Boxing

Edgar Berlanga’s first-round KO streak ends, but his unbeaten record is still intact

  • ESPN Staff Writer
  • Previously a college football writer for The Dallas Morning News
  • University of North Texas graduate

It had to end eventually.

At some point in Edgar Berlanga’s pro career, he wasn’t going to finish his opponent in the first three minutes. Not only did Berlanga’s streak of first-round knockouts end on Saturday night against Demond Nicholson, but Berlanga’s opponent somehow found himself standing at the end of the fight.

Berlanga (17-0, 16 KOs), 23, of Brooklyn, New York, knocked Nicholson down four times — including one in the final seconds of the fight — but couldn’t get a stoppage in a 79-68, 79-69, 79-69 unanimous decision victory at the Silver Spurs Arena on Kissimmee, Florida, on Saturday.

“It’s kind of f—ed up that I had to go those rounds with the people here,” Berlanga said in his postfight interview on ESPN. “I know that they wanted a first-round knockout. But I enjoyed getting the experience.”

Entering his bout on the Emanuel Navarrete-Christopher Diaz undercard, Berlanga had knocked out all 16 of his previous opponents in the first round. Nicholson (23-4-1, 20 KOs), 28, of Laurel, Maryland, became the first to make it back to his corner.

Nicholson met Berlanga’s power early after knockdowns in the second and third round, albeit the latter occurrence a questionable ruling by referee Emil Lombardi. But the veteran Nicholson steadied himself beneath his wide stance and even found success at times against Berlanga.

Berlanga capped his performance with a short right hook that floored Nicholson with 13 seconds left in the fight, the punch easily being his hardest of the night. Nicholson wobbled on his feet as he made the count but was steady enough for the ref to allow Nicholson to make it to the final bell.

“I wanted to get him out,” Berlanga said. “But I didn’t. But listen, I got the experience.”

Vargas dominates Shaw for unanimous decision win

For a few moments, Josue Vargas appeared to be staring at a massive upset. In the first round of his junior welterweight bout against Willie Shaw, Vargas’ knees buckled in the corner as Shaw looked to pick up a surprise knockdown or even a stoppage. Instead, Vargas rallied. And while he was stunned once more, Vargas was too much for Shaw in what was ultimately judged a unanimous decision by scores of a 98-92, 99-91 and 99-91. It was Vargas’ 13th consecutive victory.

Vargas (19-1, 9 KOs), 22, of Bronx, New York, was more compact than Shaw (13-3, 9 KOs), 28, of Oakland, California, who had a much longer frame and threw punches from awkward angles. While that was effective for Shaw at times, it wasn’t enough to put Vargas on the canvas. After the early blip, Vargas utilized his technique and a ripping body attack to keep Shaw from inflicting too much punishment in coasting to victory.

Adorno, Ortiz draw in exciting brawl

Joseph Adorno and Jamaine Ortiz turned in one of the best fights in boxing that we’ve seen in recent months. Ortiz controlled most of the bout, but he was knocked down twice — balancing out the scorecards enough for the fight to end in a majority draw. One judge had Ortiz winning 76-74, while the other two judges had it 75 even.

Ortiz (14-0-1, 8 KOs), 24, of Worcester, Massachusetts, battled a busted nose that leaked blood for most of the fight. He also had to overcome a second-round knockdown that came off a glancing left hook that landed behind his head.

The second knockdown was much more dangerous. With Adorno (14-0-2, 12 KOs), 21, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, needing a big punch to stay in the fight, he landed a big uppercut that appeared to knock Ortiz out on this feet. However, Ortiz fell directly into the ropes, which garnered him the eight-count he needed to continue the fight.

Ortiz won the eighth round on all three scorecards to avoid the loss. He threw a fight-high 83 punches in Round 8, according to CompuBox, and landed 41.4% of his power shots.

Gonzalez earns victory over a game Lopez

There were plenty of punches and in-ring banter between Orlando Gonzalez and Juan Antonio Lopez, but Gonzalez was ultimately able to withstand a very game Lopez to pick up a 79-73, 79-73, 78-74 unanimous decision victory in their eight-round lightweight bout.

Gonzalez had to earn that victory, though. Lopez (15-9, 6 KOs), 27, of Fort Worth, Texas, walked through Gonzalez’s power shots for most of the fight and often verbally asked for more. Gonzalez (17-0, 10 KOs), 25, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was thrilled to oblige, and in the final round, he opened a big cut beneath Lopez’s right eye.

But the undefeated prospect didn’t come away unscathed. Gonzalez sported a cut of his own beneath his right eye by the time the fight was over, a visible sign that Lopez fought much better than his record indicated.

Zayas displays power in TKO win over Layton

Xander Zayas continued to build momentum early in his pro career with a quick TKO victory on Saturday, as he stopped Demarcus Layton with a first-minute TKO in their welterweight bout.

The two men exchanged punches in the opening seconds, and Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs), 18, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, caught Layton (8-2-1, 5 KOs), 29, of Little Rock, Arkansas, with a big left hook that sent Layton into the corner. After Zayas hurt Layton, the rising prospect continued his barrage of punches until another left hook floored Layton. The referee waved off the fight after he deemed Layton was too damaged to continue.

Zayas celebrated the victory by jumping on the ropes and screaming at the fans in attendance.

“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. Doing it here in Kissimmee, in front of my Puerto Rican fans, was memorable. First-round knockout, what else can I ask for?”

Adorno gets decision over Martinez

Junior featherweight prospect Jeremy Adorno had a couple of wobbles along the way, but he was convincing enough to earn a majority decision victory over Ramiro Martinez by scores of 40-36, 39-37, 38-38. Adorno, 20, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, traded punches with Martinez (2-1-2, 1 KOs), 22, of Hurst, Texas, but asserted himself throughout the fight.

Adorno got caught with a straight left in the fourth round as Martinez looked for power shots in the closing minutes. However, Adorno settled down to pick up the victory at the end of four rounds.

Gomez demolishes Villegas in one round

Junior lightweight Jaycob Gomez set the tone for Saturday’s card with a quick first-round knockout of Mobley Villegas. Gomez (2-0, 2 KOs), 19, of Caguas, Puerto Rico, was clearly superior to Villegas from the opening bell. He dropped Villegas, 28, of Amarillo, Texas, twice, with the second knockdown coming after a barrage while Villegas was on the ropes. Villegas wisely opted not to get up for the 10-count with just 22 seconds left in the opening round.

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