Robert Easter Jr. looks across the ring at Algenis Mendez and sees a fighter who is smaller, slower and less skillful. He also sees a fighter whose last loss was to Rances Barthelemy, a two-division champion whom Easter believes is no more talented than he is.
So it should come as little surprise that unbeaten 135-pound prospect Robert Easter Jr. (16-0, 13 KOs) heads into Friday’s match against former 130-pound champion Algenis Mendez (23-3-1, 12 KOs) with supreme confidence. The two will meet in a 10-round bout at the DC Armory in Washington D.C. (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
Easter, who has fought at 135 for his entire career and weighed in Thursday at 133, comes into this bout riding a four-fight stoppage streak, while Mendez has won consecutive fights since making the jump to 135 after twice facing Barthelemy in 130-pound title fights in 2014.
In the first bout against Barthelemy, Mendez was knocked out in the second round, but the result was later changed to a no contest after it was determined the deciding punch was thrown after the bell. In the rematch six months later, Mendez dropped a unanimous decision, losing 115-111 on all three cards.
“I’ve watched the two rounds of [Mendez’s] first fight with Barthelemy and three rounds of the second,” Easter says. “The first fight, Barthelemy got close to him and hurt him in the first round with a hook and jumped on him.
“Barthelemy’s a great fighter and I saw him really take control with his jab, and I believe that I have one of the best jabs in the game. I’m not only skillful, but I’m accurate and I can be a big puncher as well, so I fight just as well inside as I do outside.”
A 29-year-old Dominican Republic native now fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, the 5-foot-9 Mendez may not measure up to the 6-foot Easter in terms of size or skill, but he’s definitely got the experience edge. He turned pro in late 2006, nearly six years before Easter, and he’s competed in five world title fights, winning a 130-pound crown in March 2013 with a fourth-round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado.
Mendez, who tipped the scales Thursday at 134.2 pounds, ended up losing that title to Barthelemy, but then made the jump in weight and defeated Daniel Evangelista Jr. by sixth-round knockout in February 2015, followed by a 10-round unanimous decision over former 135-pound champion Miguel Vazquez in October.
“I’m a different fighter than two years ago when I lost to Rances Barthelemy,” Mendez says. “Easter is long and tall, he’s a good fighter, but he hasn’t fought anyone near my caliber, and I think his style sets up well for me.”
Easter acknowledges that Mendez’s experience will pose a challenge, which is why he’s working that into his game plan.
“I’ll take control of the fight as early as possible, because he’s a veteran who will have some tricks up his sleeves,” Easter says. “The game plan is to control him with the jab, let the combinations roll off of the jab, stay long and stay at range.
“I hear he’s said I’m in over my head, but I’m tall and rangy, and we’re going to go in there and make him adjust to me at all times.”
Not only has Easter stopped each of his past four opponents and five of the last six, but he finished off four of those guys inside of three rounds, the most recent being a third-round TKO of Juan Ramon Solis in October.
Given Mendez’s experience and sturdy chin—he’s never been stopped in his pro career—it would seem unlikely that Easter will get another quick finish Friday. But don’t try to convince Easter of that.
The 25-year-old Toledo, Ohio, native is determined to continue his ascent up the 135-pound ladder with a statement-making victory. And that means becoming the first man to stand over a knocked-out Mendez.
“Whatever opportunity Mendez gives me, I’m going to take it,” Easter says. “[But] I’m going to try to get the knockout in as few rounds as possible. I’m going to show the world that I should be on the elite level. I’m going to stop him by either KO or TKO—bottom line.”
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