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The Inspiration Who Means Berlanga Knows There’s More To Life Than Boxing

The man Edgar Berlanga hopes to fight someday soon, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, is fond of saying: “No boxing, no life.”
Berlanga knows there’s more to it than that. Did he always feel that way? That’s something only he knows in his heart, but, at least today, the super-middleweight contender is well aware that no boxing doesn’t mean the end of life.
There are other forces at work to do that, and so when he heard the story of Jesselyn Silva, that hit home. 
Silva, 17, was one of the top young amateur boxers in the US – a two-time national champion with Olympic aspirations and the talent to achieve her goal. That was until July of 2021, when {the teenager} from New Jersey was diagnosed with diffuse midline glioma (DMG), a form of brain tumor. Silva, showing that her fighting spirit extends from inside the ring to outside of it, continues to battle. And she has an ally in Berlanga, who is dedicating his bout on Saturday against Padraig McCrory to her.
“I told her that she’s the real champion,” said Berlanga. “I’m doing this for her. I’m doing this for the Cristian Rivera Foundation and all kids that are suffering, but especially for her because I know her dream was to become a professional and become world champion. So I hope that she can live her dreams through me. If I could do that, I could be the closest thing to where she could have been if it wasn’t for her diagnosis.”
The non-profit Cristian Rivera Foundation was created in 2009 by John Rivera to help find a cure for DMG/DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) after his son Cristian passed away at the age of six from DIPG. Berlanga and his father, Edgar Sr., were friends of the family, and the boxer wanted to help.  
“Jesselyn got diagnosed with DIPG and that’s when I really got involved after that,” said Berlanga. “I had a couple dinners with John, and I told him that I want to get involved. I’m that type of athlete that I’ve always wanted to give back and be there for the kids. And when I saw that, especially with Jesselyn, it touched me.”
It’s not surprising from the father of two-year-old Chosen, who has seen his outlook on life and boxing change considerably since becoming a dad. 
“My son has given me so much more motivation,” said Berlanga. “I brought him into this world and I’m teaching him from scratch. So it’s my duty to make him the man I want him to be and obviously better than me. But yeah, he’s pure motivation for me. I just look at him every morning when he’s up and I’m like, yeah, I got to go get it. If I don’t do it, nobody’s going to do it. And I brought him into this world for a reason. So now it’s my duty to provide for him and show him the way.”
That added focus is welcome at this point in the 26-year-old’s career, because he’s reached the point where he’s in the top 10 rankings of all four major sanctioning bodies and in the conversation for those big fights, most notably against Alvarez. In fact, more questions are coming Berlanga’s way about the Mexican star than Ireland’s McCrory, 35.
“I don’t look at it as overwhelming,” he said. “I get excited. For me, it’s just motivation. They keep mentioning him, so I know it is right there. All I’ve got to do is perform. That’s my main thing, just looking amazing, showing the people and putting the 168 division on notice. I believe that if we look good and shine like a star, there’s possibly a big fight with Canelo right after. So I’m just so locked in on this fight. I’m not really putting my mind on Canelo or any of those top guys at 168; my main focus right now is Padraig McCrory. He’s undefeated, he’s coming from Ireland, he’s trying to shut me down and it’s basically my hometown, too – Orlando. So I’m just excited, and I’m locked in for this fight.”
It’s an honest assessment of the situation where he admits to hearing the buzz about the future while acknowledging that without a win this weekend, the Canelo fight disappears for the time being. Some might get caught up in it all, feeling the heat to not just win, but put on a show and get the fans to bang the drums for a big fight. But Berlanga sounds cool in the lead-up to the fight, and while he admits to some nerves, he’s counting them as part of the gig when everything he’s worked for over the years en route to a 21-0 (16 KOs) record and this point in his career is on the doorstep.
“I do get nervous,” Berlanga said. “I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Oh no, I don’t get nervous’. I’ll be in my head a lot about a lot of things that are coming up because it’s like, ‘Damn, it’s actually here now;. So sometimes I even lose sleep at night thinking about it. But I take it as a good thing because I feel like all elite athletes go through that. You talk about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, and I know those great fighters and great athletes went through that, where it was about that time to be great and had a whole bunch of pressure on top of them. So sometimes I lose sleep over this, I’m not going to lie. It is there and I don’t want to mess up. I feel like it’s my opportunity this year to actually go and shine like a star and really make my mark in the boxing game.”
All he’s got to do is fight and win. For himself, for glory, for his son, for Jesselyn. That’s a lot to fight for, and it’s hard to bet against someone with that much motivation.  

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