While drawing praise for knocking out his first 16 opponents in the first round, some questioned other aspects of Edgar Berlanga‘s boxing game. Spectators wondered what would happen if someone was able to stretch the undefeated super middleweight the distance.
Some partial answers have emerged. Last April, he went the full slated eight rounds of his fight against Demond Nicholson to earn a decision victory. Then, despite tearing his left bicep early and being knocked down for the first time in his career in the ninth round of his October fight against Argentina’s Marcelo Coceres, Berlanga toughed out another decision victory.
Now, back and fully recovered from bicep surgery and rehab, Berlanga headlines his first card at Madison Square Garden on ESPN Saturday night. His opponent, Steve Rolls, is on a two-knockout win streak of his own. The once beaten Rolls (21–1, 12 knockouts in total) should serve as a sturdy test for Berlanga for spectators to gauge where the undefeated prospect is in his career.
Berlanga talks to Zenger about why he feels more productive training in Las Vegas rather than New York, what it’s like becoming a boxing great, and much more.
Percy Crawford interviewed Edgar Berlanga for Zenger.
Zenger: How has camp been for your fight this Saturday against Rolls?
Berlanga: Everything is good, man.
Zenger: You tore your bicep in your last fight against Marcelo Coceres. I understand surgery and rehab went well, but how does the arm feel now that you are back punching and doing boxing movements?
Berlanga: It feels amazing. My left arm feels good, it feels strong. Like I tell everybody, I wouldn’t be fighting this weekend if I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. Thank God recovery went great, and rehab went great.
Zenger: You talked about focusing more on boxing for this fight. Is that because of the bicep tear, you want to take something off of your punches, or do you feel boxing more is necessary moving forward?
Berlanga: It’s necessary moving forward. For me, it’s about that time. I’m not just a puncher. I’m an all-around fighter. I’m a boxer/puncher. It’s time to show the world that. People think I can just punch, but it’s not that. I have tremendous boxing skills.
Zenger: You seem to really enjoy the progressions you are making training in Las Vegas as opposed to New York. Is this something we can expect you to do more often, or is this a one-off?
Berlanga: Yeah, this is permanent. I got a house out there now. For every fight that we have, I’m going to be shooting out there for at least three months to get that good work in.
Zenger: This is your first time headlining a card in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. This could be a high-pressure situation for you. How are you approaching it?
Berlanga: It’s going to fuel me up. I was born for this. I was made for this, especially because I love the lights, I love the cameras and I love the attention. That’s all going to translate to good energy in that ring come Saturday.
Zenger: Have you studied Rolls, or will you figure it out in the ring on Saturday night?
Berlanga: My last two opponents moved a lot. Prior to fighting us, Demond [Nicholson] didn’t move a lot in a lot of his fights. He always stood his ground, but with me, he moved a lot. Coceres did the same thing. He fought Billy Joe [Saunders] moving forward, pushing Billy Joe back, but with me, he ran the whole fight. We’re expecting something similar. You know I’m ready for anybody that stands in front of me, but if he does move, I’ll have to cut the ring off and break him down.
Zenger: You won your first 16 fights by first round knockout. As crazy as this sounds, was it good to get that monkey off of your back and go the distance in your last two fights to prove to yourself and the fans that you were more than a quick fight or bust guy?
Berlanga: Yeah, for sure. I already proved that I can punch. Everybody knows that I can punch, especially during the fights. They see what I can do, but even in sparring, people know that I can punch. Andre Ward told me, “Lay off the power, and let everything come natural.” I’m going to be one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves.
Zenger: Is it tough to mentally prepare for someone who you feel is going to stay away and use their legs to keep distance?
Berlanga: It’s not so much I’m expecting him to move a lot, we know he is a veteran, so we are prepared for everything all around the board. If he has to move, he’s going to move. We have been practicing on that, cutting the ring off and all of those things. You already know what the deal is if he stands in front of me. It’s a done deal. We’re ready for anything.
Zenger: What has been the biggest difference training in Vegas opposed to New York?
Berlanga: The coordination. Everything is organized and closer, the gyms and stuff. In New York we traveled a lot. It’s an hour to an hour and a half just to get to the boxing gym. In Vegas, everything is like 10 minutes away. I can get in more training sessions. I can rest up, come back, go for a run, come back for strength and conditioning a few times a day.
Zenger: Headlining on ESPN, for Top Rank, one of the top promotional companies in the history of the sport, in Madison Square Garden. Are you where you expected to be at this point in your career, are you ahead of schedule?
Berlanga: Yeah, I feel like I’m right on pace. I feel like we’re choosing the right fights, we’re making the right moves, I’m 24 years old, about to be 25. We’re stepping it up little by little. Not just because of my age, but because of experience. I have gone the distance twice. I already felt what it was like to go eight rounds and 10 rounds, and I’m ready to go 12, if we have to. You know how boxing is, the boxing comes with experience, the experience you get is going those rounds. You don’t get that type of experience knocking people out early. So, I’m glad I went those rounds, and went the distance.
Zenger: As crazy as this may sound, even suffering the bicep tear early in your last fight and having to fight through it and go the distance I’m sure was valuable experience for you.
Berlanga: Oh, for sure. That was a different type of pain. People think that pain was nothing, but it hurt a lot. When I came out of the ring, I couldn’t even lift my left hand up. I couldn’t do nothing with my left hand. It was basically dead. My bicep was completely torn, and I couldn’t do a lot of things.
Zenger: You hinted at rapper Fat Joe walking you to the ring. What type of entrance can we expect?
Berlanga: Fireworks! Get the hip-hop core ready. I’m blowing the roof off of Madison Square Garden. I have been working extremely hard, and I’m ready to give the fans a show they want to see.
Zenger: In a perfect world, how does this fight end?
Berlanga: I see a late-round stoppage!
Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Kristen Butler