Edgar Berlanga suffers from the curse of high expectations.
The curse fell hard on Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga of Brooklyn (20-0, 16 KOs). In an effort at course correction after his progress seriously stalled, Berlanga styled himself as a deliberate, patient fighter Saturday in his bout against veteran challenger Alexis Angulo of Colombia (27-3, 23 KOs). It was a near disaster, with Berlanga getting the decision over Angulo by disappointing wide margins of 98-92 and 99-91 X 2. Berlanga still lost more than he gained.
After starting his professional career with 16 straight first-round knockout wins, the young super middleweight prospect who became a pandemic bubble sensation struggled through three decision wins. Make it four.
Angulo came in 1.6 pounds over the limit for Saturday's bout. He cleared the 10-pound rehydration limit at 176.2 today to allow the fight to continue. Angulo came in 1.6 pounds over the limit. He cleared the 10-pound rehydration limit at 176.2 today to enable the fight to continue.
The 38-year-old Angulo acquitted himself well enough, drawing blood from Berlanga's nose by the fourth round. He frustrated the younger fighter to the point Berlanga attempted to bite Angulo on the shoulder in round seven and tried to headbutt Angulo after the final bell.
Berlanga's new style was an ill-fitting suit. Fans at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden could sense his discomfort as Berlanga repeatedly looked up at the video display to see the time left in each round.
Worse yet, the fight was billed as the main event on the eve of New York's Puerto Rican Day parade. The card was packed with Puerto Rican talent, many promoted by Hall of Fame inductee Miguel Cotto who was on hand to see his prospects perform. Thankfully for Berlanga, Cotto had left early to make the drive to Canastota.
What's Next for Edgar Berlanga?
Berlanga has some serious recalibration ahead alongside new trainer Juan De Leon. 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.
Undercard Results: Dakota Linger Scores Upset Win over Josue Vargas
Who could have predicted a West Virginian journeyman would be the star of Saturday's show?
Junior welterweight southpaw Josue Vargas of Puerto Rico (20-2, 9 KOs) was rebuilding his career after a first-round thrashing by Jose Zepeda last October. He had one eight-round decision win before entering the ring against Dakota Linger (12-5-3, 8 KOs) of Buckhannon, West Virginia, who was rebuilding after a third-round TKO loss to Brandun Lee. Lipton flipped the script, scoring a shocking second-round TKO win over Vargas.
Lipton hurt Vargas with a hard right hand, but the knockdown was ruled a slip. Never mind the referee or the judges. Linger didn't let his opportunity get away from him. Linger let go with everything he had, sending a battered Vargas through the ropes. Vargas beat the count on wobbly legs and was allowed to continue. In retrospect, it wasn't a great idea. Linger continued to tee off until the ringside physician jumped in the ring to stop the fight at 2:06 of the second round.
In the battle of Lebrons – no, not THAT LeBron – Junior lightweight Henry Lebron (16-0, 10 KOs) remained undefeated after taking Luis Lebron (18-5-1, 11 KOs) to an eight-round decision in an all-Boricua battle. Scores for Henry LeBron were 80-72, 78-74, and 77-75.
Junior featherweight Victor Santillan of the Dominican Republic (12-0, 4 KOs) scored a second mild upset against Carlos “Purin” Caraballo of Puerto Rico (15-1, 14 KOs), dealing Caraballo his first loss. Scorecards were 77-75 and 78-74 X 2 for Santillan.
Armani Almestica (6-0, 6 KOs) of Orlando maintained his perfect record, but he had to work for the fifth round TKO against a durable Eliseo Villalobos of Simi Valley, California (2-3, 1 KO) in their lightweight bout.
Featherweight contender Orlando Gonzalez of Puerto Rico (18-1, 11 KOs) scored the first stoppage of the night in the fifth round over Pablo Cruz of Houston (22-5-1, 6 KOs). Gonzalez did steady work to break down Cruz, closing in when he hurt Cruz to force the referee stoppage at 1:00 of the round.
Super lightweight Omar Rosario of Puerto Rico (7-0, 2 KOs) won a near shutdown decision over countryman Julio Rosa (4-1, 1 KO). Scores were 59-55, 60-54 X 2 for Rosario
Flyweight Christina Cruz of New York (3-0) remained undefeated with a decision win over Maryguenn Vellinga of Park City, Utah (3-3-2, 2 KOs).