Middleweight knockout artist Edgar Berlanga and junior welterweight Josue Vargas, two promising Top Rank fighters, will box in front of their hometown fans on Dec. 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Top Rank announced their bouts on Wednesday along with the rest of the undercard fights that will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 5:30 p.m. The main card tripleheader, which is headlined by welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford’s mandatory defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas, begins live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
Berlanga (12-0, 12 KOs), 22, a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, has won each of his fights by first-round knockout, so Cesar Nunez (16-1-1, 8 KOs), 34, of Spain, will seek to extend him beyond three minutes in their scheduled eight-round fight. Berlanga has been out since August because of a broken finger.
“It’s a blessing to fight at MSG, my second time fighting in the big room,” Berlanga said. “I’ve had a few opponents who were supposed to take me rounds and I’ve knocked them out in the first round. I’m ready to go those rounds, so let’s see if he can handle my power.”
Nunez is coming off his lone loss — an eighth-round knockout to former super middleweight world titlist Vincent Feigenbutz.
The southpaw Vargas (15-1, 9 KOs), 21, a Puerto Rico native fighting out of the Bronx, will face Bronx-based Ireland native Noel Murphy (14-1-1, 2 KOs), 25, in a 10-round regional title bout.
Vargas has won nine fights in a row since his lone defeat — a disqualification in 2016 for hitting his opponent while his back was turned.
“I went to see a lot of fights there, especially when Miguel Cotto fought at the Garden,” Vargas said. “I remember seeing all the Puerto Rican fans. It gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. I always dreamed of fighting at MSG in front of my supporters from New York and Puerto Rico. I finally got here. I just can’t wait to perform under the lights at MSG, the big one.”
In other undercard bouts that will be part of the ESPN+ stream:
Omaha, Nebraska, super middleweight Steve Nelson (15-0, 12 KOs), 31, who is part of Crawford’s camp, will face Los Angeles-based Germany native Cem Kilic (14-0, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder for a vacant regional belt.
Junior welterweight Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, will fight Ontario, Oregon, native Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KOs), 29, in an eight-round bout.
Australian lightweight up-and-comer George Kambosos Jr. (17-0, 10 KOs), 26, who has gained notoriety as one of Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partners, will step up in competition to face former lightweight world titlist Mickey Bey (23-2-1, 11 KOs), 36, of Cleveland in a 10-rounder. The fight will be the second of Bey’s comeback from 27 months out of the ring.
The rest of the ESPN main card includes lightweight world titlist Richard Commey defending against Teofimo Lopez Jr. and popular Irish featherweight Michael Conlan seeking to avenge his highly controversial 2016 Olympic quarterfinal loss to Russian nemesis Vladimir Nikitin.