Robert Easter Jr. had to push himself further than ever before in his last fight to become a world champion. Now he’s hoping to put on an even bigger show in his first title defense in his hometown.
Easter overcame an eighth-round knockdown in September to edge Richard Commey by split decision to earn a vacant 135-pound championship in an exciting toe-to-toe clash in Reading, Pennsylvania.
“I hit Commey with big shots from the third round on, but he didn't go down,” Easter said. “He brought out the warrior within me.
"I proved I could overcome adversity to beat a tough, awkward opponent. My supporters came through before the fight, and the community’s responding even more afterward.”
A bevy of Easter supporters made the trek to Reading’s Santander Arena to watch the Toledo, Ohio, native win his title. A month after returning home, the newly crowned champion received a key to the city following a parade in his honor.
Robert Easter Jr. (18-0, 14 KOs) will get another opportunity to thrill his hometown fans Friday when he defends his 135-pound title against Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz (22-4-1, 16 KOs) in the main event of a PBC card at Toledo’s Huntington Center (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“Robert's looking very sharp and on point,” said Robert Easter Sr., who trains his son at Toledo’s Glass City Boxing Gym. “People here are looking forward to seeing him live and in person. It should be an exciting, hostile atmosphere.”
Easter, an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, has been trying to balance his pre-fight preparations with community involvement in an attempt to maximize his opportunity to compete at home as a world champion.
“I’ve been inviting kids to my gym workouts, talking to them about what it took for me to get here,” said Easter, who turned 26 on January 26.
“It’s been a little crazy, but my team is made up of friends and family. They have specific jobs, like setting up interviews and community stuff, which allows me to stay focused and grounded to defend my title.”
Easter is also energized by the inclusion on the fight card of Cincinnati-based buddy Rau’shee Warren, who will defend his 118-pound world title against Zhanat Zhakiyanov in the co-main event. And the following weekend, Cincinnati native and former four-time champion Adrien Broner will compete at home against Adrian Granados.
“Rau’shee’s like an older brother, and A.B. has been a mentor,” Easter said. “Rau’shee grabbed his title in June; I got mine in September. With A.B. fighting a week later, it’s three guys from Ohio expanding their brand.”
For a complete look at Easter vs Cruz, visit our fight page.