NEW YORK – Edgar Berlanga went the distance again Saturday night.
Unlike his unanimous-decision victory over Steve Rolls nearly three months ago, though, this time the popular Puerto Rican super middleweight went 10 hard rounds against a dangerous puncher that kept him honest right up until the final bell sounded in the main event of a nine-fight card at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
The scorecards indicated their fight wasn’t as competitive as it seemed. Judges Ken Ezzo (99-91) and Don Trella (99-91) gave Berlanga nine rounds apiece and Bernard Bruni credited the unbeaten Brooklyn native for winning eight rounds (98-92).
Nevertheless, Berlanga’s victory thoroughly pleased a predominantly Puerto Rican crowd of 4,357 the night before the 65th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan.
“Everybody wanted a knockout, but I felt like this is my best performance yet,” Berlanga told a group of reporters after his 20th win. “You know, I think this was better than all the knockouts. You know, I really showed my skill against a rough, tough opponent. He almost went the distance with [David] Benavidez. He went the distance with [Gilberto] Ramirez and he beat Anthony Sims. And he’s just a tough fighter, so I knew that, you know, my skills was gonna take a big part in this.”
Berlanga also admitted to attempting to bite Angulo in a clinch early in the seventh round.
“He kept throwing elbows and, you know, head-butted me and stuff,” Berlanga said. “So, I was telling him like, ‘Yo, chill!’ You know, like I didn’t wanna get cut or anything. But I don’t know – I just got aggressive in there, Mike Tyson style. You know? I got a little carried away.”
Referee Ricky Gonzalez didn’t seem to notice Berlanga’s bite attempt because he was attempting to separate them from the opposite side from where Berlanga buried his mouth into Angulo’s left shoulder.
His attempted bite was the most memorable moment of their bout, but Berlanga worked well off his jab at times and landed his fair share of power punches on the older, slower Angulo.
CompuBox counted 29 more punches overall for Berlanga (108-of-423 to 79-of-354). Berlanga was credited for landing 38 more jabs (50-of-261 to 12-of-123), but Angulo landed nine more power punches (67-of-231 to 58-of-162).
Berlanga (20-0, 16 KOs), who went off as more than a 3-1 favorite, won a fourth straight fight on points. Before he defeated Angulo, he scored consecutive unanimous-decision wins over Demond Nicholson, Marcelo Coceres and Rolls.
The 25-year-old Balanga generated buzz that has since dissipated by recording 16 straight first-round knockouts to start his career.
The 38-year-old Angulo (27-3, 23 KOs) lost for the second time on points in his 11-year career. Mexico’s Ramirez (44-0, 30 KOs), then the WBO super middleweight champion, soundly defeated him unanimously in a 12-round title fight in June 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
In between his points losses, Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs), a former WBC super middleweight champ, stopped Angulo after 10 one-sided rounds in August 2020 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Despite the lopsided decision, the tension lasted all the way until the final bell sounded in this back-and-forth 10-rounder.
Berlanga briefly thought he hurt Angulo with a left hook that connected with approximately 1:15 to go in the 10th round. Angulo drilled Berlanga with a right hand several seconds before the final bell sounded.
Berlanga bled from a cut around his right eye during the final round as well.
Angulo and Berlanga engaged in an entertaining exchange during the middle minute of the ninth round. Both boxers landed solid shots during that stretch.
Angulo blasted Berlanga with a left hand to the side of his head with about 20 seconds to go in the ninth round.
Berlanga caught Angulo with a left-right combination 1:20 into the eighth round. Berlanga landed a right hand to the top of Angulo’s head with just under a minute remaining in what was a strong eighth round for Berlanga.
With just under a minute to go in the seventh round, Angulo clipped Berlanga with a right hand as Berlanga moved into the ropes. Berlanga landed a right hand of his own near a neutral corner toward the end of the seventh round, but Angulo quickly connected with a right hand as Berlanga tried to move away from him.
Gonzalez warned Angulo for hitting Berlanga when he called for a break about 30 seconds into the seventh round. That was the same sequence in which Berlanga attempted to bite Angulo.
Berlanga went back to working off his jab in the opening minute of the sixth round. Angulo caught Berlanga with a left hook as Berlanga backed up just before the midway mark of the sixth round.
About 30 seconds later, Angulo backed Berlanga toward a neutral corner and landed a right uppercut as Berlanga tried to spin away from him.
Berlanga knocked Angulo off balance with a left hook barely a minute into the fifth round. Angulo pressured him for much of the remainder of the fifth round, but Berlanga caught Angulo with a right uppercut as he pressed forward toward the end of it.
Angulo landed a right hand that got Berlanga’s attention just before the midway mark of the fourth round. Berlanga oddly turned toward Gonzalez to complain about an Angulo foul right after absorbing that punch, but Angulo didn’t capitalize on Berlanga’s lapse in concentration.
Berlanga blasted Angulo with a right hand that snapped Angulo’s head back with about 15 seconds to go in the fourth round. Gonzalez warned Berlanga for a low blow 30 seconds into the fourth round.
Berlanga connected with a left hook just after the halfway point of the third round. Angulo backed Berlanga into the ropes in the final minute of the third round and landed a right uppercut.
Angulo went to an empty neutral corner after the bell sounded to end the third round. He laughed after he turned to walk toward Berlanga’s corner before he finally headed in the right direction.
Berlanga and Angulo traded right hands about 40 seconds into the second round. Berlanga knocked Angulo off balance with a right hand several seconds after the second round ended.
Angulo attacked Berlanga early in the first round, but Berlanga blocked most of his attempts. Berlanga landed a hard left to Angulo’s body during an exchange just afer the midway mark of the first round.
Berlanga also landed a left hook to Angulo’s head with just over a minute to go in the opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.