Demond Nicholson Aims to ‘Mentally Break’ Berlanga on April 24th — Ennis, Plant, Warrington, More!
By Paul R Jones: On Saturday, April 24th Demond Nicholson (23-3-1, 20 KOs) takes on white-hot contender Edgar Berlanga (16-0, 16 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight bout at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida. Berlanga vs. Nicholson serves as the co-main event for a highly-anticipated Top Rank card, which also features a featherweight matchup between reigning WBO World Champ Emanuel Navarrete (32-1, 1 NC, 27 KOs) and ranked contender Christopher Diaz (26-2, 16 KOs).
Both bouts will air on ESPN and ESPN+.
Although Navarrete vs. Diaz has all the makings of a classic Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry, a sizeable chunk of viewers will have their eyes glued to Berlanga vs. Nicholson to see whether the heavy-handed Berlanga can keep his streak of 16 consecutive first-round knockouts intact against Nicholson.
Nicholson is riding a 5-fight win streak of his own, however, dating back to 2018. And, according to him, he’s just as eager to showcase his skills against Berlanga.
The 28-year-old Nicholson also relishes the opportunity to silence his critics on a national stage and show the young Brooklynite that there are levels in the boxing game.
With one week to go before facing Berlanga, Boxing News 24’s Paul R. Jones! Caught up with Demond Nicholson for an exclusive interview to cover everything from his preparation to what a win versus ‘The Chosen One’ would mean for his career.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation, edited for length and clarity:
Boxing News 24 (BN24): First off, much of the world is coping with the pandemic. Has COVID-19 changed the way you train in any way (e.g., sparring)?
Demond Nicholson (DN): “[Training] didn’t change; it’s still the same. But, yes, sparring really wasn’t the same. We traveled a lot more than normal.”
BN24: Everyone’s talking about your fight with Edgar Berlanga on April 24th. How did that fight come about?
DN: “There wasn’t really many offers on the table. We were actually just waiting for a call. I
had just been released from my promoter, Lou DiBella, so we were going to try to be on the ball and get some fights.”
“I went away to camp with Caleb Plant back in December. From there, we got the call to fight Berlanga. First, we didn’t want what they were offering, and then they called us back and gave us an offer we couldn’t turn down.”
BN24: I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Berlanga’s 16-0 record and 1st round knockout streak. It seems like the hype surrounding him is growing with each knockout. He’s even called himself a ‘’.
But, ‘real recognizes real.’ So, what are your thoughts on Berlanga and what he’s accomplished?
DN: “Number 1, to accomplish what he has accomplished, that’s big. I can’t take nothing from him. I have to give credit where credit is due. To do what he’s done.”
“At the same time, it’s levels to it. When he stopped Eric Moon, I was like, ‘WOW.’ That was big. But, people don’t understand what us fighters go through when we take certain fights or the time when we take ‘em.”
“I actually got a chance to talk to Eric Moon, and . . . you can’t make excuses for getting knocked out, but a lot of times people just go into fights, and they scared already before the bell even rings. So, it came to a point where I realized these guys are just scared.”
“You’ve just got to pay attention to every detail of every man when you step in that ring, where he is mentally and physically. I know, whatever state of mind those men were in, I won’t be on April 24th.”
BN24: The media has a tendency to hype fighters and turn them into the next boogeyman, only to see some of those fighters beaten or even knocked out when they step up in class. Of course, predicting greatness isn’t an exact science.
So, when it comes to Berlanga, do you see him as being over-hyped?
DN: “Yeah, I do think he’s being hyped. I think they’re hyping him a lot.”
“He hasn’t really beaten no real, even B–class fighter for them to hype him this way.”
“But Top Rank needs people to hype right now, so it’s expected.”
BN24: Are you worried at all about the referee stopping your fight early, or about there being a controversial stoppage should you have any rough spots in the opening round?
DN: “That’s crazy because my coaches was speaking on that. I was never really worried about that, so I’ll let them worry about that and leave it in their hands.”
“I don’t plan on leaving the fight in the ref’s hands, so I’ll let my coaches and whoever else deal with that.”
BN24: We’ve seen several upsets in 2021, including Warrington’s loss to Lara and Berchelt’s loss Óscar Valdez. This is obviously a high-risk—high-reward fight for you. But, what would an upset win over Berlanga mean for your career?
DN: “It’ll definitely break the internet.” [we both laugh.]
“But, honestly, he really hasn’t beaten anyone for me to get any real recognition. . . for people to say, ‘Aw man, this guy’s the one.’”
“So, it just opens up more publicity. More people will know exactly who I am.”
BN24: You’re the most experienced fighter that Berlanga has faced. You’ve been in with big punchers like Jesse Hart, and you’ve sparred with reigning IBF World Champ, Caleb Plant.
