Robert Easter Jr vs Luis Cruz
Robert Easter Jr
Record: 18-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W18 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'11" / 76" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Easter has a long, lanky frame, huge reach, big power, good boxing skills, and a confidence that doesn’t really border on arrogance at all — he’s just very good, has worked for it, and knows what he can do in the ring.
He’s an easy favorite in this matchup, which is frankly beneath him. He had a tough time last time out with Richard Commey, but Commey is double tough and can fight, too. Easter is still getting better, which is the scariest thing about him. With his physical advantages and skills, a little more polish and preparation could soon be in consideration as the world’s best 135 pound fighter.
Record: 22-4-1 (16 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 2-2-1 ... Last 10: 5-4-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 72" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: Cruz is a mediocre fighter, a non-contender, and has no hope of winning this fight barring a miracle punch. He does have fairly heavy hands, but that’s about it.
Matchup Grade: F. Honestly, this is every bit as lousy a world title matchup as Lara-Foreman was last month. I love Robert Easter. He’s beyond this fight. This is a victory lap bout in Toledo, period.
Rau’shee Warren vs Zhanat Zhakiyanov
Record: 14-1 (4 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 3-1 (1 NC) ... Last 10: 8-1 (1 NC) ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'4½" / 64½" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: A talented fighter, short of elite, but good. That’s kind of how his amateur career went, too. I don’t mean any of this as a shot at Rau’shee; his WBA title win over Juan Carlos Payano last June was incredibly emotional and rewarding as someone who watched him come up short in the amateur ranks at three straight Olympics, finally getting over that hill.
But how good is Payano, really? And how good is Warren, really? Personally, I think he’s very good. His goal is to prove he’s great, and he may well do that.
Record: 26-1 (18 KO) ... Streak: W9 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’7" / 67" ... Age: 33
Thoughts: First things first: Zhakiyanov has never beaten a world class fighter. Second things second: Zhakiyanov has not fought since November 2015. Third things third: in that fight, against Yonfrez Parejo in Monte Carlo, he escaped with a split decision.
Zhakiyanov is neither young nor special, just like most of us. He held the European bantamweight title briefly, beating Karim Guerfi in 2014, and that might be his best pro victory. As for his loss, that came way back in 2008, when he dropped a decision to Sakhib Usarov.
Matchup Grade: C+. I think this fight isn’t going to be as even as it seems on paper, but on paper, it’s fairly even. Zhakiyanov might well be really rusty, and Warren isn’t going to be.
Jamel Herring vs Art Hovhannisyan
Record: 15-1 (8 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / 69" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: An affable, likable fighter, a fan of the sport and a student of the game, a decent fighter, and as for the last bit, it ends there. He was woefully outclassed by contender Denis Shafikov in his last fight on July 2, 2016, stopped in the 10th round of a one-sided fight. He didn’t meet his level that night, he tried to vastly exceed it.
Herring is a solid, somewhat crafty southpaw, not a bad fighter, but he’s going to top out at fringe contender, it would seem. Shafikov has come up short against true top fighters, but is a contender, a real one. The gulf in class between he and Herring was terribly evident.
Record: 17-3-3 (9 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 2-2-1 ... Last 10: 5-3-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 67" ... Age: 35
Thoughts: A decent enough challenge for Herring, but maybe that’s not saying a ton. Long story short, Herring-Hovhannisyan is reminiscent of the ESPN Friday Night Fights main events toward the end, when the show had lost all its budget.
Hovhannisyan is 0-2-1 in his last three, losing to Diego Magdaleno and Jonathan Maicelo, and beating Fidel Maldonado Jr. He sat out all of 2015 but had a pair of fights last year.
Matchup Grade: C-. The minus is because the fight has little ultimate meaning. Neither is going to become a contender barring a substantial change in momentum. But as it is, it’s evenly matched and should be watchable.