Friday night, at the Huntington Center in Toledo, OH, IBF World Lightweight champion Robert Easter, JR.,19-0,14 KO’s successfully defended his title for the first time by winning a unanimous decision over Luis Cruz,22-5-1, 16 KO’s in front of his hometown fans. The judges all had him winning easily by scores of 119-106, 118-107 and 117-108.
“My people came out in full force so I wanted to give them a show, a night to remember. I feel like I did that, even though I wish I could’ve given them the knockout”, Easter said after the fight.
Easter, JR.’s size and reach advantage were evident from the opening bell. The 26-year old champion stands 5-foot-11, which is tall for the lightweight class and two inches taller than Cruz. Easter, JR. also had a four-inch reach advantage. Easter. JR. put Cruz on the canvas in the tenth round with a strong right jab. Cruz took several more blows while stumbling around the ring. The pressure continued to be applied by Easter, JR. in the eleventh round, who dropped Cruz again with a right hand. The champion continued delivering devastating blows seconds before the final bell rang as Cruz hit the ground a final time in the twelfth from another big right hand.
“I admit I was very surprised that Luis Cruz could take my punches like that and finish the fight. When I had him down and hurt (in the 10th round), I thought he was done. I give him credit. He came a long way and showed a lot of heart.”
Last September, Easter, JR. won the (vacant) title by defeating Richard Commey by split decision at the Santander Arena in Reading, PA. Mikey Garcia (WBC) and Jorge Linares (WBA) are two of the other world champions at the lightweight division that Easter must challenge if he is going to gain the recognition that he is looking for. Terry Flanagan (WBO) is the forgotten champion amongst the group and will probably have to put together a string of title defenses if he wants to get into the mix as well.Contact the Feature Writers