Do you see your experience and boxing IQ as your biggest advantages going into this fight?
DN: “Definitely, that’s my biggest advantage, and that’s what I really have beat into my mind. This kid has never been to none of the levels that I’ve been before. Whether it’s amateur, pro, or whatever it is. He’s never seen it before; he’s never been there.”
“So mentally, I have to take him into those dark places. Take him to places where he has to use his brain and not just think that the power is going to get over.”
BN24: I also saw you getting some work in with Jaron “Boots” Ennis in Philly. How did you link up with Boots, and what did you think about his performance against Lipinets?
DN: “I thought Boots was great. He did a fantastic job against Lipinets. I think that was the first time that Lipinets had ever been stopped. Mikey Garcia dropped him one time, but it was nothing compared to what Boots did.”
“That kid is definitely a future star in that weight class and whatever weight class he steps up in.”
“He has the juice. For real.”
“When I sparred him, I was amazed at how powerful and how strong he was for his size. It amazed me. I see why he has the knockouts he does.”
“That kid, he can REALLY fight.”
BN24: Getting back to Berlanga, there’s no mystery that he’s a big puncher. What goes through your mind when you’re facing a guy who can crack?
DN: “Honestly, what goes through my mind is, ‘I can punch too.’ I can either hit just as hard or harder. But, when they say someone punches hard, to me, it really doesn’t feel that hard.”
“A lot of people just have good timing, or they just catch people at the right time. You just have to pay attention with your eyes and see everything.”
“Most times when people get knocked out or hurt, they get hit with punches they don’t see. That’s why I pay attention, so I can see everything. So, if a punch does land, it’s not something that’s gonna shock me. It’s just, ‘let’s get back to work.’”
BN24: I know you’ve studied Berlanga. Is there something you’re seeing that everyone else isn’t?
DN: “Yeah. I’ve seen that he doesn’t have the best chin. He can be hurt also, but he hasn’t had that fight where someone could bark back at him and hurt him as bad as he hurts them.”
“This is the time where we see him touched and tested, and let’s see how he reacts.”
BN24: No one is talking about the chess match outside of the ring between your trainer, Calvin Ford, and Berlanga’s trainer, Andre Rozier.
What do you think about that matchup?
DN: “From what I’ve seen from Andre Rozier, don’t get me wrong, he’s a good trainer. He’s had Danny Jacobs and a few good fighters.”
“But, honestly, what I seen from a lot of his fighters is that they don’t know how to fight on the inside. They don’t know how to get rough and tough or make it ugly on the inside.”
“I watched a lot of his fighters through the years, and that’s one thing that I always picked up on.”
“Even when [Andre] was training Danny Jacobs, [he] couldn’t fight on the inside. They might throw a good body shot, but they can’t stay right there and keep dumping and dumping when you have to.”
“They don’t like when it gets ugly.”
“So with that being said, Coach Calvin, Coach Kenny [Ellis], and my dad, they all put their minds together. Andre is just by himself. He don’t have that second and third eye to help him. That’s how we’re going to get the edge over them as far as coaching.”
BN24: Do you feel like folks are sleeping on your power, speed, and defense?
DN: “Definitely. BIG TIME. But, I love it, man.”
“I like when people sleep on me. It just gives me that drive to push harder and show them who I am.”
“They’re all sleeping. But, I’m gonna wake ‘em up.”
BN24: In your mind, how do you see Berlanga vs. Nicholson playing out?
DN: “I think I’m going to mentally break him . . . [and] make him submit.”
“I think I’m going to mentally beat Edgar like really have him fussing with his trainer. Him just being livid, not being able to control his anger.”
“Not being able to hit me, and him just getting hit.”
BN24: Finally, oddsmakers have you as the underdog. Do you enjoy that role?
DN: “Especially on this level, I enjoy it. I love the hell out of being the underdog because that just makes the story so much more beautiful.”
“Young kid had kidney failure, almost died. They didn’t think he was going to be able to box. But he did. . .came back in 5 months. And, afterwards, he’s back on ESPN.”
“They doubted him, the odds were crazy, and he ended up getting the knockout or smashing [Berlanga]. It just makes the story so much better.”
“A story for my kids. A story for my future.”
BN24: Thank you for your time, Demond, and I wish you good luck against Edgar Berlanga on April 24th!
DN: I really appreciate that. Thank you!
About Paul R. Jones!
Paul R. Jones! is a longtime writer and photographer for Boxing News 24. His articles, photographs, and commentary have also appeared in outlets like East Side Boxing, Round by Round Boxing, Boxing Insider, Medium.com, and more.
Paul’s also the 2002-2003 winner of a Distinguished Teaching Award and the recipient of nationally recognized scholarships, fellowships, and grants.
You can keep up with more of what Paul R. Jones! is thinking about on Twitter or e-mail him at for bookings or inquiries.
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