Former world lightweight champions Robert Easter Jr. and Rances Barthelemy seek redemption when they meet for the vacant 135-pound strap Saturday night on Showtime.
How a fighter bounces back from a career-stalling loss says a lot about who they are as a person and what they’re made of as a competitor.
Robert Easter Jr. (21-1, 14 KOs) and Rances Barthelemy (27-1, 14 KOs) both suffered the sting of defeat in 2018 and are vowing to return as better fighters. But the big comeback, at least for now, will only be possible for one.
This Saturday, April 27, at The Chelsea inside of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Premier Boxing Champions presents a twelve-round lightweight contest between Easter and Barthelemy for the vacant WBA world title. SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING coverage begins at 10:00p.m. ET/7:00p.m. PT.
The last time fans saw Easter, he gave a fair account of himself in a losing effort against pound-for-pound player Mikey Garcia. The unanimous decision defeat would not only cost Easter his IBF 135-pound title, but also pause a career that was gaining steam.
A world champ since decisioning then-undefeated Richard Commey for the vacant title back in 2016, Easter had defended the belt three times before losing to Garcia, scoring wins over Luis Cruz, Denis Shafikov, and Javier Fortuna.
At 5-foot-11, Easter is a vexing physical presence when fully utilizing his assets. He uses the jab well and throws a sharp straight right hand and uppercut that, when launched with enough leverage, can be fight-altering weapons
The 28-year-old, however, can be too laid back in his approach. Not busy enough at times; allowing opponents to take the fight inside and conceding optimal space and pace conditions. To his credit, Easter is a good inside fighter for his size and reach, but the first-ever world champion from Toledo, Ohio, is clearly best suited to excel at a distance.
Against Barthelemy, a similarly long, tall fighter who is skilled, savvy, and eager to exploit mistakes, Easter knows he must be at his best if he wants to get things back on track and become a world champ again.
"I’ve wanted to fight Barthelemy since he had the lightweight title and vacated it, and now I have the chance," said Easter. "He has an awkward style and I'm up for that challenge. I am still coming in as the taller fighter with a reach advantage and I’ll use it to make this fight go how I want it to.”
Cuban two-division world champion, Barthelemy, is counting on a return to lightweight—where he is undefeated—to restart a temporarily stalled career.
Two rough performances at super lightweight against Kiryl Relikh—a questionable unanimous decision win in May 2017 and a unanimous decision loss in March 2018—took the steam out of a career that had been previously chugging along just fine. The loss halted Barthelemy’s efforts to become Cuba’s first professional three-division world champion.
In his last bout, however, a dominant stoppage win in three rounds over Robert Frankel got the former amateur standout back in the right direction and to the form that saw him score impressive victories over the likes of Argenis Mendez, Antonio DeMarco, Denis Shafikov, and Mickey Bey.
The 32-year-old Barthelemy, who is 5-foot-10, is also considered a tall, rangy lightweight, best suited to working from the outside. He fights tall and uses his jab well as a range finder and distance setter. A switch-hitter with solid technique from both right and left sides, Barthelemy gets good leverage on his punches and is especially sharp with his body work. He also carries with him a high ring IQ and a penchant for setting traps to create opportunities for counters.
The high IQ, however, can sometimes lead him to being too cute in the ring. Confident in his own ability to read an opponent and respond adequately, he too can be too laid back at times, allowing himself to be outworked. Trust in his own physical tools can also make him vulnerable on defense, at times fighting too straight up or too much in a straight line, in defiance of traditional defensive boxing theory.
Barthelemy is stacking up the motivation for this bout, not only pushing towards personal glory, but also carrying the future of Cuban boxing on his shoulders.
“We have no doubt that we’ll become champion again for a third time on April 27,” Barthelemy said. “This will bring my name back at the top of the sport with many potential big fights to be made. It will mean so much more to me because Cuban boxing has currently gone through a rough patch and this victory will allow Cuba to have a champion once again.”
With both Easter and Barthelemy being rangy lightweights, at their best when fighting tall, conventional wisdom may scream that the fight will be won or lost on the outside. If that’s the case, how does Easter, with a three-and-a-half inch reach advantage, measure up to Barthelemy, who, it could be argued, uses the jab to overall greater effect?
Both are also good inside fighters for tall men, with Barthelemy being the more polished of the two, but Easter being, perhaps, the greater physical presence.
Easter vs. Barthelemy is a true pick ‘em and an intriguing topic for debate among fight fans. Throw in a sense of urgency as both look to recapture title gold following tough losses and you have a nice little gem of a prizefight on your hands. Tune in and enjoy the uncertainty.
For a closer look at Easter vs Barthelemy, check out our fight night page.