When he edged Richard Commey by split decision to claim a vacant 135-pound world title on September 9, Robert Easter Jr. was so overcome by emotion that he fell to the canvas and wept.
It was a raw, spontaneous display of both relief and jubilation from a boxer who had just realized his lifelong goal of becoming a world champion. But as we recently discovered, Robert Easter Jr. (18-0, 14 KOs) wasn’t just thinking about himself during that career-defining moment.
Find out what we mean as we go “12 Rounds With” the 25-year-old Toledo, Ohio, native, who also touches on his love for laughter, uppercuts and a certain fast-food sandwich—and his disdain for Uncle Sam.
Who is your boxing hero?
My dad. Growing up, I just always wanted to be like him. He was the first one who took me to the gym and allowed me to put on a pair of gloves. I have a picture of myself as a 3-month-old with a pair of boxing gloves on.
Pretty much as soon as I came out of the womb, my dad had me in the gym by his side. But our relationship is much deeper than that. It’s a great feeling to have a father who boxed and who is someone you say you want to grow up and [emulate].
Everything my father did—and everything he taught me—has encouraged and motivated me to become the champion that I am today.
Speaking of becoming a champion, your father was with you on the night you defeated Richard Commey to win your first world title. How special was that?
Being in that championship fight, with him in my corner during those crucial moments, it was just like I had imagined it would be when I was growing up.
I wanted that father-son experience of winning the championship together, and being able to share that [with him] was special considering how hard my dad and I had worked over the years to achieve that. Being able to win an exciting fight the way we did was the fulfillment of not only my dreams but my dad’s as well.
What you would be doing with your life today if not for boxing?
Boxing was second nature to me growing up. Even when I was playing other sports like football, I would be on the sideline shadowboxing. When I had jobs, I didn’t want to work because I wanted to be in the gym.
I dropped out of college and quit jobs to fulfill my dream knowing that I’d be at this point one day. So to answer the question, I really don’t know where I would be without boxing.
What’s the hardest you’ve ever been hit in a fight?
It was at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas (in May 2014). I was controlling the fight against Carlos Cardenas, and then I made a move and made him back up. But I kind of got greedy while I was reaching for my punch, and he did a little step back and threw a right hand and I ran right into it.
It stung me a little bit. I grabbed him and my legs felt a little shaky, but I recovered and was able to finish the fight. It went the distance, and I won an eight-round unanimous decision.
I was recovering from kidney stones, so I was kind of off that fight, but I did the job and I learned a lot [by] overcoming adversity.
“ Boxing was second nature to me growing up. Even when I was playing other sports like football, I would be on the sideline shadowboxing. ... I really don’t know where I would be without boxing. ” Robert Easter Jr.
Who’s the one fighter in history you wish you could have fought, and how do you think that fight would play out?
Sugar Ray Leonard—he would’ve been a real test for me. I’ve always liked his style, being able to box and also bang it out if he wanted. He could throw a flurry of punches and had a fierce determination to win.
As far as me against him, styles make fights, and I’d be just as determined to win as he [would be]—no matter who I’m in there with, I believe I’m going to win the fight, even if it’s against a strong guy with sledgehammer hands.
A lot of people compare me to Tommy Hearns. I may use my footwork a little bit [more], not take as many punches as Tommy Hearns did. But sometimes, that’s what you have to do.
Leonard and Hearns, those guys were determined, and that made for an amazing event for boxing. I would try to win the fight by any means. If I have to go through pain, that’s what I’ve got to do, but Sugar Ray would have to know that there is going to be some pain coming from my end as well.
Who is the best fighter you’ve sparred against but never fought?
Of course I’ve gotta say [friend and fellow Ohio native] Adrien Broner. I was working with him before I turned pro, and he’s pretty much taken me under his wing and shown me the ropes and the ins and outs of professional boxing. He showed me how to work in the gym as you transition from the amateur to the professional ranks.
What’s one thing you like to eat that is the toughest to give up while training for a fight?
McDonald’s sausage egg McMuffins. I eat those daily. I was just on my way up to McDonald’s as we speak. I usually get one or two of them twice a day.
What’s the public’s biggest misconception about boxers?
That we’re cocky and really aren’t book smart or business smart. But if you actually get to know some of us boxers, [you’d learn that] a lot of us are really smart and business savvy—and you have to be in order not to get screwed over.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
Most people would say it’s a body shot where I go to the body with the left hand, but it’s actually the right uppercut. It feels comfortable when you roll the shoulder and get a lot of leverage into it.
Last year, when I fought Miguel Angel Mendoza, I dropped him in the second round with a left to the body, which I was landing the whole fight. But later in the round, Mendoza threw a left hand, and I countered by rolling into a right uppercut that ended the fight with a second-round knockout.
What is your favorite boxing movie?
Many boxing movies don’t really deliver a message, but there were two that actually showed the ins and outs of boxing: Hands of Stone and Southpaw.
Southpaw showed how things can be great one day and be gone in the blink of an eye the next day. That was a great message to show what boxers go through. Hands of Stone was just incredible.
What was your most memorable Christmas or birthday gift?
My dad surprised me on my birthday in January when we went out to dinner with my entire family at Red Lobster. But one of my twin 7-year-old nieces had called me earlier that day and spoiled it for me. [Laughs.] She started crying, but I told her it was OK.
Who is the one artist that fans would be surprised to find on your iPod?
Adele. I like her song “Hello”—the melody of it. I run to it, as I do with a lot of slow songs and R&B music. I like to relax when I’m doing that.
What is your favorite movie genre?
Comedy, without a doubt. I love to laugh. Horror movies are my least favorite. I cannot watch horror movies. If friends want to go to one, I’m like, “Go without me; I’ll see you when you get back.”
Will Smith and Denzel Washington have movies coming out on the same weekend. Which one are you seeing first?
Denzel Washington. I actually met Denzel after one of my fights in Las Vegas. He wanted to meet me, and Sam Watson brought me back to see him. I was starstruck. Denzel’s my favorite actor, by far.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
That would have to be Aaliyah when I was young. She was just beautiful. God put her on this earth to amaze people.
Batman or Superman?
Drake or Kanye?
I would say Kanye.
Which animal in the wild best describes your personality?
The hyena. I’m laughing the majority of the time, but they have one of the hardest bites in the wilderness.
Finish this sentence: People would be surprised to know …
… that I actually like to sit down and draw and sketch things. I design a lot of my boxing outfits. I used to draw a lot in school. But lately I haven’t had as much time to sketch as I would like.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Taxes, man. They’re kicking my butt. I would eliminate them, of course.
What is on your life’s bucket list?
There’s a lot. I actually want to perform standup comedy and see how many people I can make laugh.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: Deontay Wilder.