NEW YORK – There were times when Bob Arum and his matchmakers were worried Miguel Cotto wouldn’t develop into what he became.
Troublesome moments along the way could’ve prevented a then-unbeaten Cotto from becoming the great gate attraction he was at Madison Square Garden. There was the time DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley wobbled Cotto early in the third round of a fight Cotto won by fifth-round technical knockout in February 2005, which directly led to the Puerto Rican icon headlining at The Garden for the first time in June 2005.
Two-and-a-half years later, Colombian knockout artist Ricardo Torres dropped Cotto in the second round and hurt him badly during the fifth round of a spectacular slugfest. Cotto came back to knock out Torres in the seventh round of their September 2007 fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The popular Cotto headlined 10 shows overall at Madison Square Garden during his celebrated career. Five of those cards came on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan, which helped draw huge crowds to the self-proclaimed “Mecca Of Boxing.”
Arum and his brain trust at Top Rank Inc. have comparable hopes for Edgar Berlanga, the hard-hitting Puerto Rican super middleweight who will headline his first show at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Saturday night. If Berlanga beats Toronto’s Steve Rolls in their 10-round main event and leaves the ring unscathed, he’ll be the ‘A’ side of another main event at Hulu Theater on June 11, the night before the 2022 National Puerto Rican Day Parade in his hometown of New York.
The 90-year-old Arum looks at Berlanga’s struggles against Argentina’s Marcelo Coceres in his most recent bout like Cotto’s aforementioned missteps.
“We went through this with Cotto,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “And there were moments where our hearts were in our throats. I mean, Cotto got knocked down in a few of the fights, but he always had the wherewithal and the stamina to get up and beat his guy. And he was one of the greats of that era. Will Berlanga be his equal or exceed Cotto? That remains to be seen. We never know. Everything else is bullsh*t. If people think they really know, they don’t know. It’s like a kid could be real smart in elementary school. Does that mean he’s gonna get a PhD? Well, not necessarily, right?”
Hardcore boxing fans definitely will take issue with Arum comparing the unproven Berlanga to the battle-tested, legendary Cotto, who won world titles in four weight classes and made millions in numerous high-profile, unforgettable fights.
The 24-year-old Berlanga has, however, attracted mainstream attention from famous entertainers, most notably rapper “Fat Joe” and comedian Tracy Morgan. Knocking out each of his first 16 pro opponents in the first round earned him notoriety among boxing fans as well.
Berlanga (18-0, 16 KOs) has plenty of questions to answer, though, after his 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Coceres (30-3-1, 16 KOs). He suffered a torn left biceps in the third round of their bout, but Berlanga fought through that injury, got up from a flash knockdown late in the ninth round and beat Coceres by the identical score of 96-93 on all three cards October 9 on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Caesars Sportsbook has made Berlanga a 16-1 favorite to beat Rolls (21-1, 12 KOs) in a main event ESPN will televise as part of a three-bout broadcast set to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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