Hunting down Canelo: Berlanga states his case

Plus, Cruz on point, Japanese stars shine and new beast emerges

This article originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Substack

Rumours are floating around the sport, growing stronger, that Canelo Alvarez is ready to ditch the PBC and ply his trade elsewhere. With the Canelo lottery ticket on offer, several potential winners hover in close proximity, begging the flame-haired paymaster to pick them and bestow his life-changing riches.

Edgar Berlanga has transmogrified into the hard-punching monster of old just in time to state his case. From New York to Florida, Berlanga puts bums on seats. The early-career excitement created by a string of first-round knockouts still lingers. Belfast super-middleweight Padraig McCrory was the first man Berlanga has dispatched inside the distance since December 2020. Boy, did he need it.

Unbeaten in 18, McCrory had nine knockouts. Some questioned why the odds were so close. Asking whether Pody was quite the puncher he was made out to be. Swinging from first bell to last, the St James’ boxer showed a sturdy chin, solid fundamentals and no shortage of spirit. Opening in safety-first mode, once Edgar let the bullets fly, it was all over.

“I told Pádraig McCrory after that I was losing sleep over him as people don’t understand that Irish motherf*****s are strong”

Fidgety referee Christopher Young didn’t help the visitor’s cause. Ignoring Berlanga’s flagrant use of the elbow and penchant for punching south of McCrory’s beltline, if Young has ever given a competent display of officiating, I have yet to witness it.

Not that the winner needed a helping hand. A settled corner team, confident promoter and the once-suspect skills of reformed nutritionist ‘Memo’ Heredia have helped Berlanga rediscover his beast.

He badly needed a statement. Everyone knew this could not go the distance. The likes of Benavidez, Morrell and Munguia had nudged Berlanga aside in the race to face the undisputed king at 168. The ‘Chosen One’ now hopes Canelo chooses him.

Boxing Round-Up

Cruz controls Mexican on Florida support card

Enigmatic Cuban talent Andy Cruz has found a home for himself in Philadelphia. Boxing under the watchful eye of Bozy Ennis, Cruz continues to shed the amateur traits and become a well-rounded pro.

Promoter Eddie Hearn has been waxing lyrical about the lightweight phenom, moving him swiftly. Mexican opponent Brayan Zamarripa won’t pull up many trees, but the southpaw has proven to be a solid test just below world level. Andy cruised to a shutout decision. All that was missing was an icing-on-the-cake stoppage.

Shakhram Giyasov returned to the ring to defeat Pablo Cesar Cano via technical decision. Savvy veteran Cano hit the deck in round three from a left hook to the body. 

Spitting the mouthpiece out for an extra few seconds, he was back at it until a roll on the ankle sent matters to the cards. Giyasov was ahead, and the Uzbek now looks set to face the inactive WBA champion Eimantos Stanionis.

Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez were perfectly matched in their bantamweight eliminator for Takuma Inoue’s belt. There were knockdowns, point deductions and plenty of hurtling leather across seven rounds. 

Both threw hard shots, but Vargas’ work visibly moved Rodriguez each time. Dropped at the end of the sixth round, Rodriguez was badly hurt and correctly withdrawn by his team shortly after. 

Yankiel Rivera defeated Andy Dominguez by three identical scores of 99-91 in a flyweight battle. Dominguez was extremely game and never stopped trying to turn the tide. The Mexican, trained by Ismael Salas, was increasingly monitored by the officials as his eyes swelled up. 

That was before a right hand landed on the overconfident Rivera, who was badly hurt in round nine. A firefight ensued for the remaining minutes before Rivera used his Olympic pedigree to escape the onslaught.

Inoue the name to remember as Japanese stars shine

He may be attempting to find a place within a giant boxing shadow, but Takuma Inoue showed the world that he can box a bit too. Defending his WBA bantamweight belt, Inoue unleashed a scorching rib tickler in round nine that likely ended former world champion Jerwin Ancajas’ stint at the top. Inoue may seek to unify against…

Junto Nakatani who barely lost a minute while smashing up WBC bantamweight champ Alexandro Santiago in round six. Now a three-weight king, Nakatani seems to be hunting down Naoya Inoue. What an all-Japanese clash that would be.

Kosei Tanaka further erased the ghosts of his sole loss to Kazuto Ioka by working out Christian Bacasegua over 12 rounds. Tanaka picked up the vacant WBO strap at super-flyweight. Looking sharp, the talented Tanaka had to work Bacasegua’s body hard to slow the Mexican down. Judge Don Trella’s 116-111 total was a more accurate reflection than his counterparts’ wide margins. 

Sturdy gatekeeper Jonas Sultan succumbed to a first-round body blow at the dynamite fists of Riku Masuda.

Michigan is home for Holmes as Russian beast impresses

On Dmitry Salita’s maiden Tuesday evening card, Ardreal Holmes Jr stepped out and beat Marlon Harrington in round two. Once-beaten Harrington arrived as a puncher, but Holmes’ firepower was too much as he found range and dropped Marlon three times. Holmes retained his IBF USBA super-welterweight title.

DAZN televised this refreshing Michigan show, and Ali Izmailov laid down a marker with a fourth-round blast of Britton Norwood. Trained by John David Jackson, Izmailov is a beast who moulds himself like Artur Beterbiev. His body shots probably felt like that, too, as Norwood hit the deck and his nose split open before trainer Joel Casamayor rescued his man.

In a classic show-closer, Cameron Pankey lost his unbeaten record as 24-hour replacement opponent Juan Martinez dropped him and forced the upset over six rounds.

Media Credits: DAZN, BoxingScene.

About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 500 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: stevenwellings1982@gmail.com.


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years