Robert Easter Jr. wants to make fools of those who say he is the underdog
Conclusions have been drawn about Robert Easter Jr. at the sports books, where he stands as a 6-1 underdog.
They have also been drawn in the minds of most fans, who don’t expect him to handle the skilled onslaught of fellow lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.
Easter reacts with a “you’ll see” defiant grin, confident that the effort expended while hunkered down for 10 weeks in training camp will produce an outcome few expect Saturday night at Staples Center.
“Every fight is not the same and you don’t fight every fighter the same,” Easter said. “I know some things that Mikey does and some things that give him trouble. And I’m a different fighter. I just have to go in there, be myself, fight my fight.”
Oxnard-raised Garcia (38-0, 30 knockouts) said he chose Easter for a unification of their respective World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation lightweight belts because of Easter’s uniqueness.
A string-bean-shaped 5 feet 11 with a nearly elastic 76-inch reach, Easter (21-0, 14 knockouts) stands five inches taller than Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) and his reach is eight inches longer than the 30-year-old, four-division world champion.
“There’s always risk in any fight and this guy’s real tall,” Garcia’s trainer-brother, Robert Garcia, said at Thursday’s news conference. “I’m sure he’s going to try to use his reach and fight on the outside, but we’re ready for whatever this guy brings.”
For Mikey Garcia, the Showtime-televised bout is a platform intended to boost his pay-per-view readiness and further his pursuit of unbeaten welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in Garcia’s first appearance at Staples Center in seven years.
A homecoming is the last thing Easter wanted after emerging with a split-decision victory against overweight challenger Javier Fortuna in January.
“The drive and the motivation I get from coming from my city [Toledo, Ohio] – that’s a great source of motivation and it’s given me a lot of hunger coming from there to try and reach the big lights, where there’s all the attention,” Easter said.
“But in the small city, where everyone knows everybody, there’s a lot of jealousy, hate -- all that -- and it ultimately makes you want to get out and fulfill your dreams, to see the bigger things in life.”
Believing that the negativity in Ohio was compromising his training, Easter and his father-trainer, Robert Easter Sr., opted to accept an invitation from Florida-based Kevin Cunningham to relocate camp.
Easter Jr. crossed paths with Cunningham several times while fighting as an amateur in the Midwest – Cunningham trains St. Louis’ former 140-pound champion Devon Alexander – and then he saw the strides his world-champion friends Adrien Broner and Gervonta Davis made under Cunningham this year.
“It just clicked. From the dedication and discipline, to eating right, being on time … it was a strict program and an excellent camp,” Easter Jr. said. “We stuck to a game plan, more than just getting in there to work out and throw punches. I’m using all the advantages I’ve got and we sharpened all of them up.”
Knowing he’s giving Garcia every ounce of effort is the root of the confidence displayed by Easter Jr., whose father emphasized he will remain “the voice” in his son’s career.
“What I instilled him in the beginning is to stay tall and box the way we’re supposed to … it’s going to be a master showing by both of us,” Easter Sr. said.
An extra edge, said Cunningham, is Garcia’s discussion of Spence being next, with a possible four-belt lightweight unification with Vasiliy Lomachenko looming in 2019.
“For the last couple of weeks, they’re talking more about Errol Spence and Lomachenko … I look at that as disrespect,” Cunningham said. “You haven’t dealt with Robert Easter Jr. yet.”
Toledo’s only champion closed Thursday’s news conference by saying, “expect the unexpected.”
“This is my big opportunity,” Easter Jr. said. “Now it’s time to put my skills to the test and show everybody what I really stand for. After this win, I will become one of the biggest names in boxing.”
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