Wednesday, June 07, 2023  |



Edgar Berlanga’s KO streak ends, but wins lopsided decision over Demond Nicholson

Berlanga dropped tough Nicholson four times en route to his first distance bout. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Fighters Network

The question coming into red-hot super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga’s fight with Demond Nicholson was simple. It wasn’t whether Berlanga, the heavy favorite, would win. That was considered a foregone conclusion.

The question was could Berlanga – “The Chosen One” – extend his streak of first-round knockouts to begin his professional career to 17 in a row?

He could not, but Berlanga nonetheless dominated Nicholson, knocking him down four times and winning a lopsided decision, 79-68, 79-69 and 79-69, to remain undefeated in the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete’s first defense against Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz on Saturday night at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.

With a heavily Puerto Rican crowd cheering his every punch, Berlanga was looking for the knockout but Nicholson showed a big heart to make it to the final bell.

Berlanga did not come close to landing a big bomb in the first round as the streak came to an end even though he nearly knocked Nicholson out in the final seconds of the fight with a right hand.

“I feel amazing. It’s kind of fu—- up I had to go to the judges with all the people here,” Berlanga said. “I know they wanted a first-round knockout, but I enjoyed getting the experience.

“I feel like it was a C (performance). I know I could have done a lot better. There were things that I should have did.”

As Berlanga (17-0, 16 KOs), 23, a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York, got off the stool for the first time, trainer Andre Rozier sent him out for the second round, telling him, “Now, it’s time to show him what you’ve got.”

Berlanga rocked him with a right hand and then hit him with a short left hook to the temple midway through the second round to knock him down. Later in the round, Berlanga rocked him with a left hook and unloaded, but Nicholson (23-4-1, 20 KOs), 28, of Laurel, Maryland, held on and made it out of the round.

Berlanga was credited with a knockdown in the third round by referee Emil Lombardi, but it appeared to be more of a push than because of a landed punch.

Although Berlanga took a few clean shots he was in control and rocked Nicholson with a left hook at the bell that ended the fourth round.

Berlanga scored another knockdown in the fifth round when he touched Nicholson with a left hand on top of the head, forcing him to pitch forward and put both of his gloves on the mat to keep him from going all the way down.

Nicholson continued to survive by holding, but Berlanga had another big round in the sixth even though he didn’t score a knockdown. Late in the round he badly hurt Nicholson with a right hand and then unloaded several shots before the round ended.

Nicholson landed a flush right hand in the eighth round but Berlanga took it well and then he landed a tremendous overhand right on the chin in the final seconds to floor Nicholson for the fourth time.

“It was an awesome experience for me. I caught him with an amazing shot at 10 seconds of the last round,” Berlanga said. “I wanted to get him out! But I didn’t, but I got the experience, especially in front of my Puerto Rican people. It was good.”

After the fight, Berlanga dropped to the mat and did pushups, as he typically does when Rozier tells him there was something he did wrong.

“He was telling to me throw the jab and use body shots and I didn’t follow instructions, so I had to do pushups,” Berlanga said. “Just continue to get experience, train hard and stay in the gym and work on my endurance in the ring to get better and better.”

Joseph Adorno, Ortiz slug way to draw

In an all-out slugfest, lightweights Joseph Adorno and Jamaine Ortiz fought to a brutal majority draw. Two judges scored the fight 75-75 and the third judge had it 76-74 for Ortiz, who got earned the draw despite getting knocked down twice.

Coming off another draw and a 16-month layoff, Adorno (14-0-2, 12 KOs), the bigger puncher, had a big second round against he quicker and flashier Ortiz. Adorno rocked him with a left hook and bloodied his nose before landing a left hook that dropped Ortiz with about a minute remaining in the round.

Ortiz (14-0-1, 8 KOs), 24, of Worcester, Massachusetts, fought back hard and landed many solid shots even though they were not nearly as heavy as the blows Adorno landed during the back-and-forth scrap. By the end of the fifth round, Ortiz’s nose was bleeding heavily and his white trunks were covered with his own blood.

Adorno, 21, a Puerto Rican from Allentown, Pennsylvania, scored another knockdown with a left uppercut in the seventh round that was called because the ropes held Ortiz up. Ortiz recovered well and had a big eighth round against a spent Adorno but he couldn’t get the knockout he needed.

Also on the undercard:

–Junior welterweight Josue Vargas won a lopsided unanimous decision in a hard-fought fight with Willie Shaw. It was by no means an easy win but Vargas was rewarded with scores of 99-91, 99-91 and 98-92.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Shaw (13-3, 9 KOs), 28, of Oakland, California, Shaw had a big first round, rushing to Vargas, a southpaw, and nailing him with multiple right hands and backing him up. Vargas (19-1, 9 KOs), 23, a Puerto Rico native fighting out of the Bronx, New York,  survived the early onslaught and slowly but surely took over the fight even though he got clipped a few more hard shots as the bout went on.

Vargas was warned for an accidental low blow in the fifth round and Shaw was given time to recover.

–In all southpaw fight, Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Gonzalez (17-0, 10 KOs), 25, outworked the game Juan Antonio Lopez (15-9, 6 KOs), 27, of Fort Worth, Texas, for a unanimous decision victory in an entertaining fight.

It was a chippy fight with the combatants jawing at each during the bout but Gonzalez was always in control and was awarded winning scores of 79-73, 79-73 and 78-74. Gonzalez rocked Lopez rocked with an overhand left late in the fourth round with the best punch of the fight. Lopez opened a cut on Gonzalez’s right cheek during the sixth round and Gonzalez opened a cut over Lopez’s right eye in the final seconds of the bout. 

–Welterweight Xander Zayas, 18, a big-time Puerto Rican prospect from Sunrise, Florida, who was 16 when he became the youngest fighter ever signed by Top Rank following 11 national amateur titles, destroyed  Demarcus Layton in 56 seconds.

Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs), who spent time in his training camp sparring with lightweight star Gervonta Davis and former world titleholders Adrien Broner and Robert Easter Jr., rocked Layton (8-2-1, 5 KOs), 29, of Little Rock, Arkansas, with a left hook, trapped him in a corner and unloaded numerous unanswered punches. He nailed him with a body shot and then another flush left hook dropped Layton. Although he beat the count he was in no condition to go on and referee Emil Lombardi waved off the fight.

“This was amazing, something I was looking forward to for a long time,” Zayas said. “The last time I fought in front of a crowd, it was in Puerto Rico (in February 2020). Doing it here in Kissimmee, in front of my Puerto Rican fans, was memorable. First-round knockout, what else can I ask for?”

–Junior featherweight Jeremy Adorno (5-0, 1 KO), 20, a Puerto Rican prospect from Allentown, Pennsylvania, won a majority decision against fellow southpaw Ramiro Martinez (2-1-2, 1 KO), 22, of Hurst, Texas, in a give-and-take fight that saw each man rocked. In the end, however, Adorno won 40-36 and 39-37 on two scorecards while one judged scored the fight 38-38.

Adorno was cruised through the first round but then got nailed with a right hand that backed him up in the second round. He hurt Martinez in the third round of the fast-paced bout and also rocked him with a left hand in the fourth round.

–Puerto Rican southpaw junior lightweight Jaycob Gomez (2-0, 2 KO) knocked out Mobley Villegas (3-2, 2 KOs), of Amarillo, Texas, in the first round. Gomez, 19, scored two knockdowns, both on right hooks. After the 28-year-old Villegas got dropped for the second time to a knee, he took the full count from referee Samuel Burgos at 2:38.