Editor’s note: This story was updated following Edgar Berlanga’s victory over Ulises Sierra on Dec. 12, 2020.
There’s something that has not been seen in any of Edgar Berlanga’s 16 professional fights: Round 2.
Sixteen fights. Sixteen knockouts within the first three minutes of action.
Berlanga, who defeated Ulises Sierra on Saturday on the undercard of Shakur Stevenson vs. Toka Kahn Clary at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, was impressive in his few minutes of work.
“When we say the phrase ‘heavy hands,’ Exhibit A is Edgar Berlanga,” Joe Tessitore said immediately following the knockout.
Berlanga swears he isn’t trying to force his knockout streak or even score stoppage victories. He insists that he is more than just raw power.
“I’m a precise fighter. I don’t throw the kitchen sink,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of skills, I’ve got poise, and I’m very precise in my shots.”
It remains to be seen just how complete a skill set he possesses. For now, the 23-year-old super middleweight is chasing the late Ali Raymi’s record of 21 consecutive first-round KOs to start a pro career. Tyrone Brunson did it in 19 consecutive fights, and the late Edwin Valero is third on the list, with 18.
As Berlanga celebrated his 16th victory, he added to his recollections of what he remembers from each of his 16 appearances.
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for clarity.
1. Jorge Pedroza
April 29, 2016, at Isla San Marcos, Mexico
Time of stoppage: 1:02
“There was actually a big, big carnival over there around that time. So there were a lot of fans that were there and stuff. It was crazy — crazy adrenaline rush for my first fight as a pro. It was amazing.
“So obviously, it was my first fight with no headgear, and when I knocked him out, it was like, ‘What the f—?’ It just happened so fast. I threw a 2-3 [right hand-left hook], and he dropped on the floor. I was like, ‘Damn.’ I just walked away, and they called it right away, and I’m like, ‘Oh s—!’ I didn’t think it was going to happen that fast.”
2. Jose Antonio Leos Nery
June 16, 2016, at Auditorio Hermanos Carreon, Mexico
Time of stoppage: 0:49
“I didn’t even know I was fighting that guy. I thought I was fighting a whole other guy, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re fighting a southpaw.’ I was like, ‘What?’ So then five minutes before we’re supposed to go in, we start practicing in the back, southpaw stuff, like the right hand, hook, and my coaches were like, ‘Just set him up, line him up with the right hand, hook,’ and I’m like, ‘Cool.’
“So the first 10 seconds of that fight, I land a right hand, hook, and I dropped him right on his bum.”
3. Jose Alberto Leal
Nov. 18, 2016, at Cancha IV Centenario, Mexico
Time of stoppage: 2:40
“He almost took me to the second round. I think it was the only fight I almost went the three minutes. It was cool. I knew I was hurting him. I thought I’d have to get him in the second, but I started connecting with crazy shots on him, and I saw it on his face that he wasn’t liking it, and I was hurting him.
“Then I landed that right hand, right on his chin, and I put him out. There were a lot of Mexicans over there rooting for him, but they loved me.”
4. Christopher Salerno
March 24, 2017, at Orlando Live Event Center, Orlando, Florida
Time of stoppage: 1:14
“That dude was talking so much crap, like, before the fight. He was DM’ing me on Instagram, on Facebook, and he made a big show at the weigh-in, too. He, like, jumped on the scale with all his clothes on and his shoes. My people wanted me to beat him up — his team, everything. It was easy work.”
5. Saadiq Muhammad
Sept. 9, 2017, at Resorts World Casino, Queens, New York
Time of stoppage: 0:41
“That one was dope. That was actually my debut in New York. I had the casino jumping for that fight. And that guy, he did, like, a whole thing, too. We had a tussle at the weigh-in, pushing and going back and forth. It spiked up the fight even more, and that fight, it actually went viral.
“He threw a jab, I slipped it, and I shot a right hand. I hit him in his temple — and he flew out the ring. I knocked him out cold in 40 seconds. They took him out in a stretcher and everything.”
6. Enrique Gallegos
Nov. 18, 2017, at Resorts World Casino, Queens, New York
Time of stoppage: 1:42
“I saw video of him, and I saw that he was tough. He’d get dropped, and he’d get up to fight. So I’m like, ‘This guy will probably take me a couple of rounds.’ But again, I connected with him, and it was over. But I really thought he was going to take me a couple of rounds. It was a right hand, hook.”
7. Jaime Barboza
Jan. 26, 2018, at SugarHouse Casino, Philadelphia
Time of stoppage: 2:42
“He fought champions like Gilberto Ramirez. He fought Spike O’ Sullivan. He fought Esquiva Falcao, a couple of guys like that, and went the distance. He went rounds with them. Me, I just felt I made a statement with that fight.
“I just wiped him out quick in the first round. I hurt him bad, too, with a body shot.”
8. Aaron Garcia
June 9, 2018, at Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, New York
Time of stoppage: 1:24
“He’s a guy that fought both of the Castano brothers [Brian and Alan, losing eight-round decisions to both]. Months before that fight, I was in Mexico, and I saw him go to war with Erickson Lubin in the gym. He did, like, 10 rounds with Erickson. I said, ‘He’s tough.’ So then I got the fight. I thought, ‘This guy will give me rounds. This is going to be a pretty good fight, man.’
“And I knocked him out. I like that one because that was on Puerto Rican Day parade weekend in New York.”
9. Gregory Clark
Sept. 29, 2018, at Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, New York
Time of stoppage: 2:29
“He was a runner. He was just running the whole fight. I hunted him down. I just pressured him and hit him in the body a lot. I wasn’t going crazy. I just did it so smooth. We got it into a tussle, and when we broke off, I hit him with a hook — boom!
