By Cliff Rold
WASHINGTON, D.C. - 25-year old lightweight Robert Easter (17-0, 14 KO), 133, of Toledo, Ohio, danced his way into the ring. He did more than dance once he got there, using a single right hand in round five to level former 130 lb. titlist Algenis Menzdez (23-4-1, 12 KO), 134 ¼, Dominican-born of Brooklyn, New York. Mendez entered having won two straight including a unanimous decision over tricky former lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez since losing the IBF 130 lb. title to Rances Barthelemy in 2014. It was the first stoppage loss of Mendez’s career. The referee was William Johnson.
The taller Easter started out trying to establish his jab while the veteran Mendez plied his trade more patiently. Mixing it up to the head and body, Mendez started to find the target a little as the round closed. Both men would have their moments in the second, both landing well to the body and firing rapid-fire stuff in close.
Punishing right hands favored Mendez in the third and started the fourth with more of the same. Easter replied early in the fourth with a thudding left hook and slowly took over the round. In the final thirty seconds, Easter landed a right near the ropes and Mendez’s legs sagged. Sensing he had his man hurt, Easter attacked and had Mendez reeling. Mendez kept his feet and was punching back as the bell sounded.
It was Mendez’s turn on offense again in the fifth. Staying close and making Easter miss, Mendez got in some nice rights and lefts and looked to be on his way to a winning round. A single Easter right hand made folly of that look. With Mendez’s back to the ropes, Easter landed an echoing right that sent a ragged Mendez sinking towards the canvas. Mendez, his eyes a blank stare, forced himself up but couldn’t regain his balance as Johnson reached the count of eight. Out on his feet, Johnson mercifully saved Mendez at 2:43 of the fifth.
Easter was happy with his performance and knew he’d had to work for it. “It felt great. Coming in this fight, I knew I had to keep my range but he’s a slick guy.” Easter deferred to his team when talk turned to the future but this win certainly brings him closer to contention.