. Ultimately, though, it's on him. That is why boxing is the loneliest sport. The entourage and backers and staffers melt away, and it's just the one single being responsible for success, or the opposite. Berlanga has at times looked like he's not actually thrilled at that reality.
Is What Trainer Hopper Berlanga Seeks In A Trainer Already In Him?
Maybe Farrait is a or the key component in getting a return to 2020 vibes for “The Chosen One.” I remember hearing him critique one of his young gun fighters in the dressing room, post win–I worked at ProBox with Farrait for the first lap of last year–and yeah, he wasn’t showering the prospect in praise. It took me by surprise, the age we are in sees coaches less inclined to offer criticism, because they’re wanting to stay tight with the fighter. Either that, or risk alienation, and seeing the athlete jump ship to another corner situation which allows them more freedom, or “respect.” A couple people have told me that too many smoke blowers mess with Berlangas' head, so yeah, maybe more time with a straight shooter will be pivotal in there being a turnaround for Edgar Berlanga.
Final hurdle, though, could be too much–it's possible Berlanga truly doesn't think a “turnaround” needs to happen. Maybe he's right–maybe he needed to get back to a touchstone to a time when the future seemed known. You don't allow your nickname to be “The Chosen One” unless you are damn sure you got all the goods to please all the customers. Or maybe you do, but secretly, you allow for the possibility that you don't.