NEW YORK – Edgar Berlanga threatened to end his knockout drought with less than a minute to go in his first fight in more than a year.

Ireland’s Jason Quigley was able to survive the late surge and four knockdowns to make it to the bell, albeit in a lopsided defeat. Berlanga went the distance for the fifth straight time but walked away with a landside unanimous decision victory.

Scores of 116-108, 116-108 and 118-106 all went to Brooklyn’s Berlanga in their DAZN-aired super middleweight bout Saturday evening from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.

“I give it a C,” Berlanga said of his latest win, which marked his third straight fight at this location where he has developed into a sizeable draw.

Saturday marked the first fight for Berlanga since a ten-round win over Alexis Angulo last June 11 at this venue. An attempted bite by the undefeated Nuyorican late in the ESPN headliner was reviewed by the New York State Athletic Commission, who levied a six-month suspension.

The disciplinary action benched Berlanga for the balance of 2022 and ultimately proved to be his last fight with Top Rank after more than three years together. The two parted ways earlier this year, after which point Berlanga signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.

Nervous moments came early into their first fight together.

Quigley could not have provided a more visual template of a fighter under the tutelage of Andy Lee. He wasn’t afforded the presence of Lee in his forgettable second-round knockout loss to then-WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade nineteen months ago.

The wide stance and high guard reminiscent of Lee’s fun career were put to good use by Quigley in a solid opening round. The visiting Irishman occasionally found a home for his straight right hand. Berlanga stalked and didn’t waste any punches but was disciplined for hitting on the break in a round he surprisingly swept on the official scorecards.

The same trend carried over into round two, which saw Quigley grow in confidence. The focus was evident by the former title challenger, who never gave Berlanga a chance to let loose with his right hand. Berlanga briefly jabbed his way inside and landed a compact left hook, though Quigley had the greater success with his clean punches down the middle.

Berlanga used his jab to work his way inside in round three. Quigley relied on his infighting skills to avoid most of the incoming but ran out of space to operate. Berlanga cornered the Irishman after he threw a lead right hand. A left hook to the chin and overhand right to the temple willed Quigley to the canvas in the closing seconds of the round.

Lee encouraged his charge in between rounds to return to the basics and offer more feints. The advice took a while to resonate before Quigley returned to the parrying jab only after he ate a Berlanga uppercut earlier in the fourth round. Berlanga once again had his opponent cornered but was unable to replicate the success he had three minutes prior.

Head trainer Marc Farrait—who expertly guided Berlanga through his first twelve fights—was displeased with the early performance from his star client. The no-nonsense cornerman urged his charge to use his jab and to dare to be great—though in an expletive-filled speech.

“I was supposed to step on the pedal early,” noted Berlanga, who outperformed Quigley in every statistical punch category. “I was just using my jab, leaning back and trying to catch him.”

Berlanga immediately responded and had Quigley hurt in the first minute of round five. He was credited with a second knockdown later in the frame, when a left hook to the body moved Quigley and subsequently caused him to trip over his own feet. Referee Harvey Dock insisted the fall was caused by a punch as he issued a count.

Quigley fought through a bloodied nose to box his way back into the fight. A steady jab was offered by Quigley, even if just as a disruptor as he was not particularly accurate. Berlanga continued to come forward but walked into a right hand late in the sixth.

Berlanga and Quigley simultaneously landed left hooks in round seven. Surprisingly, it was Quigley who landed the more impactful shot as Berlanga’s knees briefly buckled before he steadied himself.

More concern was raised in the Berlanga corner after round eight. The insistence that Quigley was running was not entirely accurate, though the encouragement was for Berlanga to not just follow him around the ring.

Berlanga went to a power jab early in round nine. Quigley responded with a jab of his own but was caught by an overhand right from the local favorite. Quigley worked his way through a clinch and landed a thudding right to the body. Berlanga came back with a left hook downstairs before both once again connected with left hooks to the other’s chin. Berlanga loaded up and missed with an overhand right but ended the round with a stiff jab.

Quigley continued to use lateral movement to dull Berlanga’s offense as well as the energy from a crowd that was rabid for much of the night.

Berlanga did not waste punches in rounds ten and eleven but was also unable to effectively cut off the ring. Quigley landed a pair of body shots midway through round eleven, which Berlanga took well but did not offer a sufficient response. Berlanga landed a low blow, which drew a second warning from the referee and a threat of a point deduction.

That moment nearly came at the start of the twelfth and final round. Quigley clinched an onrushing Berlanga who threw a punch as a break was called. Dock took mercy on the Brooklynite but reminded him to keep it clean.

It drew a rise out of Berlanga, who landed by far his best punch of the fight to seal the win. A flush right hand behind a left hook rocked Quigley, who attempted to clinch but instead fell to his knees. He beat the count but later voluntarily dropped to his right knee after Berlanga landed a left hand and right uppercut.

Quigley (20-3, 14KOs) made it to his feet and the bell but ended up with the second loss in his past three fights.

Berlanga advanced to 21-0 (16KOs) with the win, his fifth in a row to go to the scorecards after he scored sixteen consecutive first-round knockouts to start his career.

“[Quigley] knew I was coming to fight,” stated Berlanga, who Compubox credited with landing 162-of-487 total punches (33.3%), including 99-of-209 power shots. “Everybody who steps in the ring with me, knows I got exceptional punching power. They train to survive. They try to box, jab, move around and try to kill me off points. They know I got the power.

“Every fighter that I face at his level, they try to run and move around. I’m grateful I got the victory. I was looking for the knockout, for the TKO but I’m just glad that I’m back.”

Quigley was just 109-of-383 (28.5%) on the night in overall punches, which included 57-of-154 in power punches.

All the right moves were made considering that Berlanga hadn’t fought in 54 weeks and spent a portion of that time to recover from elbow surgery. A return to Farrait’s training facility in Plant City, Florida was productive—and by Berlanga’s own admission, a camp where he wasn’t afforded any opportunity to seek even minimal breaks at points when he was required to be on the clock.

While the night wasn’t the home run performance anticipated by Berlanga or the Matchroom team, a step up in class is expected for his next outing.

Matchroom has a deep pool of the type of super middleweights that would be beneficial to Berlanga’s development without being an insult to the consumer. As much as is recognized by the still 26-year-old boxer, who sees Saturday night as a starting point for a work in progress.

“This was just, we just scraped the rust off,” Berlanga stated. “That last round is how we’re gonna start the first round in every fight from now on.”  

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox