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‘I expected more of myself...’ disappointed Pody McCrory reflects on loss to Edgar Berlanga

Brave Belfast battler goes down fighting but ‘Chosen One’ returns to form with TKO victory

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Royale rumble: Padraig McCrory had his moments but Edgar Berlanga won the war at the Caribe Royale resort. Picture: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom./Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.)

DISAPPOINTMENT hung like a mist in the air as Pody McCrory sat and stared at the carpet in his dressingroom.

“aaaaaaaHHHHHHHH,” he sighed with a shake of his bruised head as the anti-climax that had just unfolded so quickly and so brutally began to sink in.

Months of training and planning and it was over in less than 18 minutes. Upstaged by Edgar Berlanga, McCrory was floored and stopped late in the sixth round and his dreams of a world title fight seem to be over now. It’ll take a while to process it all but, buried deep under his understandable emotions, there are reasons to be thankful.

“I’m fine,” he says, as dignified in defeat as he would have been in the victory Berlanga is celebrating in the room next door.

“It’s just my ego…”

His ego is bruised and he has stitches in his upper lip but the main thing is that he will go home to his three children with his wife Natasha and, you would hope, a decent pay cheque in his pocket for getting to a level only a small percentage of boxers ever do.

In Berlanga he came up against a man who was back to his brilliant best and looks certain to go on to fight Canelo on May 4. So quick and elusive on his feet and fast with spiteful shots, he was everything his team and promoter Eddie Hearn hoped he would be.

Without taking anything away from Berlanga’s performance, everything was stacked against McCrory. The DJ who kept the Latino music pumping throughout the night, was almost comically biased:

PUERTO RIIIIIICO WAVE YOUR FLAGS… PUERTO RIIIIIICO LETS MAKE SOME NOISE… PUERTO RIIIIIICO LEMME SEE YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR…

The McCrory supporters didn’t get a mention – at any stage - but they made their noise and waved their flags anyway as their man made his way to the ring.

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A friendly face: Padraig McCrory with his wife, Natasha, after his bout with Edgar Berlanga. Picture: Melina Pizano/Matchroom. (Melina Pizano/Melina Pizano/Matchroom.)

He was followed by Berlanga. With rapper Luar La L leading the way, ‘The Chosen One’ took the long way around through the masses.

And then there was referee Christopher Young who missed a clear elbow from Berlanga in the third round, some eye-raising head movement and a series of low blows.

“I did my best,” I overheard him say afterwards.

McCrory would have hoped for a little better but unfortunately that can be boxing for the away fighter.

“I just didn’t show up tonight,” said the bitterly-disappointed Belfast man.

“The rounds seemed to go so fast and I don’t know if it was the occasion or what, but my feet felt a bit stuck in the mud and I found it hard to close the distance. He employed tactics that I didn’t expect and he was the better man on the night.

“It’s difficult to take but I’ve no excuses, I had a great camp.

“I expected more, I thought I could have given a better account of myself but unfortunately I didn’t. This is a stage I never expected to get to but, now that I got here, I expected more of myself and it didn’t play out that way.

“I’m happy that I’m safe and well and I can go home to my wife and kids.”

From the start of the third round, the fight began to slip away from McCrory as Berlanga forced him backwards. McCrory swung but hit nothing and Berlanga countered with faster hands that found their target.

The jump up in class from Steed Woodall last summer to Berlanga on Saturday night seemed too wide. In an ideal world, McCrory would have had a stepping-stone fight to get to this level but there was a moment in the sixth, when both fighters traded ferociously, that he might have turned it around.

However, Berlanga’s nimble feet and upperbody strength got him out of trouble and he spun and released a spiteful right hand that sent McCrory crashing to the canvas. Referee Young waved it off as the towel came in from Dee Walsh.

“Edgar’s tactics were bang-on, he controlled the range and he good feet,” said McCrory.

“I’m probably saying this because I’m hurt at the minute but I think maybe I’m not that level (of a fighter), I dunno… I’ll have to sit down and have a think.

“I was speaking to Berlanga’s team and they said they took the fight very seriously and it’s fairly obvious that they did. All I can do is say ‘congratulations’ to them and wish him all the best in the future.”

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All over: Referee Christopher Young calls a halt near the end of the sixth round in Orlando. Picture: Melina Pizano/Matchroom. (Melina Pizano/Melina Pizano/Matchroom.)
Round by round:

Round One: Good start by McCrory. Takes the centre of the ring and spears out his jab as a circumspect Berlanga circles. Doubled up with a shot to head and body and sent a back hand through Berlanga’s guard before the finish. McCrory 10 Berlanga 9

Round Two: More intent from Berlanga but still very wary of McCrory’s power. McCrory can’t quite find distance and is short with several booming left hands as Berlanga backs off. 10-10

Round Three: Berlanga gets away with a clear elbow in a clinch but he began to find his range and is forcing McCrory to backpedal. That could mean trouble. 9-10

Round Four: Berlanga taking control. He has McCrory on the back foot now as he presses forward and he sends in straight right hands and rips a left hand up into McCrory’s ribcage. 9-10

Round Five: Berlanga marked under right eye, McCrory bleeding from his nose and upper lip. They trade throughout the round and Berlanga, who gets away with a couple of low blows, is rocked by a left hand. His knees buckle but he shades the exchanges. 9-10

Round Six: Berlanga’s physicality and speed has the final say. The Belfast man is pinned to the ropes but comes back brilliantly a right hand and a left hook. But Berlanga won’t be denied. McCrory misses with a left uppercut and a chopping right hand sends ‘The Hammer’ to the canvas. Referee Christopher Young call it off at 2.44 with the towel coming in from McCrory’s corner.

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Warrior code: Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory embrace after their super-middleweight battle. Picture: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom./Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.)

EDGAR Berlanga now looks set for a mega-fight with super-middleweight king ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and, at the very least, is certain of a clash with WBA ‘regular’ champion Dave Morrell after he returned to form in devastating fashion.

Based on Saturday night’s display, he’ll give either of them a fight.

Cagey to begin with, Berlanga built up a head of steam with fast footwork and rapier counters before he unleashed his powerful arsenal to finish Pody McCrory in the sixth. The knockout win, his first since his 16-fight streak ended a couple of years ago, was the answer to his prayers.

“It was super-important,” he said.

“I trained almost six months for this guy and it wasn’t just for him and it was building myself back up to who I am.

“I told Padraig McCrory I was losing sleep over this fight with him. That guy is strong, he came in undefeated and he came here to fight. I knew, deep down in my heart, that he was coming to beat me so I prepped very well.

“I didn’t want to just be an offensive fighter tonight and got my defence going and I checked him out and then I started to ask questions. I knew I was breaking him down little-by-little - he’s a veteran so I knew didn’t have to go crazy until I had him hurt and that’s exactly what I did. I knew the power was there but I knew I had to set it (the knockout) up.”