Lightweight world champion plans on punishing Dominican slugger after Fortuna failed to make weight—changing tomorrow night's co-main event in Brooklyn, New York to a non-title match.
Tommorow night, Robert Easter Jr. faces perhaps the stiffest challenge of his career.
Across the ring, Easter (20-0, 14 KOs) will look at once-beaten Javier Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs), a Dominican banger with power in both hands. Though Fortuna will be tackling his first real challenge at 135 pounds after spending the majority of his career at 130 pounds, he can still whack.
Easter is being hailed as a potential future pound-for-pound star after lifting the vacant IBF belt in June 2016 in a competitive split decision win over Richard Commey. He's made two defenses since, going the distance each time.
While Saturday night’s co-main event of the Showtime-televised card that airs at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York was scheduled to be a 135-pound championship match—Fortuna could not make the official weight today (he tipped the scale at 136.8 pounds during the official weigh-in and failed to cut down to the official limit within the two-hour window) and thus a title will not be on the line.
“That’s just an excuse just not to fight me. He don’t really want to get in there,” Easter said. “That’s unprofessional, I come and make weight all the time and it don’t hold me back in the fight.
“We gonna fight. There’s been too many words to back out of the fight. So we gonna fight.”
Easter will enjoy a massive height and reach advantage against Fortuna. He stands at 5-feet-11 while his opponent is 5-feet-6. Easter's game plan will likely involve utilizing this advantage as best as he can, boxing from the outside and keeping out of the way of the southpaw Fortuna's big left hand.
Fortuna doesn't think he's facing something he hasn't seen before despite the height difference.
"I’ve seen speed, felt power and fought people who are taller than Easter," said Fortuna, who was aiming to become the first Domincan-born boxer to win world titles in three different divisions.
“I think what most helps Easter is his height. Other than Easter being tall, he’s average. I think Easter will have a more difficult time adjusting to me than I will him."
“ He don’t really want to get in there. That’s unprofessional, I come and make weight all the time and it don’t hold me back in the fight. We gonna fight. There’s been too many words to back out of the fight. ” Lightweight World Champion Robert Easter Jr., on Javier Fortuna missing weight
Fortuna's lone loss came against Jason Sosa in a fun and competitive fight that Fortuna was winning when he was stopped in the 11th round in June 2016. Fortuna has run off four wins since, including a close 10-round decision against then-unbeaten Omar Douglas, in which Fortuna climbed off the canvas in the first round to get the win.
The betting odds suggest Fortuna is out of his depths. That Fortuna hasn't stopped a legitimate opponent since moving up above 126 pounds hurts his chances. He made his name first as a power puncher.
Easter has shown he can crack too. He dropped Luis Cruz three times in the championship rounds last February en route to a lopsided decision win. But he also showed he can be susceptible to power, having been dropped by Commey in the eighth before rallying to win.
Easter has big money fights in his sights as he wants to get Mikey Garcia or Jorge Linares in the ring. He's been talking of unifying the titles since beating Commey, but has been forced to settle for other opponents while he builds his name up.
The Toledo, Ohio native says a big win tomorrow night could change that.
“Those are the fights not only the fans wanna see, but [me] as well,” Easter said. “I’m a champion, Mikey’s a champion, Linares is a champion. These are fights that make fighters great, so fighting these fights that you really didn’t ask for or look forward to, it’s kind of like, ‘OK, he’s just somebody in the way that I’ve gotta train six, seven hard weeks for and fight this fight.’ And we’re gonna see what happens after that."
Despite being disappointed he's not in a bigger fight, Easter isn't taking Fortuna lightly. A profile this month in his hometown Toledo paper The Blade had Easter quoted as saying he trained on Christmas and New Year’s. Easter is a third-generation fighter who carries his hometown on his back and wants to put them on the map the way Kelly Pavlik did with Youngstown.
A win over Fortuna isn't going to put Easter on the cover of RING Magazine, but it's another step towards his ultimate goal of being easily recognizable by the casual fan. There are plenty of big fights in the 26-year-old's future. He's just got to take it one step at a time.
For a complete look at Easter vs Fortuna, visit our fight page.