Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Weight class: super middleweight
Height/ Reach: 6-foot-1 (185 cm)/73 in. (185 cm)
Amateur record: 162-17
Turned pro: 2016
Pro record: 16-0 (16 knockouts)
Trainer: Andre Rozier
Manager: Keith Connolly
Promoter: Top Rank
Best night of pro career and why: Berlanga is most pleased with his first-round knockout of Eric Moon inside The Bubble at the MGM Grand in July 2020.
“I feel that fight really pushed me out there,” Berlanga told The Ring. “I got very recognized as a fighter after that fight.
“The way I ended him was amazing. I pulled his left glove down and I knocked him out with two shots. That was my most favorite fight in my career.”
Worst night of pro career and why: It’s difficult to single out a fight that you are unhappy with when you have stopped all your opponents inside the opening round. However, the Brooklyn-born fighter feels he’s been a little overeager on a couple of occasions.
“There’s probably three fights I wasn’t too happy with,” he said. “Sometimes when I see a fighter I hurt, I get out of character. My December fight [against Ulises Sierra] was one of them. I feel I could have stopped him earlier. I had him hurt and was going for the knockout instead of remaining calm. When I [calmed down], I stopped him.”
Why he’s a prospect: Berlanga regularly spars with rising prospect Nikita Ababiy and middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. He was Derevyanchenko’s chief sparring partner ahead of his 2019 fight with Gennadiy Golovkin.
Berlanga hits hard, obviously, but he insists that fight-ending power is only part of the bigger picture.
“People haven’t really seen it but I’m a really good counterpuncher,” he said. “They only think it’s power. They don’t know I’m a real boxer; I like to hit and not get hit. The fundamentals, it’s a science. Everybody around the world has only seen one round, but my biggest asset is boxing. I’m a real knockout artist, but what comes with this power is tremendous skill.”
Two-division titleholder Tim Bradley, who now serves as a commentator for ESPN, has witnessed several of Berlanga’s fights live and has been impressed.
“We know he has the power, and it seems to be real,” said Bradley. “When he hits these guys, they seem to have that ‘Oh, shoot’ look on their face, like the power is something they’ve never felt before.
“The last few fights I’ve seen him fight, he looks like he has the goods. He has a certain presence outside the ring. He has everything going for him to be a global superstar, but we have to see him against the ‘B’ and eventually the ‘A’ guys at the top. Then we’ll be able to tell.
“I would love to see him against a guy like David Lemieux, Steve Nelson or Andre Dirrell. These are guys who’ve been around the block for some time.”
Why he’s a suspect: Bradley agrees that Berlanga was in too much of a rush once he hurt Sierra.
“The last fight, he got a little bit beside himself trying to go for that knockout in the first round,” explained Bradley. “He made a ton of mistakes, attacking off-balance, just winging shots and exposing himself. He was trying to force the knockout instead of letting it develop naturally like it’s supposed to.
“When you have that type of punching power, you can basically depend on it a little bit too much. What happens when he gets in there with a guy who he hits and doesn’t go anywhere and then hits back?”
Bradley also has a few other questions that need answering.
“We haven’t seen him in deep waters yet,” said the retired former titleholder. “Can he make proper adjustments inside the ring? If he was to get knocked down, does he have what it takes inside to get back up and fight and win? Does he have the stamina in the second half of a fight? We don’t know.
“It’s been fun so far, easy money knocking these guys out in one round, but it’s under the bright lights where you’re going to gather experience with those 10-ounce gloves.”
Storylines: Berlanga grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“It was pretty rough,” he said. “I lived in the projects all my life. Low-income, people on section 8 [housing assistance], people on welfare – those are the type of people from the projects. I’m from there, so I embrace that and feel that’s what made me.
“You had a lot of crackheads out there, young kids selling drugs. It never phased me, because I was always in the gym and got respect from those types of guys because of what I was doing.”
Berlanga hopes to one day emulate his boxing hero, Felix Trinidad, whom he visited in Puerto Rico last year.
“The main goal is to become a world champion,” he explained. “I want to be that guy, the face of Puerto Rico, the face of boxing. I know that’s big shoes to fill, but if everything in life was easy, everybody would be doing it. It’s only one percent that does it, and I feel I’m that one guy.
“I’m young, I’m handsome, I can fight, I have a big fan base and that’s me not having a world championship.”
Berlanga’s main focus is boxing, but he has a young family. His wife is expecting a baby in mid-June. He also likes to relax and go on vacation and is really into music, something he hopes to follow up on when his boxing career is over.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].