Edgar Berlanga, Good Fighter Marketed As Great



Edgar Berlanga, Good Fighter Marketed As Great

Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) returned to the ring and defeated Jason Quigley (20-3, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision this past Saturday.

In his first fight after a 12-mont layoff which included a six-month suspension for nefariously attempting to bite Alfredo Angulo in his last outing, the Puerto Rican sensation experienced a lot of changes leading up to his much-anticipated showdown with Quigley.

It was Berlanga’s first fight under new promoter Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing Promotions after a seven-year run with Top Rank Boxing.

NYF founder Michael Woods covered ringside.

I spoke to him; he agreed with the grade Berlanga gave himself to Chris Mannix postfight: a C.
Berlanga reunited with his first professional trainer, Marc Farrait, and it was his first time going more than six months without a fight.

The Brooklyn native handled the changes well and put on what I believe was a good performance against the tough Irishman.

Yes, good, but not great.

Expectations Were Set, Not Yet Met

Edgar Berlanga won his first 16 fights by knockout in the first round, a tremendous accomplishment.

It was an accomplishment that he and his team milked for as long as they could, launching an otherwise ok fighter into mainstream superstardom.

It was the live personification of “putting the cart before the horse,” or “counting your chickens before they hatch,” or whichever adage you think fits what Edgar Berlanga became.

The knockout streak gained Berlanga a solid following, especially among Puerto Rican boxing fans who have desperately been awaiting the second coming of Tito Trinidad.

Some fans started to dislike the focus on goodies when his KO streak stopped.

So, there is a high expectation, unfair as it may seem, that Edgar Berlanga knocks out every opponent he faces.

It’s why venues sell out every time Berlanga fights. Fans and celebrities attend a Berlanga fight, hoping to witness a knockout. A knockout he has failed to produce in his last five outings.

And while Berlanga’s performance against Quigley was better than his four previous outings, it wasn’t monstrous.

What Did We See From Edgar Berlanga?

Berlanga boxed well and showed glimpses of fast hands, accurate punching, and good footwork, but they were merely glimpses.

Berlanga had Quigley hurt and down multiple times during the fight but failed to take him out.

A great fighter would've known how to finish a hurt fighter, especially against a guy like Quigley whose only other two losses have been by knockout.

Edgar looked good when Quigley wasn't fighting back. But the few times the Irish native stood his ground, he landed hard shots that stumped Berlanga, who sometimes seemed clueless about what to do when Quigley was fighting back.

Jason Quigley had a few moments against Edgar Berlanga

Edgar Berlanga and Jason Quigley during their fight on Saturday, June 24, 2023 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Writer Rodriguez believes he needed to show more to match the hype. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Let's be honest: it was ludicrous and foolish to believe that Edgar Berlanga would continue his knockout streak.

However, it is not unrealistic nor foolish to expect or even demand greatness from Edgar Berlanga whenever he steps into a boxing ring. Why?

You Gotta Match The Walk With the Talk

Because that's the marketing campaign his team used to elevate the fighter “with the fade, Halfmoon, and long sideburns” (shout out to The Bronx rapper Lord Finesse for these funky lyrics).

Ok, back to my point. Their marketing scheme focused on Berlanga’s knockouts and becoming the next great Puerto Rican champion like his idols Miguel Cotto and Tito Trinidad.

The narrative became the expectation, and greatness is not what we’ve gotten from Berlanga since the knockout streak ended.

Before you jump all over me, I recognize that knockouts do not indicate greatness.

However, dominating performances usually indicate how great a fighter will be. The great ones show us little things that let us know how great they will become as they come up the ranks.

When Berlanga was blowing opponents away, he did nothing that made me automatically think he would be great.

Edgar Berlanga pre fight June 24

Edgar Berlanga gets his hands wrapped for his bout on the Matchroom Boxing card on Saturday, June 24th at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. It remains to be seen if he can regain momentum, but he did show flashes in NYC. Photo: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

I have said this numerous times on my podcast (Editor: it's No Standing 8 Boxing Talk, subscribe at the link) about Berlanga from the first time I saw him fight. Nothing he did in those first sixteen fights impressed me enough to say he would be great, nor crown him as the next Puerto Rican boxing superstar in the men's division.

What Edgar and Mike Tyson Have In Common

For example, let's look at Mike Tyson's first 16 fights. Mike won his first 16 fights by knockout also.

He knocked out 12 of his opponents in the first round of those 16 fights.

We saw what would make Mike Tyson great during his knockout reign. We saw the explosiveness when he delivered punches. We saw power with both hands.

We saw how he mastered the peekaboo style of boxing and shifted from offense to defense and back to offense in a blink of an eye.

I saw nothing remotely close to that during Berlanga’s first 16 wins.

I said then we only know who Edgar Berlanga truly is as a fighter when he can no longer rely on knocking out his opponent.

Too Many Lackluster Showings

Since the Demond Nicholson fight, Berlanga has been dropped, flustered, frustrated, fined, and suspended. It has been one lackluster performance after another.

After his fight against Angulo, I suggested on my podcast that Berlanga take a step back, revisit the drawing board, and work on becoming a complete fighter.

My colleague Gayle Falkenthal had this to say after the Berlanga vs. Angulo debacle: “Berlanga should fight a handful of off-TV bouts on obscure cards to work through whatever identity crisis is dogging him. A good sports psychologist might be in order. Berlanga needs time to develop away from the spotlight and the harsh criticism of fans and media.”

After the Angulo fight, Top Rank Boxing probably read the writing on the wall and knew that Berlanga was becoming the opposite of the superstar they hoped he’d become with each subpar performance.

He Is Only 25 – But Maybe Top Rank Just Knew

“Top Rank was trying to slow me down. I just want to continue to grow as a fighter. I feel that I'm not a co-main event fighter,” said Berlanga about leaving Top Rank to Akin Reyes and Barak Bess on “The DAZN Boxing Show.” And therein lies the problem.

Berlanga has reached a level of fame that far exceed his accomplishments.

That kind of fame is hard to part with, and the young Puerto Rican attraction will be hard-pressed to accept the harsh reality that he probably needs more time to be ready for the big dogs in the super middleweight division.

What’s next for Edgar Berlanga after his win over Jason Quigley?

It shouldn’t be any of the champions, or maybe not even Demetrius Andrade or Caleb Plant.

Jaime Munguia was mentioned as a possible opponent for Berlanga. However, after assessing both of their last performances, Munguia had the better outing, and right now, Munguia beats Edgar.

Against Quigley, I saw many things that Berlanga does well. However, he could have done them more consistently to take Quigley out or give validation to the lopsided scorecards.

Berlanga must improve to realize his goal of becoming a world champion.

However, we are witnessing a good fighter marketed as a great fighter who believes he belongs on the same stage as the great fighters.

I'm not saying that Berlanga doesn't have what it takes to become a world champion or even realize his dream of becoming one of the greatest boxing champions from Puerto Rico.

He just doesn't have what it takes to be great right now.

And if Berlanga doesn't elevate his game to match the hype, he will find out how great he isn’t when he fights the true monsters in the division.