Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Berlanga needs to start living up to the hype ahead of new era at 168lbs

Saturday’s fight with Jason Quigley at the theatre at Madison Square Garden is set up for Edgar Berlanga to look the part. 

Quigley’s been in with some decent fighters, but he’s always come up short. Quigley at his best wasn’t a world-beater, but at this point he’s a little past his best. Despite having a name through being in with some very good fighters he’s also not a natural super middleweight.

If Berlanga can win and perform like he did earlier in his career – if he has the ability he once suggested, and he fights naturally instead of trying too hard – he’ll again be very marketable. Quigley’s also the profile and style of opponent who can help get people talking about him again –  sometimes it can be that simple.

Fighters of Puerto Rican descent fighting out of New York always prove very marketable. New York still has a big Puerto Rican population – there’s a reason why Hector Camacho, Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto were fan favourites there. For a period Berlanga looked like being their successor – and he still can be. But if he is – and there’s a void that needs filling; the transition from Camacho to Trinidad to Cotto was fluid until Cotto retired – he has to start by making his next performance count.

The Irish population in New York, going back to the times of fighters like Tony Zale, can also make fights of this nature fun. Like with last year’s fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, the supporters of both can provide a really worthwhile blend.

Saturday’s fight is also Berlanga’s first under Matchroom. His previous promoters, Top Rank, looked like they’d run out of ideas for him. He wasn’t yet looking good enough to match with a world-class fighter, but he was still undefeated and required progressing. Promotionally and in the context of the broadcasters he is working with this may be a new beginning for him, but it looks a lateral move, which is another reason he needs to impress.

Paulie's Picks: Berlanga needs to start living up to the hype ahead of new era at 168lbs
Melina Pizano/Matchroom Boxing

Earlier in his career Berlanga looked exciting, but when somebody’s knocking all of his opponents out in the first round there’s always questions about how he’ll perform against an opponent capable of lasting. Edwin Valero lived up to the hype – he was a monster. I’m picturing another fighter who started his career similarly but I can’t even remember his name because he didn’t go anywhere.

Sometimes that type of knockout ratio is a reflection of the level of opposition. Sometimes it’s a reflection of a fighter’s power. Sometimes it’s a reflection of both. But to succeed at the highest level you need to be capable of more than knocking opponents out in the first round, and the time comes when a fighter needs to show more, which is where Berlanga was previously challenged. At a time when we’re still unsure about his potential, if he struggles against Quigley we’ll have our answer.

He’s been spoken about as an opponent for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but at this point no one would be interested in seeing that. But if he’s really impressive this weekend, and really impressive in winning another fight, as a Puerto Rican in New York he can find himself right at the top of the list of potential opponents. 

Another fighter competing for that position is Jaime Munguia, who was lucky recently to get the decision against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. It was a good fight – very entertaining – that would make for a good rematch, but I can’t see a rematch being made. 

A win over a world-class opponent like Munguia is the type Berlanga would need if he impresses against Quigley. I don’t get the impression Canelo’s interested in fighting Munguia, but the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry might one day tempt him to fight Berlanga – as long as Canelo keeps winning. 

I’m still hoping the potential fight between David Benavidez and David Morrell is going to be made, because that would also be a good fight. Both are world-class fighters. If they all start fighting each other we could even enter a new era at 168lbs.