By Keith Idec
LOS ANGELES – Kevin Cunningham didn’t divulge too much about Robert Easter Jr.’s game plan for his fight against Mikey Garcia.
But what’s obvious to Cunningham, Easter’s new trainer, and most others who’ve watched Easter’s last few fights is that the unusually tall lightweight must make better use of the height and reach advantages he has over his opponents. Garcia is five inches shorter than the 5-feet-11 Easter and will need to find a way inside his opponent’s eight-inch reach advantage to have success in their 12-round, 135-pound title unification fight Saturday night at Staples Center (Showtime; 10 p.m. ET).
“He needs to use his height and reach and control the distance and range,” Cunningham said. “That’s what he needs to do. Obviously, that’s what we want him to do, to use his height and reach. It would be advantageous to ‘Bunny’ to use his height and reach, and control the distance and range. We definitely want him to do that.”
When watching footage from his split-decision victory over Javier Fortuna on January 20 and some of Easter’s other fights, Cunningham noticed Easter has been quick to brawl, rather than utilizing his height, reach and boxing ability.
“He hasn’t done it enough in the past,” Cunningham said. “And that’s why some of his fights were a little closer than what they should’ve been. For some reason or another, he has given up his height and reach, and would go in at close quarters and fight the shorter guys and make the fights a little more difficult than they had to be.”
Garcia feels the addition of Cunningham to help Easter stick to using his height and reach early in their fight. Eventually, however, Garcia expects Easter to trade with him at times and give Garcia opportunities he needs to land power punches from close distances.
“I think he’s gonna use his height and reach a little bit more,” Garcia said during a recent conference call. “I think that somewhere down in the middle of the fight, maybe, midway in the fight, when things start getting heated, he might start to exchange with me on occasions. But I think that’s where the trainer will come in. Cunningham will come in and remind him to stay away and use the height and reach again. It’s just part of being a good trainer and a good coach, and reminding your fighter to stay to your game plan. But I think there’s gonna be moments when we are gonna get in exchanges, because that’s just who he is as a fighter.”
The 30-year-old Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs), of Oxnard, California, and the 27-year-old Easter (21-0, 14 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, will fight for Garcia’s WBC lightweight title and Easter’s IBF crown in the main event of a 15-fight card Saturday night.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.