12 Rounds With … Javier Fortuna

Two-time world champion has his sights set on history January 20 when he looks to become the first man to defeat Robert Easter Jr.—and become the first-ever Dominican-born boxer to win three world titles.

Javier Fortuna celebrates his 130-pound championship victory over Bryan Vasquez on May 29, 2015 at Barclays Center. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

Javier Fortuna aims to become the first Dominican-born boxer to earn a third world title when he faces 135-pound champion Robert Easter January 20 at Barclays Center.

Fortuna won an interim 126-pound title by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Patrick Hyland in 2012. He joined countryman Joan Guzman as a two-division title winner by capturing a 130-pound version of a belt with a unanimous decision over Bryan Vasquez in 2015.

“El Abejon” (The Bumblebee) successfully defended his 130-pound crown with a 10th-round TKO victory over Carlos Ivan Velasquez later that year, before suffering his only loss via an 11th-round TKO to Jason Sosa in June 2016.

Since then Fortuna has won four straight, with two knockouts and two unanimous decisions. Three of those wins were against previously undefeated rivals.

Fortuna—who is 11-1 under current trainer Hector Bermudez—took some time out of his training schedule to talk about his career and upcoming bout against the 5-foot-11 Easter, who holds an eight-inch reach advantage.

Have you seen an opponent with Easter’s blend of speed, punching power and height?

I’ve seen speed, felt power and fought people who are taller than Easter. I think what most helps Easter is his height. Other than Easter being tall, he’s average. I think Easter will have a more difficult time adjusting to me than I will him.

Do you see any weaknesses from his last fight with Denis Shafikov, a southpaw with more of a pressuring style as opposed to yours?

Yes. I’ve studied that fight every day. My awkward style and combination punching will cause him trouble. But Easter’s height will be nothing for us. Our sparring partners are taller — 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 — and they’re very familiar with Easter’s style.

I think you will see this fight being a combination of a little bit of everything—short—and long-range fighting. Easter is going to have to come with something new and better than he showed against Shafikov in his last fight.

Easter is a great talent, but he’s going to have to re-invent himself. It can end anywhere from the second to the eighth round. I feel like the referee is going to have to move in and stop the punishment he’ll take in this fight. But in the end, I’ll win by knockout.

What have you learned from your loss to Sosa, who dropped you in the 10th and 11th?

I was dominating when I dropped him in the fifth and never felt danger from Sosa. I got up from a flash knockdown, wasn't hurt and should have been allowed to continue.

Ultimately, though, I beat myself because I lost my focus and concentration. But I’ve returned to the path I want to take for my future. I’ve got the fight that I want and I’m gonna take advantage of it.

Could your left cross that resulted in first-round knockouts of Miguel Zamudio and Yuandale Evans be the finisher?

That left hand is a weapon against any opponent in front of me, and it can certainly be the end for Easter as it was in both of those fights.

I was brought in as the opponent both times, but the timing on my jab was there for both fights. I feel the same way about this fight, and I’m particularly enraged for the same reasons.

Easter is a great talent, but he’s going to have to re-invent himself. I feel like the referee is going to have to move in and stop the punishment he’ll take in this fight. Former two-division world champion Javier Fortuna

Why the theatrics as displayed before your 10th-round knockout of Carlos Velasquez—bowing to the crowd on all three sides, shuffling and mugging for the cameras and somersaulting after the stoppage win?

That’s just something that will appeal to my Dominican fans. It’s not like I’m consciously doing it, it just flows out of me.

It comes naturally to me as I’m getting pumped up for the fights. I did it one time when Floyd Mayweather was in the audience, and he expressed his appreciation for it.

How instrumental was returning to your home country for your victories over Marlyn Cabrera, Mario Beltre, and Nicolas Polonco?

I knew Cabrera, somewhat, from the amateurs, but that was long ago, so you can never be certain what might be new to what he can bring.

Overall, it was great to be re-energized by the Cabrera fight, and then, to return there once again to beat Beltre and Polonco in front of my countrymen and to regain their respect.

What about the adversity of rising from a first-round knockdown for the unanimous decision over Omar Douglas before his partisan Philadelphia fans?

It was in his territory, and to get knocked down, which doesn’t happen a lot, wasn’t a new experience. I didn’t panic. I got up and acted like it never happened. I just let it go and stuck with the game plan. I gained more ring time, under pressure.

No fight is easy, but that’s one that will help me to focus on remaining sharp and at the top of my game for every fight over the remainder of my career. I have the knowledge of when to push and to pull back, which will be helpful in future fights.

What do you recall of the atmosphere winning your first interim title at 126 pounds over Patrick Hyland on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012, and, conversely, the disappointment of immediately losing it on the scales prior to the 68-second stoppage victory over Miguel Zamudio in April 2013?

I was very energetic and full of nerves because it was a historic night, and I was very grateful and appreciative of that opportunity. To be called a champion for the first time is an achievement and an experience that will last a lifetime.

Losing that title was a tough lesson to learn about being more responsible. After the weigh-in, I never left my hotel room until it was time to go to the fight. But I’m with a different trainer, now, with Hector Bermudez, and I haven’t missed weight since then.

How about the scene winning the 130-pound title against Bryan Vasquez by unanimous decision at Barclays Center?

It felt great to have a championship belt around my waist again, especially because no other Dominican other than Joan Guzman had done it for the second time in a different weight class. It was also great to win it in Brooklyn, where they have a large Dominican population.

They turned out and they were cheering for me. I’m very fortunate to be returning to the place where I won a world title the last time I was there. It was a great night, and I want to experience that once again because I’m hearing from my fans on Dominican radio stations and social media that many of them will be there.

It’s been an uphill battle since losing to Sosa when I was way ahead in the fight. I have since learned about pacing myself, which gives me so much more motivation. There has never been a three-division champion from the Dominican Republic, and that’s something I want to give to my country.

For a closer look at Javier Fortuna, check out his fighter page.

Fortuna vs Douglas Full Fight: November 12, 2016.