“The Sexy Albanian” Genc Pllana looked forward to July 16, because he felt pretty sure he'd get a measure of revenge, and get back at Raphael Igbokwe, who handed him his sole loss as a professional, almost one year ago.
That scrap took place in Houston, so the 8-1-1 Pllana, age 27, dug it when he got the call to fight in Las Vegas, at the MGM “Bubble,” re-matching Igbokwe.
“I fought him with a sprained right elbow because I truly believed I could beat him with one arm and I did but I wasn't awarded the decision,” the super middleweight Pllana told me on July 11. The Kosovarian, who lives in Maryland, hadn't yet traveled to Nevada to appear on the final card of the first “Bubble” run on ESPN. “I didn't care, I moved on, now we shall see what happens,” he said.
I've seen Pllana fight before, ringside for a Facebook Fightnight Live event (Dec. 6, 2019, he drew with Kalvin Henderson in PA.) and became a fan of his unorthodox style from second one, and so I told myself to keep tabs on him. Because he really, actually, truly is unorthodox, I figured he'd be a spoiler type for awhile, until people started to take him seriously as his hand speed and grit and stamina merit. Also, the kid is a character, he enjoys stirring pots. I kind of knew where he'd go when I asked him to predict how the rematch versus Igbokwe would play out.
“It's scheduled for eight rounds, shame on me if it goes past two,” Pllana replied. “I've been training and staying in top shape in case an opportunity like this popped up!”
The opportunity popped up, and then it popped, poof. Word got out that Igbokwe had tested postive for COVID-19; but here's the thing. People weren't sure that he himself had received the information from proper channels. (Medical records and information are subject to privacy regulations in America, so it wouldn't be kosher for the Nevada commission, for example, put out word that someone tested COVID positive. I messaged Igbokwe, looking to see how he's doing, and get some clarity on how his Bubble experience played out, and will insert his response if he gets back to me.) And then Pllana started getting some signals. He thought his fight would be taped, and then shown only if other ones prior to his fight ended early. TSA told me, in fact, he didn't know he woudn't be fighting till the day of the fight, that afternoon. And yes, he was bummed, but then he wrapped his head around it and looked forward.
“It's OK, I'm gonna talk to (his promoter) Marshall Kauffman, see if I can fight Edgard Berlanga, he seems pretty tough,” Pllana told me.
Berlanga, you are probably aware of him. Super middleweight, New York kid, has a 14-0 record, all 14 wins have come via first round knockout. He's been on my radar since I saw his “piedros” hands on Sept. 9, 2017, ringside at Resorts World in Queens, NY, calling the Facebook Fightnight Live fights that night with Barry Tompkins. He was under the Evander Holyfield/Sal Musumeci umbrella, and when Real Deal disintegrated, Berlanga signed with Top Rank.
His nickname is “The Chosen One,” and we heard about his backstory when he came on Everlast TALKBOX in January 2018. Pllana tells me if he gets his way, he'd choose to get back in the ring against the 23 year old Berlanga.
Yes, when his fight was scratched, he was mad. Pllana said he wasn't allowed to go into the ring area, to watch the fights, topped by an Oscar Valdez-Jayson Velez tiff. Berlanga kept his brevity streak intact, doing his thing on Eric Moon, now 11-3 (stopped twice).
“I watched the fights from my room,” Pllana continued. “I'm thinking Berlanga is a good fighter but I definitely want to fight him.”
And, I followed up, what would be Pllanas' confidence level that he'd beat Berlanga?
“I'm pretty sure of it, honestly,” Pllana said, in closing, “but there would only be one way to find out and that's fight!”