Trainer happy with Edgar Berlanga's KO streak: 'There's no overtime in boxing'

Trainer happy with Edgar Berlanga's KO streak: 'There's no overtime in boxing'

“There’s no overtime in boxing.”

That is an axiom that Andre Rozier has drilled into the boxers under his charge, from world champions to youngsters just learning the ropes. The Brooklyn-based trainer wants his fighters to get the job done inside the ring, smartly and efficiently, and get out of there. Engage in all-out war with an opponent, he tells them, and your added payoff is nothing but unnecessarily sustained damage.

“I work with my guys to be ring assassins,” Rozier said. “When you get somebody in trouble, it’s time for him to go.”

No fighter in Rozier’s stable — or perhaps any trainer’s stable — embraces that philosophy quite like Edgar Berlanga. The 23-year-old super middleweight has fought 16 professional matches and has won them all, scoring first-round knockouts every single time.

Berlanga can add to his streak when he faces Demond Nicholson on Saturday in Kissimmee, Florida, in the co-feature bout of WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete’s title defense against Christopher Diaz (10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+). If Berlanga scores another first-round KO, he will have the fourth-longest run ever to begin a pro career, with boxing history within reach. Junior flyweights Ali Raymi, who died in 2015 at the age of 41, owns the record with first-round knockouts in his first 21 bouts, followed by junior middleweight Tyrone Brunson with 19 and the late two-division champion Edwin Valero with 18.

For Berlanga, though, the focus this weekend will be on simply achieving victory No. 17, not on extending his streak. He’ll be looking to once again show off his lethal efficiency and get a KO, but he’s not concerned about when the finish will come.

“I don’t try to knock these guys out in the first round,” Berlanga said. “I box the right way. I place my shots. I use my feet. I use my mind. A guy throws a f—ing lazy jab, I time it, I slip it and I throw a right hand and I’m knocking him out.

“It’s not my fault that I’ve got heavy hands.”

Should those sledgehammers not end the night within the first three minutes, Berlanga and Rozier will get to experience a first. The fighter will get 60 seconds on the stool, and the trainer will get 60 seconds in the classroom.

“As a trainer, I am a teacher,” said Rozier, who has trained several world champs, from Luis Colazzo to Daniel Jacobs. “In the gym, I’m teaching all of the physical and mental aspects of boxing. And in the corner on fight night, I’m basically a calm, cool, collected individual administering the information. So if Edgar does go past the first round, it won’t be an issue. Now it’s time for me to do what I do best.”

“People always ask me, ‘What happens when Edgar gets taken to Round 2?’ And I say, ‘What happens in Round 2 is what happened in Round 1. We will win each round as it goes by.'”

Andre Rozier

Berlanga knows the first word he’ll hear from Rozier if and when he returns to the corner with a bout still in progress after Round 1.

“Focus,” the fighter said. “He’ll tell me to remain focused and keep doing what we’ve been working on. ‘Let’s focus on Round 2. The first-round stuff is over. Stay focused.'”

“Exactly,” Rozier said with a laugh. “Word for word. People always ask me, ‘What happens when Edgar gets taken to Round 2?’ And I say, ‘What happens in Round 2 is what happened in Round 1. We will win each round as it goes by.'”

Former two-division world champion and current ESPN boxing analyst Timothy Bradley Jr., believes Berlanga is the real deal and that he’s more than just a big puncher.

“Berlanga, I think he’s special,” said Bradley. “We haven’t seen much, with him never going past the first round, but if I was a betting man, and needed to put some money down on a fighter based on his future in potential who I think that could be the next real thing, I wouldn’t mind putting some change down on a guy like Berlanga.”

But can he continue the KO streak against Nicholson?

“The problem with a lot of guys that get in the ring with Berlanga is that, because of the hype that’s around him, they come into the fight already beat mentally, before they even step foot in the ring,” Bradley said. “So in knowing Nicholson and knowing the way this guy is and knowing that he’s pretty tough mentally, I would think, that’s a different kind of challenge.

“It’s hard for me to not predict that this fight goes either one or two rounds, though. Berlanga has the kind of devastating punching power that we haven’t seen in years, maybe since Mike Tyson. His last fight, against Ulises Sierra, that guy was supposed to last and go the distance. He spared against Canelo Alvarez and several other top fighters out there, but Berlanga was still able to get him up out of there before the first round bell rang.”

Berlanga actually sees an upside in fighting past one round. While he wholly endorses his trainer’s objective to get him in and out of the ring as efficiently and damage-free as possible, the young fighter believes more respect will come to his name once he gets to show fans the many dimensions of his skill set. His timing and precision. His footwork. His head movement. His punch combinations.

“You’re going to see a beautiful jab,” Berlanga said, “because that’s what we’ve been focusing on this whole camp, to try to throw a minimum of 30 jabs a round.”

Rozier has worked with Berlanga for nearly two years but has known him since he was 8. Rozier believes he has his fighter primed to show off his skills, whether in another one-round fight or in a bout that goes longer. What he asks of Berlanga is what he asks of all his boxers. “Be sharp and be entertaining,” Rozier said. “People are paying to see you perform. It’s a brutal performance, but it’s a performance nonetheless.”

It doesn’t take much to let out the performer in Berlanga. He views Nicholson (23-3-1, 20 KOs), a 28-year-old from Baltimore, as a step up in competition. But that just fuels his drive to take another step forward in his career while putting on a show.

“I am going to shine,” Berlanga said, “like the bright star I am.”

For however long it lasts.