Robert Easter Jr. (18-0, 14 KOs) returns tonight on PBC on Bounce TV where he’ll make the first defense of his IBF lightweight title. Easter Jr. won the vacant title when he beat Richard Commey in a tough split decision last September, but tonight Easter Jr. puts that strap on the line against Luis Cruz (22-4-1, 16 KOs) as the PBC’s main event. And being able to do so in front of his hometown fans of Toledo means the world to him:
"Since I started my pro career I knew this day would come. Not making the Olympics and not winning national titles put this hunger in me that I would become a world champion and make sure that I bring something back to my hometown. This is definitely a dream come true."
Easter Jr. is a staple of Adrien Broner’s “About Billions” promotional outfit which will be co-promoting tonight’s card alongside Mayweather promotions, but speaking specifically on his opponent Luis Cruz, Easter Jr. says:
"You don't underestimate no man," Easter said. "Cruz is a tough guy. He has two hands as well as I do. He has a good chance of winning the title as well, but he won't be beating me and getting that title from me. We will be victorious. I hope he brings his A game because I'm bringing my A-plus game."
Regardless of what Easter Jr. may say, one look at Cruz’s recent record would suggest that he’s been hand-selected as an opponent for Easter Jr. to look good against, and not one who’s really believed to have a ‘good chance of winning.’ Cruz is 3-4-1 in his last eight fights, most recently earning a split draw against Ivan Redkach last April.
With a successful title defense tonight, Easter Jr. says he would like to unify with the other titleholders in the division, namely Mikey Garcia, Jorge Linares, and Terry Flanagan.
"I feel a fight with Mikey Garcia or Jorge Linares will make me a superstar," Easter said. "Those are the two fights I want to see happen. I want any of the guys with the titles, any of the guys on top of my weight class."
Those fights will have to happen soon, though, because at nearly 6 feet tall the 26-year-old Easter Jr. only expects to remain at lightweight for another year — mentioning that he believes he’ll max out at 154lbs.