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Boxing Notebook: Top Rank, Showtime PPV Undercard, Victor Valle Jr.

Credit" Mikey Williams/ Top Rank

New York – Saturday evening at the Madison Square Garden Hulu Theater, Top Rank Boxing returns to New York City and will showcase their young and upcoming talent from Puerto Rico. Over the years Top Rank and the Garden have made this a habit of showcasing the young stars.

It’s been a success for fighters from the Top Rank stable. Most recently the accolades of Miguel Cotto, the first four-division champion from Puerto Rico who established an all-time record at the gate and headlined a traditional championship fight in June, a Saturday evening prior to the annual Sunday Puerto Rican National Parade.

Three of Top Rank Puerto Rican rising stars will take the spotlight Saturday evening on a card of boxing televised on ESPN and their various platforms.

Super middleweight Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga (18-0, 16 KO’s) makes his main event debut in a 10-rounder against crafty veteran and contender Steve Rolls (21-1, 12 KOs) in a homecoming fight for the knockout artist who was born and raised in Brooklyn,NY.

Berlanger is coming off a shoulder injury and will be tested. His knockout streak of 16 consecutive to begin his career made him an immediate sensation and a crowd pleaser. And this first professional fight in New York headlining at the “Mecca” is more than a homecoming.

The young superstar representing Puerto Rico is one part of this. The other is Berlanger and his knockout ability. The quest for a title is on the horizon as he continues to progress with an ability to put an early ending to a fight.
“I’m feeling amazing,” Berlanger said Thursday at the Garden. “ I want to thank Top Rank and ESPN for finally making it happen here back home. It’s a blessing, man. I’m looking forward to Saturday.“It’s about adversity. In my last fight, I tore my biceps in the third round. I broke the guy’s orbital bone in three places. I would have stopped the fight in the 10th, but I got dropped in the ninth. So, for me, I just feel I needed that for my career.”

Berlanger will be the first to admit adversity was needed to make him better. Fighters have learned during the illustrious history of this sport that a setback will make them better, and Berlanger is no different.

“In my last fight, I tore my biceps in the third round,” he said “I broke the guy’s orbital bone in three places. I would have stopped the fight in the 10th, but I got dropped in the ninth. So, for me, I just feel I need that for my career. I needed that adversity.”

““Every fighter goes through that in their career, especially being this young. I know I was going to come out of that adversity because of having a torn biceps in the third round and fighting seven rounds like that. A lot of fighters would have quit because the pain is just ridiculous. But I took it as it came. We got the victory. I won the WBO NABO title, and we moved to Las Vegas, and now we’re here ready for Saturday.”

His opponent has been in the spotlight and sustained the one blemish in a title fight to the middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin at the Garden in June of 2019.

“I don’t like to predict nothing,” Berlanger said. “ He’s a tough veteran. He went in there with the best. And for me, I’m just looking forward to putting on a show. I’m ready to blow the roof off this place. I’m just ready to explode. It’ll be fireworks like always.”

Zander Zayes (12-0, 6 KO’s) is the co-feature in an eight-round junior middleweight bout. The 19-year old from San Juan, now residing in Sunrise Florida, is a Top Rank prospect who won over 14 amateur championships.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 17: Xander Zayas (L) and Quincy Lavallais (R) face-off during the press conference prior to their junior middleweight fight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 17, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Fans have learned to not blink because Zayes has a dangerous hook and that 75 percent knockout ratio has quickly caused a buzz. He debuted in the Garden main arena with a quick stoppage in December. He expects to continue his streak Saturday evening.

“I’m super excited,”Zayes said. “It’s my first fight of the year. It’s an eight-rounder against a great opponent. That’s what we were looking for. I’m ready to put on a show Saturday night. It’s a good fight. I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest challenge yet because the biggest challenge is yet to come. It’s another stepping stone. I;ve got to put on a show. Iv;e got to put on a show. I’ve got to make a statement and show the world that I’m here to stay.”

In the eight-round televised opener, junior welterweight John “El Terrible” Bauza (16-0,7 KOs) steps up against Canadian veteran Tony “Lightning” Luis (28-4, 10 K0s). Bauza, Río Piedra Puerto Rico, residing in North Bergen New Jersey, was victorious during his Garden debut in December.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 17: John Bauza (L) and Tony Luis (R) pose during the press conference prior to their junior welterweight fight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 17, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

‘It fills me with pride to be next to two future stars, just like I will be as well, and to demonstrate that Puerto Rico is still alive in this sport,” Bauza said.

Throwing The Punches: Three sensational matchups have been added to the SHOWTIME PPV lineup headlined by WBC and IBF world champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr.. and WBA World Champion Yordenis Ugas squaring off in a welterweight title unification clash on Saturday, April 16 live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas in a Premier Boxing Champions event.

The pay-per-view telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT features exciting lightweight contender Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz taking on veteran former world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa in the 10-round co-main event.

The lineup also includes unbeaten Jose Valenzuela battling former world champion Francisco Vargas in a 10-round lightweight fight, plus unbeaten Cody Crowley faces veteran contender Joseito Lopez in a 10-round duel of all-action welterweights that kicks off the telecast.

VALLE AND HIS LEGACY: Many did not give Victor Valle Jr. credit that often goes unnoticed for an astute trainer in boxing. This week 72-year-old Valle, the Bronx native and mainstay in the gyms, passed away after his family made a decision to take him off life support.

The Valle name was known more from his dad, Victor, who worked the corner for “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney, the tough heavyweight contender who came close to dethroning Larry Holmes for the WBC title.

Valle was old school and followed in the footsteps of his dad in assuring his fighters were in good hands. He was a traveling trainer and more than one boxing training ground became a safe haven for his many youngsters who participated in NYC Golden Gloves tournaments. Recently, before bad health set in, Valle would pack the bag and take a brief ride up the road to New Rochelle and meet his fighters at Champs Gym.

Champs became his final stop in the long journey to develop a boxing journey, and it was a rewarding ride best known for training Oleg Maskaev who won a heavyweight title in 2005. He took on Maskaev as others said the heavyweight had no chance.

But Victor Valle Jr. always gave a youngster or an established pro the opportunity. He was a devoted Christian and chaplain who always gave you his hand. It was always “God Bless You” when he departed the gym and he sang to religious music on the car ride back to the Throgs Neck area of the Bronx.

The Valle legacy continues. His son, Danny, once a professional at 5-0, trains fighters and also assists them with endorsements. Danny said his dad was his best friend and trainer. Indeed Valle was old school and good at his craft. I know and witnessed the dedication as that old school knowledge went to work.

Rest In Peace and God Bless Victor Valle Jr.

Rich Mancuso is a senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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