After the fight: Evaporating hopes for Edgar Berlanga

Edgar Berlanga had a historic start to his boxing career, but after four lackluster unanimous decisions in a row, has Berlanga’s promise lost its shine? 

On Saturday, June 11, Edgar Berlanga bled from his nose, sported a swollen right eye, and looked to struggle to close his bloody mouth. It didn’t look like the face of a winner, but despite his beat-up appearance, Berlanga saw his hand raised in victory by unanimous decision victory over Roamer Alexis Angulo.

Boxing promoter Top Rank and the boxing world at large threw a lot of hype on the 25-year-old’s shoulders after he started his career 16-0, with 16 first-round knockouts. Berlanga looked like lightning in a bottle through 2020 but has looked average in his last four contests.

After his latest performance, Berlanga’s hot 16-fight start and boxing promise looks more like a mirage. The Puerto Rican super middleweight from Brooklyn, NY, had many believing he was the division’s version of Mike Tyson, but he might not even be Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy.

It’s too early to write Berlanga’s epitaph. He’s still young and could use his recent poor performances and critiques from them, like this one, to fuel him towards championship greatness. However, that’s highly unlikely.

Berlanga (20-0, 16 KOs) didn’t just beat his first 16 opponents. He decimated them. Berlanga appeared fearless in those bouts.

Berlanga stalked those 16 opponents like he knew a KO victory was imminent. At the time, he might have been the most confident fighter in all of boxing.

In his last outing, he allowed Angulo to bully him around the ring from start to finish. He tried to flash some bravado during the fight throwing up his hands like he was winning, but even Berlanga didn’t look like he believed he was doing well.

So what changed to make Berlanga look sensational one minute and deflated the next?

Two things have changed in that time: Berlanga’s trainer and his level of opposition.

Since going 16-0 with 16 KOs, Edgar Berlanga has won his last four by decision in unspectacular fashion

During Berlanga’s come-up, his father, Edgar Berlanga Sr., held a lot of his training duties. He switched to Andre Rozier as his main trainer in 2019. The pairing started well together, winning their first four fights by knockout.

But things changed. Berlanga fought Demond Nicholson to a decision win but didn’t get the KO. He boxed well and had Nicholson in trouble but couldn’t finish the fight like in the past. His performances got progressively worse.

Berlanga appeared to lose significant portions of his 2021 bout against Marcelo Esteban Coceres. He was knocked down in round 9 but managed to win 96-93 on all three judges’ scorecards, even though many felt he lost the fight.

Berlanga had an excuse in that battle. He suffered a right torn biceps and could not deliver the payload of his formerly destructive right hand. Any boxer could look bad fighting with one arm, but that excuse didn’t hold up against Steve Rolls in March 2022.

Berlanga boxed lethargically against Rolls but still managed to earn a unanimous decision, but he looked off. He also sensed that and switched from Rozier to Juan DeLeon.

With the change, Berlanga appeared to take another step back against Angulo. Berlanga had a 13-year youth advantage over the 38-year-old Angulo and seemed in perfect health.

Still, Angulo showed no fear of Berlanga’s right hand as he kept Berlanga moving backward all night. Trapped against the ropes, Berlanga’s punches lacked steam. He wasn’t able to bullrush the veteran Angulo.

After the fight, his face was a mess, and he received fortunate scores from the judges. Two judges had it 99-91 for Berlanga even though his face was busted up and Angulo didn’t have a scratch.

Boxing isn’t a beauty contest, but it sure looked like Angulo beat up Berlanga.

So what happened to the ferocious Berlanaga people thought was on the path to becoming a world champion?

Even while working with Rozier, Berlanga’s corner changed. He added Kay Koroma and Mickey Bey. Berlanga’s coaching staff may have grown too crowded, but the latest change has further muddled Berlanga’s distinctiveness as a fighter.

All of the boxing scientists have had their crack at molding Berlanga, but it seems like all of their efforts have combined to create Frankenstein’s monster. Berlanga isn’t sure if he should box or brawl and instead isn’t enacting either discipline well.

With the voices that have come and gone, Berlanga’s confidence has gone along with it, and frustration lies in its wake. It showed when he tried to bite Angulo in round 7 and then tried to headbutt him at the end of round 8.

Berlanga has since apologized for his actions, but his actions paint the portrait of a fighter who’s at his wit’s end and doesn’t know how to handle his emotions. There’s trouble brewing under the surface, and we can suppose the cause, but only Berlanga has the answer to the source of his discontent.

He’s probably been steered in too many directions stylistically. Returning to basics with his father is one option, but Berlanga could be too far gone if his confidence is damaged.

There’s an even grimmer possibility. Maybe Berlanga never had the talent to live up to expectations that grew out of his early success.

Berlanga knocked out some decent boxers in his 16-fight KO streak, but they weren’t top-tier opposition. He has stepped it up over the last four contests, and the results haven’t been pretty.

In his next bout, whenever that is or whoever it’s against, the pressure will be at an all-time high for Berlanga. Hopefully, Berlanga gets the clarity he needs to restore faith in his boxing future.