For 16 consecutive fights to open his career, nobody could last a full round with Edgar Berlanga. His shocking finishing power and record-setting run of first-round knockouts established Berlanga as a top prospect in the sport. The hype has slowed somewhat after two decision victories, one of which saw Berlanga hit the canvas, but he returns to the ring on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) looking to remain unbeaten and show his power once again when he faces Steve Rolls in a super middleweight clash at New York's famed Madison Square Garden.
The fight with Rolls is Berlanga's first time stepping into the main event and first fight back after surgery to repair a torn bicep. That injury came in his most recent fight, an October 2021 clash with Marcelo Coceres that saw Berlanga struggle badly before Coceres scored a ninth-round knockdown.
Coceres knocks down Berlanga and continued to bring the 🔥🔥 at the end of RD9!#FuryWilder3 | TONIGHT | Buy PPV: https://t.co/Oz3QzMA9pP pic.twitter.com/pHa5inMgDz— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) October 10, 2021
Berlanga (18-0, 16 KO) picked himself up off the canvas and finished off the fight winning a decision by scores of 96-93 across the board. That was the second consecutive fight where Berlanga was forced to go the distance after his run of first-round knockouts, with Demond Nicholson having also made it the distance, though Berlanga scored four knockdowns against the durable Nicholson.
Now, with his surgically repaired bicep, Berlanga will step into the ring with Rolls (21-1, 12 KO), a solid veteran whose lone loss came against Gennady Golovkin by fourth-round stoppage. Aside from that bout with one of the best fighters of the era, Rolls has been solid throughout his career, though he was only able to edge out a split decision win over Nicholson.
Since the Golovkin loss, Rolls has picked up two TKO victories, most recently stopping Christopher Brooker on the undercard of Artur Beterbiev vs. Marcus Browne in December.
Super Middleweight Steve Rolls earns KO No. 12 at home in 🇨🇦💪#BeterbievBrowne | LIVE on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/9tHQqBhx06— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) December 18, 2021
At 37 years old, if Rolls is hoping for another shot at a major fight, he's going to have to pull off the big upset against Berlanga on Saturday night.
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Below is the complete fight card for Saturday night in New York along with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we make a prediction on the main event.
Berlanga vs. Rolls card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Edgar Berlanga -1600
Steve Rolls +900
John Bauza -1500
Tony Luis +850
Xander Zayas -2200
Quincy LaVallais +1100
Henry Lebron -2200
Josec Ruiz +1100
It was never fair to expect Berlanga to keep knocking fighters out in the first round. That said, the Coceres fight certainly stands out as a big red flag. Berlanga's struggles were more than just the one knockdown he suffered. Coceres caught him flush many times throughout and made Berlanga look uncomfortable for much of the fight. Still, Berlanga was battling a torn bicep in the fight, something that would certainly unsettle any young fighter whose game is based around throwing with the level of power he relies on.
Rolls is not a bad fighter. He is, however, the kind of fighter who fits a specific role. He's good enough to beat club-level fighters and other middling talents to earn a crack or two at big featured fights where he then is outclassed by fighters a tier or two higher than him. That is likely what happens here, with Berlanga being younger, stronger and more dangerous, as long as he doesn't leave the same wide openings in his defense that allowed Coceres to get in cleanly. Pick: Edgar Berlanga via TKO6