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Making the Rounds: Berlanga learning from Lomachenko; Fury tired of waiting on Wilder

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·8 min read
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A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.
A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.

LAS VEGAS — Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs) doesn’t normally get much of an opportunity to improve his game during his fights.

The Brooklyn-born knockout artist, who fights Lanell Bellows on Saturday at the MGM Grand Conference Center on the undercard of the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez show, has never gone past the first round in any of his 14 bouts. He’s spent a total of 1,343 seconds in the ring as a pro, or an average of just over two minutes, 23 seconds per bout.

It’s not a lot of time to improve, but yet, each time one watches Berlanga fight, there are noticeable additions to his game.

“I’m always adding ammo and putting extra bullets into the gun,” Berlanga told Yahoo Sports during a telephone interview. “You have to get into the gym and work at it. There’s no other way.”

He’s become something of a sensation as he’s racked up all of these first-round finishes. He was expected to be pushed a bit in his last outing against Eric Moon, a veteran who entered the bout 11-2, but Berlanga finished him in just 1:02.

But a move he used in that fight — slapping Moon’s glove down and then landing a punch — came from something he saw Lomachenko do and then worked on in the gym.

“I study a lot of boxers, man, because I think it’s smart to do that to see if there is something you can use,” he said. “When you saw me pull Moon’s glove down in the first round, that was from Lomachenko. My power is different, though. Lomachenko does it, he scores a point. Me, I pull it down and then I knock you out. I’m a bigger person and I hit very hard.

“But you can learn by watching these guys. I love [Lomachenko’s] angles and so many things he does. He’s amazing, man. I pick up different things from different fighters and I grab them and make them mine. I grab things from Lomachenko. I’ve grabbed things from Floyd Mayweather and I’ve grabbed things from Andre Ward. I put them into a basket and I shake it up and whatever comes up, that’s my version of that.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14:  Edgar Berlanga punches Cesar Nunez during their super middleweight bout at Madison Square Garden on December 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Edgar Berlanga punches Cesar Nunez during their super middleweight bout at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 14, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

He’s on the verge of stardom even though he’s yet to fight a recognizable name. His social media is filled with photos of himself and celebrities, and he’s clearly living the good life already. It doesn’t hurt that his manager, Keith Connolly, is probably the best in the game and has helped him make big money already despite a middling amateur career in which he was just 23-12.

But Berlanga said he works hard to keep his head on straight and life in perspective. Celebrities are reaching out to him, he says, and he’s also controlling his spending.

“Everybody wants to be around a winner and so as I have gotten some attention, a lot of people have come around and reached out and gotten on board the bandwagon,” he said. “I’m just a Puerto Rican kid from New York out there doing my thing, knocking people out. It’s important for me, as I get this attention and everything that is happening, to remain humble and to show kids that there is a way out.

“I want to also show my growth, not only as a fighter but as a person. I want to show them I’m a role model and I got where I am by working hard, staying humble and living below my means. I have a great team behind me with no leeches or no one who is in it for themselves. I’m able to focus on being the best I can be without worrying about anything else.”

Wilder out in the cold

Top Rank’s Bob Arum said that WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury got tired of waiting for a third fight with Deontay Wilder to be put together and has moved on. Fury is looking to fight someone in early December in what would be a stay-busy bout, then take on unified champion Anthony Joshua early next year.

That leaves Wilder on the outside looking in unless his management team can pull a rabbit out of its hat.

It’s probably not all that bad of a thing for Wilder, who can use the time in the gym to get better.

Former unified champion Andy Ruiz Jr. had been mentioned for a fight with Chris Arreola, but he’d make a perfect opponent for Wilder while he waits to get back to Fury or Joshua.

It would also be an appealing fight for Ruiz, who could use a win over a big-name opponent like Wilder to keep himself in contention for another title shot.

In the short run, the biggest loser in seeing Wilder-Fury III go away is the city of Las Vegas. There were ongoing talks to bring the fight to Allegiant Stadium, with fans in the stands. The city needs large events like that, as it has suffered greatly since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Navarrete impressive in title-winning effort

Count me as a fan of Emanuel Navarrete, who on Friday at the MGM outpointed Ruben Villa to become the WBO featherweight champion, his second title in as many weight classes.

He’s got his flaws — more than most elite fighters — but he’s the kind of guy who is always on the prowl, always moving forward, always throwing punches.

He’s going to struggle against a fighter like Shakur Stevenson, who had vacated the title Navarrete won and is quick and hits hard. Villa is a superb boxer, though, and Navarrete largely controlled him.

He’s a fun guy to watch and as he moves up in competition, he’ll produce some fireworks.

Lomachenko-Lopez undercard will be on ESPN

The undercard of the Lomachenko-Lopez fight will now be on ESPN (joined in progress) as well as streamed on ESPN+, an ESPN spokeswoman confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

Wednesday’s pre-fight news conference will be live in primetime on ESPN2, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

RIP to the great Ricardo Jimenez

His name isn’t well known to most boxing fans, but for those of us who cover the sport for a living, Ricardo Jimenez was a must-have in the Rolodex. He was a longtime boxing writer for La Opinión, the Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles, and then transferred to boxing PR, building a reputation with Top Rank as one of the best in the business.

Jimenez, who was as kind and gentle as he was talented and hard-working, died Sunday of a stroke. He suffered with diabetes that had plagued him badly in recent years.

He was a trusted confidante for many of the Mexican and Mexican American fighters that Top Rank promoted in the late 1990s and in this century. Media loved him because he was fair and accessible and always willing to help. I’m tearing up as I write this, because he was such a close friend and wonderful father.

He was also the best at interpreting for the fighters. There was one prominent manager who would translate for his fighters, but he was known to interject his own feelings into his fighters’ comments. So when this manager, who shall go unnamed, would be interpreting, Jimenez would find me and stand behind me and whisper the correct interpretation to me.

He believed it was important that the fighters’ words got out as they said them, and he did that even if occasionally they were critical of Top Rank.

As good as Jimenez was at his job, though, he was a better person. I sat next to him when he was a reporter at scores of fights, and learned first-hand what a decent, honorable man he was.

He’s going to be terribly missed by all who knew him, as the outpouring of affection for him from the boxing community on social media proves.

Descansa en paz, amigo mío.

He said it

“[Vasiliy] Lomachenko is the WBC lightweight champion. He won [the title] and petitioned for the ‘franchise’ designation. The franchise is put above any champion in the lightweight category. So, Lomachenko is in fact champion with special attributes. He doesn’t have to face the mandatories that normally come when you win a vacant title. He was named franchise and he could go ahead and make this fight with Teofimo Lopez.” — WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman on a Zoom conference call with reporters on Monday, including Yahoo Sports. Devin Haney holds the WBC lightweight belt and will defend it against Yuriorkis Gamboa on Nov. 7.

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