“That’s when I stunned him, bad. And he started running, and I cut the ring off, and I kept cutting the ring off behind my jab, and I hit him in the body.”
10. Samir dos Santos Barbosa
April 20, 2019, at Madison Square Garden, New York
Time of stoppage: 0:46
“It was cool. I was just getting my feet wet and everything with Top Rank. I didn’t fight for, like, seven or eight months. But I wasn’t nervous at all. Brad Goodman, Top Rank’s matchmaker, asked me if I was nervous. I said, ‘Not at all.’ I was excited. It was my first fight on TV, too. So I’m like, ‘S—, I’m excited.’ I just had a point to prove.”
11. Gyorgy Varju
May 25, 2019, at Osceola Heritage Park, Kissimmee, Florida
Time of stoppage: 0:43
“That was a cool fight, too. It was all right. I swung on him with, like, a four-punch combination. That was crazy.”
12. Gregory Trenel
Aug. 10, 2019, at The Liacouras Center, Philadelphia
Time of stoppage: 2:24
“To be honest, that whole first round, I connected with so many shots, but I remember I hit him with a body shot and a hook on top, and I stumbled him bad. He had his hands up, and the ref just stepped in and called it off.”
13. Cesar Nunez
Dec. 14, 2019, at Madison Square Garden, New York
Time of stoppage: 2:45
“I really, really thought he was going to take me a couple of rounds because he just fought the guy that fought Caleb Plant [Vincent Feigenbutz], and he went eight rounds with him. A lot of people thought he’d take me four, five rounds. He was talking crap at the weigh-in and stuff. His coach, he was, like, saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to see. He’s a big baby.’ My dad was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to see.’
“A lot of people that never got hit before, they talk a lot of crap. They get punched in the face, then they understand. So when I stopped his fighter, the coach, when we were in the back, he grabbed my hand and goes, ‘What’s in these?’
“And I told him, ‘Bricks.'”
14. Eric Moon
July 21, 2020, at MGM Grand Convention Center, Las Vegas
Time of stoppage: 1:02
“It was another step-up fight for me. We prepared to go rounds, but I got him hurt and got him out of there.”
“I still have so much room to grow as a fighter. The power is there, but I will show everyone that I am a well-rounded fighter. The knockout streak is cool, but there is more to me than first-round knockouts.”
15. Lanell Bellows
Sept. 17, 2020, at MGM Grand Convention Center, Las Vegas
Time of stoppage: 1:19
Bellows had never been stopped before, let alone in the first round. But in just 79 seconds — less than he’s averaged across 15 first-round KOs — Berlanga changed that in a hurry.
“I already saw with the first shot that I cut him open, and the look in his eyes, he didn’t want to be in there from the beginning, once I got in the ring. … So I had to get him out.”
Berlanga still squeezed in a few pushups, which he said was a punishment for not doing what he and his coaches had worked on in the back before the fight.
“We were working on a combination in the back — it was a stepover, shoot the right hand over and a left uppercut, pivot, and a short left hook. I didn’t do none of that, so I had to pay [with pushups].”
16. Ulises Sierra
Dec. 12, 2020, at MGM Grand Convention Center, Las Vegas
Time of stoppage: 2:45
The talk heading into Berlanga’s 16th fight was that Sierra wasn’t like any of Berlanga’s other opponents. Not only had Sierra never been stopped, he’d been in camp with Canelo Alvarez, Andre Ward and many other top-tier boxers. He was a reliable sparring partner as they prepared, and Ward even said he was a guy who was there to the finish — meaning he was always tough.
That toughness didn’t matter.
Berlanga knocked Sierra down three times, pressuring his opponent and capitalizing when he was hurt.
“Listen, I’m none of those fighters. I’m not Canelo. I’m not Jaime Munguia. I’m none of those guys and that’s what I told him after the fight,” Berlanga said. “You in there with a real dude and we got the work done and we got here now.”
Now Berlanga turns to 2021, and he wants one thing: rounds.
“The better competition, the better opposition to fight, I believe I’ll be able to get those rounds in,” he said. “We ended 2020 with a bang. That’s what I wanted. 2021 is a big year for us. I’m looking forward to it.”
How will Berlanga react when he hears the bell for the second round of a fight? What happens when he gets extended a bit?
“I think I’ll skyrocket as I go two, three rounds,” he said. “Everyone’s going to see my skills.”
Berlanga said he regularly goes long distances in the gym with title contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. He believes he has a wide variety of tools that go far beyond the ability to punch. He wants the opportunity to go at least a few rounds in real fights to show his overall talent, but he has no intention of carrying an opponent for the sake of lengthening a bout.
Goodman also said he believes that once Berlanga starts to get extended a bit, fights might become easier for him.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of pressure off Edgar because I think he’s carrying a lot of pressure on himself with that one-round stuff,” Goodman said. “I think once that goes away, it’s going to relieve a lot of that pressure off him. He’s just going to flow naturally after that.”
Berlanga’s team, which includes the trio of Andre Rozier, Terrence Simpson and Lenny Wilson, is looking for an expanded showcase — but for a different reason. “I don’t want him to get into the realm of just being the puncher, where you can punch, and it’s the only thing you can do to be successful,” Rozier said.
Berlanga’s manager, Keith Connolly, said he’ll be taking 10-round bouts in 2021. Berlanga doesn’t care about the scheduled length. He just wants to be a star.
“I want to be that guy from Puerto Rico that fights in New York that brings out the Puerto Ricans in my hometown and Madison Square Garden,” Berlanga said. “I want to be talked about all through ESPN. I want to be that guy. I want to be that young lion that’s coming up in the super middleweight division.”