“El Abejon” aims to make history Saturday night on Showtime by becoming the first-ever Dominican-born boxer to win three world titles.
Javier Fortuna would like to change time. The southpaw from the Dominican Republic would like to go back and bend a fleeting 10-second span of his career 18 months ago, when he was in a corner, against the ropes, caught by a left hook to the chin that he didn’t see and momentarily changed everything.
It forced the former super featherweight champ to question his vocation; question his commitment to something he thought he loved; question whether or not he even wanted to fight anymore.
Fortuna became a shut-in who didn’t want to hear anything from anyone. That guy who sits in a dark room by himself looking at a flickering TV screen with the sound down and the curtains drawn, replaying a morsel of a moment.
Gradually Fortuna, 28, stepped back into the gym. He spoke to his trainer, Hector Bermudez, and they came to the realization that he shouldn’t waste his talent stewing about a mistake he had time to correct.
That chance will come this Saturday night, January 20, when Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) fights IBF champion Robert Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs) for a lightweight world title live on Showtime (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
A victory over Easter will bring Fortuna full circle to where he was when he was stopped by Jason Sosa in the 11th round on June 24. 2016, in Beijing, China, defending a super featherweight title for the second time. What sticks with Fortuna was that he was beating Sosa at the time of the stoppage, up on all three judge’s scorecards, when after a knockdown in the 11th, referee Raul Caiz Jr. waved it over at the 45-second mark of the round.
“I learned a lot about the Sosa fight, not within the fight, but about the emotion that comes after you lose for the first time,” Fortuna said, through Bermudez, his interpreter. “Losing is something I don’t want to experience again. At first, I’ll admit, that I didn’t want anything to do with boxing.
“I spoke to my family, I spoke to my mom, who never wanted me to box anyway. I spoke to Hector, and we came to realize that I wouldn’t have felt like that if I didn’t lose concentration for that 15 seconds against Sosa. It would have been a whole different outcome. I would have had a whole different belief system right now. I came to realize I should continue my career.
“It was embarrassing to lose to Sosa. But my community helped me a lot. They still saw me as a world champion.”
“ I know I’m not supposed to beat Easter, according to a lot of people. I’m going to give Robert Easter more problems than what anyone thinks. ” Two-division World Champion Javier Fortuna
He just needed to rekindle that same mindset when he was a world champion.
Three months after losing to Sosa, Fortuna was back in the ring. This time, however, he would be the test fighter for undefeated Marlyn Cabrera. Fortuna handed Cabrera his first defeat, scoring a second-round TKO in September 2016. Then, he put the first splotch on heralded prospect Omar Douglas’ record in November 2016 in Philadelphia, winning by a close, though unanimous 10-round decision after getting up from the canvas in the first round.
Fortuna was winning the first round when Douglas countered with a left hook, which once again, “El Abejon” didn’t see. It was the third time Fortuna had to get up from the floor. From then on, it seemed, a switch was struck. Fortuna was patient, masterful, and lured Douglas into trying to land the left hook over his down right hand hanging by his waist.
Fortuna is on a four-fight winning streak—beating three undefeated fighters on his current run. He wasn’t expected to beat Cabrera, Douglas or Nicolas Polanco, who was 20-0 when Fortuna beat him in September 2017.
“I know I wasn’t supposed to win those fights, and I know I was doubted, but I like to be doubted,” Fortuna said. “It motivates me. I know I’m not supposed to beat Easter, according to a lot of people. I’m going to give Robert Easter more problems than what anyone thinks. It’s great when everyone thinks you’re the favorite and supposed to win, but my real motivation comes when no one thinks I can win.
“Like right now, against Easter.”
Fortuna feels he’s far better than when he lost to Sosa. He says his concentration is galvanized. He says Easter hasn’t faced a southpaw with his defensive boxing skills. Basically, he promises to have Easter running around in circles chasing himself.
“If [Easter] fights me like he fought [Denis Shafikov] in his last fight, it’s going to be an early night,” said Fortuna, who aims to become the first-ever Dominican-born boxer to win three world titles.
“I was beating Sosa. I got careless and I thought I could recover from the knockdown, and the referee stopped the fight too early. When I beat Easter, I would love to give Sosa a rematch.
“It’s a fight that I always think about. I’m a competitor who doesn’t like to lose. It’s something that I would like to change.”
Starting with beating Easter this Saturday.
For a complete look at Easter vs Fortuna, visit our fight page.