On Saturday night, January 20, 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, IBF Lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (21-0, 14 KOs) escaped with a razor thin decision over Javier Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs).
The fight was originally billed as a title fight, but Fortuna lost that opportunity on the scales by coming in overweight resulting in the fight being a 12-round non-title bout.
Easter abandoned his game plan midway through a fight he could’ve won more convincingly using his natural advantages in height and reach. The Toledo, Ohio native was the busier man for most of the fight throwing a whopping 567 punches. He started off controlling distance using his range and relying on his jab to set his right hand.
Unfortunately, the champion allowed himself to be baited into a phone booth slugfest, which played to the strengths of the much shorter Fortuna, who was content to pick his spots and counter with hard shots on the inside.
There was a controversial point deduction in the second round as referee, Ricky Gonzalez, penalized Fortuna for rabbit punching. Easter was unbothered physically and began working Fortuna’s midsection.
The fourth round saw Fortuna recall his days under Pablo Sarmiento, as he dropped his hands and countered Easter’s punches like the legendary Sergio Martinez. Whereas in the fifth, Fortuna allowed himself to get trapped in the ropes where Easter had his way, unloading on the Dominican.
Easter ate a big left hand counter from Fortuna late in the sixth round, but it was in the seventh where banter between the two fighters convinced Easter to throw caution to the wind and fight it out with Fortuna on the inside.
The last quarter of the fight was explosive with both guys slugging it out landing power shots. Although Easter had his moments, it seemed like the heavy handed Fortuna was making the most of the exchanges. Despite his efforts, the point deduction may have caught up with him on the scorecards.
Two judges, Glen Feldman and Kevin Morgan, scored 114-113 and 115-112 for Easter, respectively. Judge Kevin Morgan scored it 114-113 for Fortuna.
The announcement of scorecards were met with boos, however when asked about it Easter wasn’t fazed.
“It was a tough fight,” said Easter. “He was trying to hold and counter punch, but he wasn’t doing nothing. The fans were booing because I didn’t get the knockout. I’m sorry to all my fans that I didn’t get the knockout.”
When Easter was questioned about whom he wants to fight next he mentioned big names.
“Of course I like to fight the champions, I’d like to unify these belts,” said Easter. “Fight like this; they don’t really matter. That’s why I’m trying to fight the champions of this weight class. Going through stuff like this that’s not really in my game plan. I’m trying to fight Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares.”
Fortuna, much like the crowd, was upset he didn’t get the nod. “The public knows what happened here. They booed because they know that I won this fight,” said Fortuna. “If he’s a man let’s fight again at 135-pounds. I will definitely make the weight. I didn’t give myself enough time to train.”
To which Easter, whom Fortuna invited to his interview, replied, “You knew we was fighting before I even knew we was fighting. How is that an excuse, man? C’mon man you gotta be professional. Make the weight next time man. “
It seems that whatever opponent Easter fights next, it’s highly unlikely that he will take a rematch with Fortuna.
Header photo by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing