Exclusive interview by James Slater: Unbeaten at 16-0, with all 16 wins coming by KO in the very first round, red-hot super-middleweight Edgar Berlanga has already attracted a significant fan base. On April 24, the 23-year-old will take a step up in class, when he will fight the experienced Demond Nicholson. The 28-year-old from Maryland has been matched far tougher than Berlanga, and at 23-3(20), Demond is convinced that he will be too much for “young kid” Berlanga.
Nicholson – who had a big scare by way of kidney failure back in 2019 but was able to fight back to full fitness – says he will “take Berlanga to the dark places I’ve been to” in the upcoming fight. Nicholson, nicknamed “D’best at it,” says Berlanga will “get desperate” when he finds himself fighting beyond the opening round for the first time.
Here Nicholson speaks exclusively with ESB:
Q: There is of course a good deal of hype surrounding Edgar Berlanga, due to those first-round KO’s. Do you see this fight as your biggest yet?
Demond Nicholson: “Well, in terms of ring-wise fights, no. But in terms of the hype, as you say he has, then yes. He has a following and he has those knockouts. But he is a young kid, he’s just learning to walk (laughs). I’ve been around, I’ve learned from the greats. In this fight, he will learn that you have to go through the tough fights, the testing fights, if you’re going to get as far as fighting for the world title.”
Q: And you will test Berlanga? In fact, you feel you will beat him?
D.N: “Definitely. I’ll test him – I will beat him! Then we’ll see how he can bounce back. After this fight, after he loses for the first time, he’ll find out what he’s really about. As I say, you’ve got to go through these tough fights to get to the next level. Yes, he has those KO’s, and he has fear, in as much as he has put fear into his opponents. But how has he learned, not getting out of the first round? I’ll bring out his mental game in this fight. We will see what he’s made of. After this fight, Berlanga will have to go back to the drawing board.”
Q: Things have of course been pretty crazy, schedule-wise, due to the coronavirus. Lots of fighters have had to go into a big fight having been off for a long time. You last fought in February of 2020. Have you any concerns about possible rust?
D.N: “Nah, not at all. It has been 13 months or whatever but I’ve been busy. I was in camp with Gervonta Davis before his last fight, then I was in camp with Caleb Plant; we sparred quite a bit, he’s a special fighter. So, I’ve kept myself in shape, I’ve been busy. I’m looking forward to having some fun in this fight.”
Q: From what you’ve seen of Berlanga, has anything really impressed you?
D.N: “I’ve watched a couple of his fights. What did impress me, was when he stopped Eric Moon. I know Eric, he’s a cool guy, a good fighter. When he stopped him in the opening round, I was surprised. I thought then, ‘well, this kid can fight.’ But at the same time, I saw the fear in Moon’s eyes. You can’t have any fear, you can’t show no fear in that ring. It’s a science. But the wins Berlanga got after Moon, I was not impressed as he did what he was supposed to do.”
Q: You can punch yourself, and you went 10-0(10) when you started your pro career.
D.N: “Yes, sir. And most of my first ten wins came by early KO. Then I lost a fight, then I came back and won another five by KO. I know how it feels to get the KO, to want to get the KO. In this fight, Berlanga will get desperate after the first round comes and goes. I will take him into the deep waters and we’ll see, can he swim or will he sink? I do believe he has the heart for a tough fight, but it’s not just about heart, you need smarts too. But people make too much of an unbeaten record. Not everyone can be a Floyd Mayweather. I know I’m gonna win this fight and he will have to bounce back. He must remember he’s young. You can’t take a loss as a defeat; you should use it as a lesson learned and improve from it. This is what Berlanga will have to do. And he shouldn’t feel down at having lost to me – I’m a veteran and not some nobody. So he should hold his head up high after.”
Q: Tell us about the kidney trouble you had a while back, where you wound up in hospital.
D.N: “I had kidney failure, back in May of 2019. I was ready for my fight I had weighed-in, but then my body shut down. I couldn’t walk. I was near to death. I just wanted to go to sleep but my dad made sure I went to the hospital. If I had gone home and gone to bed, I would have died. I ended up staying in the hospital for 14 days. They put me on an IV and later I had to have dialysis. I was hooked up to a machine, with wires everywhere. I really didn’t understand what was happening at the time. Then they told me I wouldn’t be fighting for at least a year. I said no way. Boxing is my job, I have three kids. I couldn’t accept that I’d be out for so long. I went into the hospital at 170 pounds and I came out weighing 230 pounds, with all the water retention. God really did look out for me.
“The doctors said I’d be on dialysis for six months. Instead, I went vegan, I fought hard, and I was on dialysis for two months. The doctors told me they didn’t know how I’d done it. I’ve fought twice sine, but it’s taken until now for me to get back to 100 percent. Now I’m looking forward to this fight. I’m looking forward to having fun in this fight. I’m going to take him [Berlanga] to the dark places I’ve been to!”
Q: What was your amateur record?
D.N: “I was 110-15. I won around five or six national titles. I was a 2012 Olympic alternate. I guess I lost some fights I shouldn’t have lost but overall, I had a decent amateur career.”
Q: And your toughest pro fight to date?
D.N: “Jessie Hart, no doubt. I realised in that fight that I had to lock in with myself. My dad said I needed a trainer who really loves the sport. My dad said he’d let me have one more fight and that if I lost, I’d have to retire. So I went to Baltimore and we got a real trainer. I’ve been 5-0 since. My dad and Calvin Ford, they train me now and I’m ready to show the world that I’m the real deal at super-middleweight. A win here, wow, it will lead me to basically whatever I want. I can call out the big names, guys like Danny Jacobs, Gabriel Rosado, fights that will get me ready for Canelo, or the winner of the Canelo-Billy Joe Saunders fights. After this fight on April 24, the ball will be in my court.”