Interview by: K.G. Graham

Words by: Chris Panayiotou

Undefeated super middleweight boxer Edgar Berlanga is approaching his 20-year mark in the sport next year, and he’s only 26. Insightful beyond his years, he spoke on his upbringing, the discipline he’s had to have to get to where he is, his views on boxing and its dangers, and life after retirement. 

Edgar grew up all over New York City, but boxing has taken him all over the country. He was first introduced to the sport at seven years of age by his father, who had just come home from serving seven and a half years for shooting two people when Edgar was two days old. When he came home, “My mom was on him. Like, ‘Yo, we got to do something with him, this kid is crazy,’” Edgar says. “I had mad energy, going crazy in school, outside, I always wanted to be outside playing, and he was like, ‘Aight, we’ll see what’s up.’ His boy was training kids; one day we stopped by the gym. He he’s like, ‘Yo, you want to try boxing?’ I was like, ‘Oh, really? Yeah.’” And from there, he was in the boxing gym twice a week.  

Coming from a family enamored with boxing, it was almost inevitable that he would find the sport, but he began playing baseball in the projects before he ever picked up the gloves. “I was on the 16th floor, so my window, I could see everything that’s going on,” he says. “So I used to just always look out my window and just see the kids playing baseball and kickball and stuff, but mostly baseball. And that’s when I fell in love with baseball. Then Pops came home, went to boxing, and we just took off from there.” He shined as a baseball player, splitting time between the sports and believes had he not switched his focus, he’d be a Major Leaguer today. At some point along the way, he lost his love for baseball though, and it was all boxing from there. He does jokingly acknowledge that Major League Baseball contracts would have been nice. 

“When I was young, man, I loved boxing, but I hated it at the same time. I hated it, that I had to train. You know, I’m young, I want to, especially summertime, I want to go on vacations. I want to go to water parks and stuff and, you know, family vacations. And I couldn’t make it because I had a tournament or I had to go to the gym,” he recalls. “From seven to 10, my dad was on me, and then my dad wound up getting locked up again. He went away for four years. So when he went away, that’s when I was tight. I got real tight. I was like, ‘Damn, bro, this dude just left me again.’” Edgar continued to box during this time, but he wasn’t nearly as consistent, he was missing days at the gym, and running around the projects with his clique, fighting in the streets. His dad would call him from prison and urge him to keep training, and he would, but it wasn’t until his dad came home that he really locked back in on boxing. Having picked up basketball during his dad’s second prison stint, he began to dream of the NBA. “My dad was like, ‘Yo, bro, you going to be the LeBron James, the Kobe Bryant, the Carmelo Anthony, you’re going to be that, but you’re going to be that in boxing … let’s just stick with boxing’. I was like, ‘All right, fuck it.’ And from right there, from 15, it was over. Like, right there, I was like, ‘Yo, we could definitely do something with this.’ I seen all the guys, like all the pros, making crazy paper, living the life. I’m like, ‘Damn.’” 

The “crazy paper” came, but not right away though, as Edgar began his professional career with three fights in Mexico, earning only $1,000 each fight. He would then go to $4,000 per fight, then to $10,000. It was then that he signed with his manager and those fights turned into $60,000 and then into $300,000, and the purses continue to grow. “In boxing, you have to have a really good manager,” Edgar says. “For me, I have the best manager in boxing right now. And he gets you that bag. So he definitely changed my life … I tell him all the time, ‘You have my loyalty ‘til I hit that casket,’ because he put me to live a lifestyle that I never thought I’d be able to live. And he gave me a lifestyle where I can invest my money to make more money. And I feel like that’s just the biggest blessing a person could do for you.” Aside from his own talent, he attributes his success to his team, of course his manager, and his promoter. 

At this stage in his life, he is ahead of where most 26-year-olds are, as he has his mind on investing. He’s eyeing stocks, he’s bought a house in Tampa, where he trains and plans to move his family, but his primary focus, outside of boxing, is a tow truck business he’s building with his father. His family also has property in Puerto Rico, including a pair of AirBNBs, and a 10-bedroom house near the beach that they’re working on for short term rentals. He’s setting himself up to win outside of the sport. 

“I’m afraid to lose, man,” he admits, “When I’m training, that’s always in the back of my head. It’s like me taking a L, I feel like I’m the most hated. Like I’m super-duper most hated … I got so much haters, bro, and I got people out here that act like they my homies and they not. There’s so much hate, so that’s why I’m scared to lose, cause it’s like if I lose, I know I’m gonna get shitted on, I know people are going to turn their back on me and stuff, and I know the game too.” He knows that if he were to take an L, it’d have to be at the top of the sport, so that he could bounce back into another big fight or another title fight. “I just always put it in the back of my head, like, ‘I can’t lose, I can’t lose. I can’t lose.’” At 21-0, starting his career with 16 consecutive first round knockouts, so far, he can’t lose. 

Edgar understands the dangers of his profession, and aside from losing, his other biggest fear is his health, not being able to enjoy his life after boxing, or enjoy his family because he’s become so impaired from the punishment he’s taken. “I want to make my mark, make the bag, become champ, and just finish this score fresh, man. And if I could do commentating or just still stay in the sport as a promoter, and start promoting these young fighters, that’s something I want to do,” he says. “I look up to Floyd Mayweather a lot, because of that. I feel like he got the whole blueprint for us. He came out there and he made the bag, came out healthy, one of the biggest athletes in the world, and he’s healthy, man, and I feel like that’s the way to do it.” 

Edgar’s Puerto Rican heritage is near and dear to him, from his early days boxing in his Puerto Rican trunks, to walking in the Puerto Rican Day parade as a child, to his love of Fat Joe’s music (who is a close friend and mentor). He’s been repping PR since as far back as he can remember, and he doesn’t like seeing fighters have success and then begin repping their heritage. And although Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans from New York) are often not viewed the same as those from the island, his experience has been different. “With me it was like it was open arms,” he says. “Like they just like said, ‘Yo, come. Yeah, you us.’” He admits that his Spanish isn’t great, but because he reps the flag harder than many islanders, and they respect him for it and show him love.  

In the future, Edgar wants to become champ, probably next year, and make good money doing it. He feels like he’s ready for the big fights, he has the following and can draw the fans. Aside from a fight in December, there has been talk swirling about a potential fight against Canelo Álvarez, possibly in May. Until then he’s working hard and staying focused and disciplined by keeping God first and constantly working on his craft. How can you not COSIGN that?

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