On February 10th, Robert Easter Jr. (18-0, 14KOs) will put his newly acquired IBF world lightweight title on the line in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, against Luis Cruz (22-4-1, 16KOs), who is coming off a split decision draw against Ivan Redkach. This will be Easter’s first title defense, and for him, being able to do it with so many friends and family close by is a good thing.
“It’s comfortable for me. I’ve got one of the best support systems and teams around me, so they keep me focused at all times,” Easter says.
The state of Ohio has a rich boxing history and has produced many world champions. Buster Douglas, Ray Mancini, Aaron Pryor, Kelly Pavlik, Shawn Porter, and Rau’shee Warren are just a few of the notable names to come from the state of Ohio. For Easter, being a titleholder is a lifelong dream but it’s just the first step on a long journey to cement his legacy as Ohio’s greatest.
“It’s been good walking around in my city and having the acknowledgment that I do from fans and local supporters. They’re all proud of me and I made all of them proud, as well as my family. Now I gotta work that much harder to keep this strap around my waist and get more straps as well.”
In preparation for Cruz, Easter has been in camp with Thomas Mattice and Brad Solomon, two fighters responsible for creating looks similar to what he’ll see on fight night. The Toledo native isn’t too concerned with what Cruz will bring to the ring. For him, it’s about being in the best shape possible and making adjustments in the ring, if needed.
“I don’t know that much about him, but I will come fight night when I’m touching him up. That’s what I’ma know about him,” Easter explained.
He’s not the type of fighter to look past an opponent but big names are on his 2017 to-do list. Dejan Zlaticanin, the WBC lightweight champion, is fighting Mikey Garcia on January 28th and the winner of that bout could be a potential foe.
“It really don’t matter who I fight first for the belt. As long as they have the strap, I’m there for the taking. Who else has belts? Linares, right? And Flanagan? I’m not trying to waste my time on anybody else. I want these straps. Let’s make these big fights happen. Let’s show the world what boxing is made of and give the fans what they want to see.”
Easter has fought his entire career at 135 and unifying the titles is important to him and his legacy.Ohio breeds titlists with championship pedigree and he’s determined to continue climbing to the top of boxing’s pound-for-pound list. “I’m comfortable at 135. When I get all the belts, I’ll think about moving up and capturing titles at 140 and 147.”