Despite enjoying his rapidly growing success, Edgar Berlanga (15-0, 15 KOs) finds himself in an unusual spot. He’s rapidly approaching title contention, but he doesn’t actually know how he’ll fare over 12 rounds. With every one of his 15 professional bouts ending brutally in the first round, surely there’s an element of doubt creeping into his subconscious?
“I’m going in there to hurt the guy, because I’m a killer at the end of the day,” the Brooklyn-born fighter tells Boxing Social. “I’m a monster. I’m not going to let that monster that I’ve got derail me from what I’m trying to do in that ring. I can go into the second round; I just won’t punch. I won’t throw no fucking punches, I’ll just run around the ring and we can go into the second round. But that’s not the type of fighter that I am, you know? People say, ‘Carry the fight,’ but no, we’re not doing that. If they get into the second round – which is eventually going to come – then big ups to him. But eventually, I’m going to get to him.”
Maybe not then.
You can’t do anything but believe Berlanga, proudly hailing from Puerto Rican heritage. On December 12, he steps between the ropes to face Ulises Sierra at the ‘Bubble’ in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. Sierra (15-1-2, 9 KOs) may have dropped a unanimous decision to Vladimir Shishkin in his last outing, suffering his only defeat, but he went 10 rounds. This time, the odds makers don’t fancy his chances of repeating a feat of such endurance.
For Berlanga, affectionately known as ‘The Chosen One’, life is set to change immeasurably in the next few months. It isn’t about boxing; life is bigger than that, and he could barely contain his excitement as he revealed that he and his partner are expecting their first child.
“I have a baby on the way!” Berlanga exclaims, already adopting the role of the proud father. “I didn’t announce that yet, but now I’m announcing it. My girl, she’s going to be my future wife. She’s three months pregnant; I’ve got my girl, my mother and my pops here [in New York]. I’m surrounded by love, and by my loved ones. People that love me for me, that’s an amazing thing.
“There’s a lot of stuff that me and my family went through, you know, it wasn’t easy for us. It was a long journey for us, man. My mother did an amazing job with raising me. My dad did one hell of a job raising me as well, and bringing my career to where it’s at now. And now I’m where he and my mom were at [with me], where I’ve got a bundle of joy coming in. I think she’s going to be due June, and it’s crazy because the weekend of my Puerto Rican Day fight, I think that’s the weekend that she’s going to be giving birth, I’m not too sure man, but it’s crazy now. My head is just woah, going crazy.
“I’m going to do a big gender reveal. We’re trying to get some blow up dolls; a boy blow-up doll, and a girl blow up doll and they’re gonna fight. They’re going to come out to the ring entrances. We’re going to create a little ring and stuff and, obviously, whoever knocks whoever down, that’s who it is.”
You’d have to assume the victorious blow-up doll would handle its business within three minutes, right?
Despite the hectic parenting schedule that awaits Berlanga in 2021, he remained focused on the task at hand: “If it was up to me, I’d say ‘Shit, let’s get these big fights in March.’ But, Top Rank, Keith Connolly, my dad, they got a better look on certain things like that in my career. At the end of the day, I’m a fighter; I’m a warrior. I’ll step in there with King Kong if I wanted to. We’re moving in a certain way. I work hard, I push myself to the limit and I cut no corners.”
The super-middleweight division (in which Berlanga & Co are moving) is waiting patiently for the mega-fight between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and reigning WBA Super world champion, Callum Smith, now also contesting the WBC belt. The landscape at 168lbs has changed regularly of late, with Caleb Plant capturing the IBF world title in January 2019, and Billy Joe Saunders mysteriously sneaking the WBO strap in through the side door.
It’s the perfect time to capitalise, and the 23-year-old Brooklyn fighter believes he is ready. His work with Andre Rozier and Team Havoc has taken him from the wild knockout artist featuring on undercards, to the fringe of massive fights, starring at the top end of the bill.
Recently, Berlanga had the pleasure of meeting his idol, Puerto Rican legend, Felix Trinidad. It was an experience that almost rendered him speechless, and has acted as additional – probably unnecessary – motivation. Trinidad couldn’t have been more supportive, dispelling the myths surrounding meeting your heroes, and offering valuable words of wisdom.
“I told everybody, being with Trinidad… I’ve been with a whole bunch of celebrities; I’ve hung out with them, chilled with them, on the phone with them. But it was nothing like being with that man, you know?” enthused Berlanga.
“That was one of my idols growing up since I was two years old. He got very emotional during our conversations, and I got very emotional. He started tearing up talking about his past, his career with his father. You know he told me that I remind him of himself. I couldn’t get over it, man. I came back to camp with a different mindset, with a different type of fire.
“I’ve dreamed of this moment, I’ve thought it, I’ve spoken about it, I spoke it into existence, and now it’s here. My father has seen this vision since I was young and now we’re living the dream, man. I’ve got the opportunity now to become the face of Puerto Rico and, Tito Trinidad; you know he passed the torch that day. I was in his town, man, and the love they showed me was crazy. You know, they’re going to be tuning in December 12t and it’s going to be a big night for Puerto Rico and I’m more than happy to bring that fire back to my community, to the Island.
“We’re bringing the people together at Madison Square Garden and we’ll just pack out any arena, man. They’ll go out with their flags and just bring the whole culture together, man.”
King Kong can wait for now, as Berlanga has urgent business to attend to. Fatherhood is just around the corner, but Ulises Sierra is lingering at the end of the street. The path to world titles may be convoluted and it will most certainly involve fights lasting longer than a round – but he knows that. It isn’t an issue.
Berlanga has star power and looks set for exhilarating television fights; he talks well and pays respect to those that have come before him, talking in depth of his admiration for Andre Ward. All he has to do is channel the monster within.
Main image and all photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.