Berlanga tops Quigley in uneven return to ring

Boxing

Before he even made his ring walk in front of a partisan crowd in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Saturday night was primed to say volumes about the future of super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga’s career.

Facing Jason Quigley in his first fight since June 2022, Berlanga was hesitant at times and outboxed in a few rounds. In other moments, especially the 12th round, Berlanga’s power and prowess were on full display, and he ultimately rolled to a unanimous-decision victory. The judges scored it 116-108, 116-108 and 118-106.

In his post-fight interview with DAZN, Berlanga insisted that the way he finished the bout, including two knockdowns in the 12th, is how he wants to look at the beginning of his next fight, which he hopes will be against better opposition.

“That last round is how we’re going to start every round from now on,” Berlanga said.

First-round flurries brought Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) notoriety early in his career. His first 16 fights ended in first-round stoppages, helping him become a reliable draw for Top Rank, especially during 2020 when crowds were withheld because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But after four straight decision victories, including a bizarre 2022 win over Roamer Angulo in which Berlanga attempted to bite his opponent, Berlanga left Top Rank for Matchroom Boxing as he pursued bigger fights.

On Saturday night, Berlanga was a -1400 favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook, against an opponent in Quigley (20-3, 14 KOs) who has struggled against fringe contenders. In his post-fight interview, Berlanga said Quigley was trying to merely survive in the ring. But even Quigley was floored four times, he didn’t appear to fear Berlanga’s power until he was hurt in the 12th.

Starting around the third round, Quigley was not only willing to absorb punches but was happy to trade with Berlanga. In fact, the main source of Quigley’s offense was an attempt to counter Berlanga with a big punch, a strategy that yielded some success throughout the night.

Saturday marked Berlanga’s first fight since he was reunited with his former trainer, Marc Farrait, after a long stint with Andre Rozier. But the corner conversations captured by DAZN indicated a bit of disharmony between rounds early in the fight.

After the sixth round, Farrait asked Berlanga if he was awake. Following the ninth round, Farrait asked Berlanga why he was loading up on power punches and if he really wanted to be in a 50-50 bout with Quigley.

Berlanga said afterward that he saw the fight unfolding a bit differently.

“I was supposed to step on the pedal early,” he told DAZN. “I was just leaning back, using my jab, just trying to catch [him] at distance.”

Berlanga’s bout against Quigley came after a yearlong layoff, the longest of his career. Matchroom CEO Eddie Hearn, referring to Saturday’s fight going the distance, said that a short night was not in Berlanga’s best interest should he want to face the biggest names in the 168-pound division.

“If he would have slid through in the second or third round when he got the knockdown, I don’t think he would have been ready to progress after that long out of the ring,” Hearn told DAZN.

Berlanga did record his first knockdowns since his stoppage streak ended, a good sign for a fighter who wants to face the likes of Jaime Munguia, Gennadiy Golovkin or others in the Matchroom stable. But after making a big career change, Berlanga is still looking to prove that he belongs in the same conversation as the best super middleweights in the world.

“I’m going to fight the best now,” said Berlanga, who is hoping for a big fight before the end of the year. “I feel like it’s that time.”

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