Robert Easter Jr
Record: 20-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W20 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’11” / 76” ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Easter is big and tall for the division, just under six feet with a long reach that gives him a serious advantage against most opponents, which will be there again on Saturday against Javier Fortuna.
Easter has a case for being the best lightweight in the world right now, with Mikey Garcia having moved up. Jorge Linares is the popular choice, but if you really examine it, is Linares’ recent résumé Javier Prieto, Kevin Mitchell, Ivan Cano, Anthony Crolla, and Luke Campbell really better than what Easter has done?
Easter really got things going in 2016, when he beat former 130-pound titleholder Argenis Mendez. He followed that up by beating tough contender Richard Commey for the vacant IBF lightweight title, and has defended against Luis Cruz and Denis Shafikov. It’s not Murderer’s Row, but I think it holds up fairly well against Linares’ sheet, too. Add in that Easter is younger and hasn’t been beaten, and I’d say he legitimately has a case to the claim.
This fight for Easter is going to be interesting, I think, because he’s at the point where he’s the favorite, and clearly so, but he’s fighting a talented opponent. At his best, Javier Fortuna can be very difficult for anyone.
That said, if Easter can use his natural advantages effectively, the fight should map itself out in his favor. It’s good to be a fighter who can, in a sense, coast on that sort of thing — “coast on” makes it sound too easy, but in a sense you don’t always have to be at your best if you can exploit advantages like this.
Record: 33-1-1 (23 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’6” / 68½” ... Age: 28
Thoughts: Fortuna has been around a while, never totally broken through as a star fighter or anything, but has been good. He was hyped by Sampson Lewkowicz as a potential “next Pacquiao” or “next Sergio” at one point. It came down to similarities. Fortuna was a guy the famed scout and manager found, this time in the Dominican Republic. Like Pacquiao and Martinez, he was a dynamic, quick southpaw with power and natural gifts.
Back in 2013, he fought to a 10-round draw with Luis Franco in Oklahoma, the first blemish on his record. but he rebounded well from that, and beat Bryan Vasquez for the vacant WBA “world” super featherweight title in May 2015.
He defended just once before an upset loss to Jason Sosa in June 2016 in Beijing. He moved up in weight — cautiously — after that, and has won four straight since, three of those fights coming at home in the Dominican. The other fight was a November 2016 decision victory over Omar Douglas, where Fortuna came off the canvas and hardly dominated.
As it stands right now, Fortuna’s career is at something of a crossroads, and facing Easter is a tough proposition. Fortuna is a fairly small lightweight in general, and he’s facing a very big lightweight.
Matchup Grade: C+. There’s potential here for this to be better than a C+ fight, but also potential for it to be worse. Fortuna hasn’t looked great in his two recent notable fights, the loss to Sosa and struggle past Douglas, and he’s giving up a lot of size to Easter, too. Maybe this will be a fight where Fortuna fights to his best ability, maybe it won’t be.
Both of these fights will air on the Showtime YouTube page.
- Marcus Browne vs Francy Ntetu: Browne (20-0, 15 KO) is the top American prospect in a strong light heavyweight division, and maybe the best American fighter in the division right now, it’s him or Joe Smith Jr. At 27, the former Olympian is entering the stage of his career where it’s time to get going, coming off of wins over Thomas Williams Jr (KO-6) and Seanie Monaghan (TKO-2). Those victories followed a controversial decision win over Radivoje Kalajdzic in April 2016, where Browne at least hopefully learned some valuable lessons. Ntetu (17-1, 4 KO) is probably a better fighter than Monaghan, but not any more dangerous, really. He did go into the seventh round with David Benavidez in his lone loss, but he’s really a super middleweight and will give up some size to Browne, not to mention likely some skill. It’s a stay-busy fight for Browne, not anything to be ashamed of, but nothing to get excited about, too. Grade: C-
- Adam Kownacki vs Iago Kiladze: Kownacki (16-0, 13 KO) is coming off of a very impressive performance against Artur Szpilka in July, where he dominated the former title challenger and knocked him out in the fourth round. Kownacki is, frankly, pudgy — he’s 6’3” and comes in anywhere between 240 and 265 in recent fights, but it’s worth noting that the 242 he weighed in for the Szpilka fight was his lowest weight since 2010, so he took that fight seriously. Kiladze (26-1, 18 KO) is a former cruiserweight who lost to Youri Kalenga back in 2013, but has gone unbeaten since officially moving up a few fights ago. He went 2-0 in 2017, beating Byron Polley and Pedro Rodriguez. Grade: C-