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Broner vs Santiago: Robert Easter Jr excited to return, expects to handle Ryan Martin

The former lightweight titlist breaks a 15-month inactivity spell on Saturday’s Showtime card.

Jose Pineiro/SHOWTIME
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Former lightweight titleholder Robert Easter Jr hasn’t fought since an Oct. 2019 win over Adrian Granados in his move to junior welterweight, but is set to return on Saturday’s Broner-Santiago card on Showtime (Feb. 20, 9 pm ET) against Ryan Martin, opening the tripleheader broadcast.

Easter (22-1-1, 14 KO) won the IBF 135-pound title in 2016, and made three successful defenses before losing a unification fight against Mikey Garcia in 2018. He followed that up with a draw against Rances Barthelemy in one of the worst fights ever televised, but looked pretty sharp against Granados last we saw him.

Martin (24-1, 14 KO) attempted to leap from relative obscurity to the big stage when he joined the World Boxing Super Series in 2018, but was sorely outclassed by Josh Taylor in his opening round fight. Martin has fought twice since then, beating a pair of journeymen on small cards in Florida in June and October of last year.

Both men sincerely need this win if they’re going to get into the race in the 140-pound division, which could be opening up in a big way after the planned Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez undisputed title fight in May. If the winner of that moves up to welterweight, either immediately or by early 2022, we could see four belts up for grabs.

Martin spoke from training camp about his return, the matchup with Martin, working with Adrien Broner, and more.

On his matchup with Ryan Martin

“Martin is a tough opponent who is going to bring his A-game, but I don’t see much difficulty in handling him and adjusting to anything he brings. I know he’s a hard worker. We fought each other in the amateurs so I know he probably has a chip on his shoulder. I really don’t think there’s much from that amateur fight that I can take away for this fight. We both have transitioned into the pros so he probably has a little more in his arsenal now, just like I do.

“I don’t know what to expect from Ryan Martin, but I do know what I expect from myself. When I’m in the ring I will make it a one-sided fight and bring my A-game. I’m coming to get the win.”

On his 15-month layoff

“I’m just very excited to get back in the ring. I had a little rust at first but that’s gone away and I’m perfectly fine now. I was a little nervous thinking about how I was going to feel when I came back, but I’m good now. We’re training very well. We’re sparring a lot. I am more than ready.

On training with Adrien Broner

“There’s a lot I’ve learned from Adrien. We train together every single day in the morning and in the afternoon. As soon as I turned pro, he took me under his wing. He taught me a lot of small things that you have to learn when you first come up from the amateurs into the pros. He was already a world champion by the time I came up so there was definitely a lot I could learn from him.

On his plans for 2021

“I’m not worried about who’s next, I just have to be prepared for February 20. It’s been frustrating watching all these fights on TV. I don’t even watch it anymore. But it’s been motivating to me and I just have to stay focused and keep training like crazy.

“My plan for 2021 is that I want to fight three times and get a title shot as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter who has the title or who I have to fight, I want to go get it. I plan to stay at 140. I feel stronger at 140 than I do at 135, so that’s where I want to be. I’m taking it one fight at a time to get to that title shot.”

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