A Look at Edgar Berlanga
I was in elementary school when Steven Spielberg offered the world his adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park. I desperately wanted to see the film during the opening weekend because I didn’t want to be the only kid in the neighborhood who hadn’t seen it. This was 1993 and the commercials we’d been seeing on television left us in awe and anticipation. Unfortunately, my older cousin was getting married in Miami that weekend, so I didn’t have a chance to see the film.
Instead of looking at the best depiction of life-like dinosaurs to date, I was watching my drunk Uncle Theo do the electric slide to Shalamar’s A Night to Remember. Upon coming back home from Miami, all I remember my friends telling me about the film was “You should have seen it!” The excitement in their voices and the looks on their faces confirmed what I already suspected; I had missed out on something epic.
Such is the excitement in the voices of grown men in their 30’s and 40’s when they mention boxing’s next great sensation. My older cousin Marcus has been refereeing amateur bouts in Dallas for as long as I can remember. In my biased opinion, only Bert Sugar was more knowledgeable about the sweet science than “O.G. Marcus.” I’ll never forget the day when the man whose opinion on the sport I value the most told me about the next great fighter who was going to take over boxing.
It was December 15th of last year; I’d called to wish him a happy birthday. “You should have seen this kid,” he told me. I hadn’t heard that kind of excitement in his voice in a very long time. “What’s his name,” I asked. “Edgar Berlanga,” he exclaimed. “Remember the name. Edgar Berlanga!”
After missing Edgar Berlanga’s knockout of Cesar Nunez last December, I vowed to keep track of him and make sure to watch his next fight. Unfortunately, I had to wait until July of this year to get my chance to see him in action. Thankfully, he did not disappoint. With a first-round knockout of Eric Moon at the MGM Grand, Berlanga extended his first-round knockout streak to fourteen in a row.
It was an astonishing display of power. Edgar Berlanga’s confidence was overwhelming; it was clear to me right then and there I was witnessing a star in the making. 2020 has been a trying year for boxing but the fighters, promoters, fans, and everyone else involved have been resilient in keeping the sport alive. However, throughout all the headlines, one 23-year-old’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with gets my vote for the most compelling story. That is why Edgar Berlanga is my choice for the fighter of the year in 2020.
Edgar Berlanga was very active this year
In 1986, Mike Tyson had thirteen professional fights. That is not a typo. When I first heard that figure, I honestly didn’t believe it. I looked it up for myself to fact check and the number is actually correct. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a promotional outfit not facing a lawsuit after putting their fighter through such a brutal schedule in the modern era. Lately, the biggest names in the sport have been fighting once a year, twice if we’re lucky. However, in the midst of a year that saw unprecedented uncertainty, Edgar Berlanga was able to partake in three fights.
Having fought once in July, once in October and again in December, Bob Arum displayed his brilliance in mapping out his protege’s schedule. In 2020, fight fans were treated to performances by superstars such as Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Canelo Alvarez to name a few. However, each of those fighters only climbed into the ring one time during this calendar year. Berlanga is nowhere near their level of success; the good news for fight fans is he’s ambitious and hungry to reach their stature.
Rare Punching Power
Throughout the history of boxing, there have been fighters gifted with that rare quality that some refer to as “heavy hands.” It’s an innate talent to land hard punches that can end the fight with one direct blow. Former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has the gift. In the 1980’s Panamanian Roberto Duran was so lethal inside the ring that it was said he had “hands of stone.” Edgar Berlanga is proving to fight fans that he is a part of this lineage of special fighters.
At 6’1” he is tall for the super middleweight division. That makes him a naturally bigger man than the majority of his opponents and when he lands, they fall. As much as modern society would criticize the Romans for the spectacle and blood baths on display at the Coliseum, our generation is no different. Combat sports are indeed a skilful endeavor but to pretend they aren’t violent would be naive. Berlanga is an improving fighter, but his entertainment value lies in how powerful his punches are.
Not Afraid of the Limelight
Rarely do you see 23-year-old’s casually approach legends after a fight to hold a conversation? After his December 12th knockout of Ulises Sierra, Edgar Berlanga strolled over to the announcer’s booth and greeted Andre Ward and Tim Bradley, two former world champions in their own right. As much as boxing is about performance, it’s also about personality. Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua each had fans in attendance during their most recent bouts. Soon, sold-out arenas won’t be a thing of the past, they will reemerge as a deciding factor in making big fights happen. Berlanga speaks with confidence during interviews and he has a personality that fight fans are already embracing. Boxing has been blessed to have a plethora of stars in the modern era; with each new performance, Berlanga is proving he’s next.
A Compelling Story-Line
The kid from Brooklyn, who grew up idolizing Felix Trinidad has won sixteen fights in a row by the first-round knockout. Announcers and promoters don’t have to scramble to find a story-line to promote this young man. The only question they need to ask over the airwaves is “Will the streak continue?” As much as I love a great fight that goes the distance, I found myself sitting on the edge of my couch watching the first round count down during Berlanga’s last performance.
I too was caught up in the mystique of the elusive first-round knockout. Whether he can stretch the streak to seventeen during his next fight isn’t important. The fact that his streak has generated so much excitement has been great for boxing.
Overall, 2020 turned out to be a year filled with very entertaining fights. The twelve-round war between Teofimo Lopez and Vasyl Lomachenko was the most entertaining fight of the year. However, the fact that his fights ended in early stoppages shouldn’t be held against Edgar Berlanga. Eventually, one of his opponents is going to survive the first round.
Eventually, he’s going to get hit square on the chin and we’re going to see if he can recover after he’s been hurt. All things considered, “The Chosen One” had the most impressive resume of bouts out of anyone involved in the sweet science in 2020. The future looks bright for the Puerto Rican fighter out of Brooklyn. Take a bow, Mr Edgar Berlanga. You’re the fighter of the year.