Edgar Berlanga’s Journey to Headlining at Madison Square Garden

Edgar Berlanga always dreamed of fighting as a headliner in his hometown of New York.

The Brooklyn-born super middleweight has carved his way towards that dream, earning this award in 18 fights of his career. Berlanga, 24, fights Steve Rolls, the headline fight on ESPN’s Top Rank card, at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

However, the path to the garden was not a straight line. Amid a rapid rise in the division – and boxing as a whole – Berlanga caused quite a stir with a vicious first-round KO streak, stopping his first 16 opponents before they could hear the first-round bell.

However, in his last two fights – against Demond Nicholson and Marcelo Coceres – Berlanga has been put over the distance. Coceres knocked out Berlanga, his first hit as a pro on the silver screen.

Berlanga, now 18-0, won both bouts, but against improved competition, he didn’t show the same effectiveness as in his first 16 bouts.

As he prepares to face the most formidable opponent he has faced, Berlanga would not have had it any other way on the biggest stage of his career.

“I needed that,” Berlanga told the Post. “I felt like it wasn’t just a wake up call, but that every fighter needs adversity to see who you really are. And that also works in life. In life you go through bumps and rocky roads and that tells you how you are really built…

“I’ve been boxing for 18 years. I’ve fought with the best, even as an amateur. To prove that to myself, I already knew that I had this inside me, this dog inside me. I already know I have this inside me, I’m a dog and my heart is as big as this world. That wasn’t the problem. The best part for me was showing the world that I’m a dog, that I went through adversity.”

Edgar Bernanga
Edgar Berlanga was knocked down for the first time in his professional career against Marcelo Coceres.
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Berlanga tore his biceps against Coceres in the third round, losing significant power on his jab in the process. As a result, Berlanga had to wait for his chance at Rolls while he was rehabilitating in Las Vegas.

Rolls, a 37-year veteran, has a 21-1 record, his only loss coming to two-time middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.

“I think every time a fighter faces adversity, that makes them a better fighter,” Shawn Porter, a two-time welterweight world champion and boxing analyst who is currently on NBC’s Ring City USA team, told The Post. “I have no doubt that while we’re going to see the same Berlanga in the ring, hitting hard and trying to take a guy out in a split second in the first round, I think we’re going to be more defensive now with responsible Berlanga while he’s in his career progresses. Now when he was hit he said something like “I can’t be touched” and now he was touched. And I think it’s going to resonate with him and compel him to make those adjustments.”

Edgar Berlanga (left) and Steve Rolls (right) face off before their fight.
Edgar Berlanga (left) and Steve Rolls (right) face off before their fight.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images

Joining Berlanga on his way into the ring are hip-hop stars Fat Joe and Myke Towers. Along with his rise in the ring, Berlanga vows to be a star outside the ring and create a celebrity that will outlast his boxing career. According to Berlanga, he had an agreement to star in Creed 3 but had to resign due to his bicep injury and recovery.

Berlanga’s KO streak helped him quickly see a semblance of the notoriety he promises. During the Knicks victory over the Blazers WednesdayBerlanga sat on Celebrity Row with Tracy Morgan, whom he considers a good friend, and appeared at the Jumbotron during downtime.

“I have this presence,” Berlanga said. “When you enter a room, you can feel my presence. I’ve always had this since I was a kid. When I walked into a room, or when there was a bunch of kids, I was always the kid that stood out. I felt like I brought that into the boxing world. It’s not just about boxing now, it’s about the brand, it’s about building myself, marketing myself properly because at the end of the day we have a short gap for this boxing thing.”

Edgar Berlanga sits on Celebrity Row with Tracy Morgan during the Knicks Blazers game.
Edgar Berlanga sits on Celebrity Row with Tracy Morgan during the Knicks Blazers game.
Getty Images

Though his KO streak is coming to an end, Berlanga still feels like fans only saw part of his game – his power. He hopes to change that against Rolls.

“I still feel like I was trying to go in there and rely on the power and the stuff instead of just letting that go because I hit so hard it’s going to hurt just tapping someone, so I really want to show my true self in this fight. ‘ Beranga said. “Everything I’ve done in the boxing gym, boxed and looked pretty in the gym, I have to bring to this fight.”

Another local fighter will be featured on Saturday night.

Jahi Tucker looks to continue his rise through the super lightweight ranks as one of the sport’s brightest young talents.

Tucker, just 19 years old, lives in Deer Park on Long Island. He was ranked No. 1 among American amateurs at 138 pounds before turning pro and was a member of the US junior national team.

Jahi Tucker
Jahi Tucker
Top placement via Getty Images

He has a 6-0 record early in his career, four of which came via KO.

“This is a fight that will show the world being back at Madison Square Garden, big undercard, it will definitely show the world that I truly am one of the brightest prospects in boxing,” Tucker told The Post. “I feel like I am the best prospect in boxing and one of the best fighters in general.”

Tucker is no stranger to his hometown arena – he fought at The Garden in October and TKO’d Jorge Sosa in the second round.

“It’s just a sense of everything surrounding it,” Tucker said. “Even before you fight, you know you’re in New York City, the greatest city in the world. You have to go to the biggest arena in the world and get in there and perform. It just does something different.” Edgar Berlanga’s Journey to Headlining at Madison Square Garden


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