The former world lightweight champion has sharpened his boxing skills in preparation for his 135-pound showdown versus former two-division titlist Rances Barthelemy Saturday night on Showtime.
Robert Easter Jr. woke up Sunday morning, July 29, 2018, like he had any other Sunday morning. There were no anxiety pangs as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, sitting at the edge of his hotel room bed; no hollow thoughts consumed him about a missing piece of himself from the previous night.
What annoyed the former IBF lightweight champ that morning was just that—he was the former IBF lightweight champ. He didn’t fight the kind of fight he knew he was capable of against Mikey Garcia. That the fans that night who packed Staples Center didn’t see Easter at his best.
It’s been nine months since Easter suffered his first professional loss and he’s yet to see a replay of the fight.
Why relive it?
“I know everything I did wrong,” Easter said. “There was a lot of stuff I didn’t do in camp as far as strength and conditioning. In the ring that night against Garcia, I just felt fast. I really didn’t feel strong; just fast. All I had was speed. I felt I could back Garcia up, but I didn’t feel strong within myself and I had to get back to the drawing board and perfect the fundamentals.”
That’s what Easter (21-1, 14 KOs) plans to do when he takes on 32-year-old Cuban expatriate and former two-division champion Rances Barthelemy (27-1, 14 KOs) this Saturday on Showtime Championship Boxing (10:00p.m. ET/7:00p.m. PT), live from The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
On the line is the vacant WBA “regular” lightweight championship. Easter is now trained by his father, Robert Easter Sr., and Mike Stafford, after a brief stint with Kevin Cunningham in his fight with Garcia.
After the Garcia loss, Easter Jr. took a break from boxing and spent time with his son, Robert Easter III, who turns two in June. Robert Jr.’s been fighting since he was nine-years-old. He got a chance to unwind at Kalahari waterpark in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and gather with family and friends for a few months. It was a great elixir to keep his mind off boxing.
The eight-month layoff between fights is the longest of Easter’s career. Call it a necessary mental vacation.
“It definitely was, but everyone who’s always been around are still around me, and I’m someone who doesn’t take on new people and new groups, because I trust the people around me,” Easter said. “They stayed with me. I kept training.
“I get asked all the time about my weight, and if it’s hard to make 135 pounds, because I’m tall for a lightweight. But I always do well making weight, even though I walk around at about 150 pounds. During my downtime, I have a sweet tooth, but I didn’t treat myself too much like that. I bought myself a Dodge Charger. I love American muscle cars.”
“ Wins or losses, you still learn things. I have to fight smarter. ” Former World Lightweight Champion - Robert Easter Jr.
Easter says he eager to return to the ring. He was back training fulltime in October, opting to stay with his father and Stafford.
“We’ve sharpened up on everything, from me in the ring to their coaching, we all stepped up, forcing me to use my feet and my length more,” Easter said. “I don’t use my height and reach enough. That’s what I shy away from. I’m used to going straight forward and getting guys out. I smell blood, I would go after guys.
“I made the mistake of forgetting that I’m usually the taller guy; I’m usually the guy with the longer reach. Those are built-in advantages that I’ve always had, but I would get pulled into brawls—and I always won, so that’s what I always did. I’m the guy who’s going to go and get you, especially if I know you’re hurt.
“Wins or losses, you still learn things. I have to fight smarter.”
Easter says he’s going to be more calculating. However, that may be tough considering his engaging, come-forward nature.
“We’ve been concentrating on Robert working behind his jab and setting everything up off of that,” said Stafford, who’s been with Easter for every fight except the Garcia fight. “It’s a matter of fundamentals with Robert. He has boxing skills. Robert has to use his reach and use his jab, and movement, not just in front of his guy, like he did with Mikey.
“Robert is going to be all right. Barthelemy is a wise guy who likes to use his experience and win on points. He’s a clever guy, but he’s never been in there with someone like Robert. Robert just has to use his talent and skills.”
Against Barthelemy, Easter, 28, will once again be the taller fighter with the longer reach, listed at 5-foot-11 with a 76-inch reach to Barthelemy’s 5-foot-10 and 72.5-inch reach.
“I have to be smarter about certain things, and I know what people saw and I know what people like, but there are times when I did fight smarter and I need to be more a boxer,” Easter said. “I wouldn’t call it a new Robert Easter Jr. everyone is going to see against Barthelemy. I would say people are going to see things and abilities that I’ve always had. These skills have been there, I would say that they’re going to shine more.
“I’m taller, I have a longer reach, but whether you’re in there with a taller guy or not, you still have to use your distance to win. There’s still going to be a lot of excitement. I’m just going to use my smarts more than my heart.”
For a closer look at Robert Easter Jr., check out his fighter page.