By Keith Idec
Robert Easter Jr. realizes he didn’t look particularly good in his last fight.
Easter also is convinced that subpar performance was more a reflection of him than Javier Fortuna. Had he fought the way he should’ve fought Fortuna by using his five-inch height advantage and an even longer reach edge, Easter believes he would’ve won their 12-round fight convincingly.
The unbeaten IBF lightweight champion instead smothered many of his punches and fought Fortuna from close distances. The result was a very competitive bout Easter won by split decision January 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“I believe I fought his fight and made it tougher on myself,” Easter said during a recent conference call. “You know, instead of using my reach and my ability to box, you know, I sort of fought his fight and smothered my punches. But, you know, that’s one fight. We moved on from it, we learned from it, as well as every fight.”
Easter’s lackluster outing against Fortuna convinced him to hire Kevin Cunningham as his head trainer. He trained for his 135-pound title unification fight against Mikey Garcia on Saturday night at Cunningham’s gym in West Palm Beach, Florida, rather than his hometown of Toledo, Ohio.
Cunningham also is confident Easter is a much better boxer than he showed when he faced Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs, 1 NC), a southpaw from the Dominican Republic.
“After watching the fight, I thought the fight should’ve been a lot easier for Robert,” Cunningham said on the conference call. “If he’d have used his natural gifts, in terms of the height and reach and controlling range and distance. And like he explained, he knows the mistakes that he was making in the fight. He was not using his range properly, not controlling distance and kind of, you know, smothering his punches by fighting in a little too close and giving up his height and things of that nature.
“So Robert understands what he needs to do, the adjustments that he needs to make. I’ve took him into some things, and he’s got the ability and skills to pick it up. … He’s really looking sharp and I just think that, you know, he’s really gonna put on a show come July 28th.”
The 12-round bout between Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs), of Oxnard, California, and Easter (21-0, 14 KOs) will headline Showtime’s tripleheader Saturday night from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In the bout before Garcia-Easter airs, Cuban heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz (28-1, 24 KOs, 2 NC) will meet Romania’s Razvan Cojanu (16-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder. The three-bout broadcast is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET with a 10-round, 140-pound bout that’ll match San Antonio’s Mario Barrios (21-0, 13 KOs) against Jose Roman (24-2-1, 16 KOs), of Garden Grove, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.