Super middleweight Edgar Berlanga did not score the resounding knockout he said he would nor did he put on the kind of memorable performance he insisted would increase his star power. But, he boxed well from a distance and landed enough solid shots to outpoint veteran two-time world title challenger Roamer Alexis Angulo on Saturday night in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Berlanga won by surprisingly wide scores of 99-91, 99-91 and 98-92 in a fight that appeared much closer, but his victory was marred because he could have — perhaps should have — been disqualified for biting Angulo on the left shoulder during a clinch in the seventh round.
Referee Ricky Gonzalez was on the other side and did not see Berlanga’s shocking action, which he for some reason joked about after the fight.
— DARIUS ALFORD (@IAMDARIUSALFORD) June 12, 2022
“He was throwing elbows. I was about to do a Mike Tyson on him,” Berlanga said with a laugh, referencing when the former heavyweight champion infamously bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 world title rematch and was disqualified. “He kept throwing his elbows, and I didn’t want to get cut. I was ready to bite him like Mike Tyson.”
Angulo was not amused by being turned into a snack.
“At the end of the day, he tried to take a chunk out of my ear (shoulder, per video replays) and that wasn’t it,” Angulo said through an interpreter. “He was trying to hit me low, hitting me on the thigh, and it took something out of me where I didn’t even want to get close to him in the end because he’s the local fighter and you know that when you’re fighting in your opponent’s hometown then certain infractions all of a sudden are not infractions, so I just knew what I was up against.”
Biting aside, Berlanga (20-0, 16 KOs), a 25-year-old Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York, notched a victory against the most notable opponent of his career in front of a partisan crowd of 4,347 on the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York, a date he dreamed of headlining on since he was a kid.
As a 9-year-old in 2007, Berlanga remembers how in awe he was when he attended then-welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto’s defense against Zab Judah in Madison Square Garden’s main arena on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade.
Berlanga idolized Puerto Rican legend Cotto and attending that exciting fight, which Cotto won by 11th-round knockout, was a big deal.
“It was tremendous,” Berlanga said. “From there I just believed. When I turned pro my father (Edgar Sr.) told me we could be headlining one day on the Puerto Rican Day weekend and that’s what happened tonight.”
With Cotto ringside the night before he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, Berlanga landed many uppercuts and right hands while also using his jab very effectively.
It was a more disciplined performance — biting aside — than Berlanga has shown previously, perhaps because he was in his first fight with trainer Juan De Leon after parting ways with Andre Rozier.
But Angulo (27-3, 23 KOs), 38, of Colombia, got his licks in also. He bloodied Berlanga’s nose in the fourth round and damaged him around the right eye, which was bleeding, purple and swelling later in the fight. Berlanga was also bleeding from the mouth, but he landed more than enough shots to claim victory.
According to CompuBox statistics, Berlanga landed 108 of 423 punches (26 percent), including 50 jab connects, and Angulo landed 79 of 354 shots (22 percent), including just 12 jabs.
“Mentally, I felt good,” Berlanga said. “I felt happy the whole training camp. I moved the training camp to Puerto Rico, and I can’t be more grateful to be on my island training. I did a full camp for this fight, and you see the difference tonight.
“I just got the experience I needed. My power is still there. I hurt him a couple of times. I didn’t want to fall for any traps or anything. I knew that he was a tough guy.”
Angulo’s two previous losses came in super middleweight world title fights to then-titlist Gilberto Ramirez by decision in 2018 and by 10th-round knockout to David Benavidez for a vacant belt in 2020.
“It was fun. I had to stick to the game plan. Angulo is a tough, tough veteran,” Berlanga said. “He fought for the title two times. He went the distance with Ramirez and he got stopped by Benavidez and these are good champions, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy contest.”
Berlanga began his career with 16 consecutive first-round knockout wins but was forced to go the distance for the fourth time in a row. He said he was not disappointed he did not get a KO, even though he had predicted one.
“We said if we land clean shots and he goes, he goes, but if we got to box for 10 rounds that’s exactly what I did and I wanted to do that,” Berlanga said.
Angulo said he felt he won the fight.
“I think we both had a solid performance,” said Angulo, whose two previous losses came in super middleweight world title fights to then-titlist Gilberto Ramirez by decision in 2018 and by 10th-round knockout to David Benavidez for a vacant belt in 2020. “He’s a young fighter, he’s a strong fighter, but nonetheless I think we both did well. I think I did better than him.”