By Keith Idec
Robert Easter Jr. learned from the mistakes he made in his last fight.
His height is one of Easter’s biggest advantages, but the 5-feet-11 lightweight champion fought Denis Shafikov as if he is much shorter than that and made their 12-round fight more difficult than it should’ve been. Easter is determined to avoid that trap when he encounters another significantly shorter southpaw on Saturday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Shafikov and Javier Fortuna don’t fight the same way, but the 5-feet-6 Fortuna is just one inch taller than Shafikov. The undefeated Easter realizes he must keep Fortuna at his desired distance better than he did against Shafikov, who often engaged Easter inside and gave him some trouble.
“I have to use my feet a lot more and use my jab a lot more,” Easter told BoxingScene.com. “I tend to fight like I’m 5-6 or 5-5. Sometimes I forget I’m that tall because I wanna get in there and bang. But I plan to stick to the game plan and use my length and my reach and my height and my speed.”
The 26-year-old Easter (20-0, 14 KOs) will make his third defense of the IBF lightweight title against the Dominican Republic’s Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs). Showtime will televise their scheduled 12-rounder as the opener of a doubleheader from Barclays Center (9 p.m. ET), which will feature IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) and Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) in the main event.
Easter expects a more impressive performance than when he beat Russia’s Shafikov (38-4-1, 20 KOs) by unanimous decision June 30 in Toledo, Ohio, Easter’s hometown. He shut out Shafikov on two scorecards (120-108), but won by a more reasonable score of 116-112 on the third card.
“I was flat-footed in that fight,” Easter said. “I made the fight a lot harder than what it should’ve been, but I came out victorious. Shafikov was a tough opponent. A lot of dirty blows, though, a lot of back-of-the-head shots that I don’t know how the ref didn’t see. He was landing those as clear as day. But I stuck it out and came out with the victory.”
Fortuna has promised to knock out Easter, who believes the former two-division title-holder will box more than the rugged Shafikov.
“Like I said, I made that Shafikov fight harder than it was because I didn’t use my abilities and skills and my height the way I was supposed to use it,” Easter said. “But this fight, I’m setting an example of what I can really do and how I can really make my opponents look.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.