16 months on the shelf isn’t ideal for any boxer, but Robert Easter Jr. (22-1-1, 14 KOs) believes the time off not only made him a better man outside the ring but inside it as well.
Easter returns to the squared circle this Saturday, February 20, against Ryan Martin (24-1, 14 KOs) in the televised opener of a PBC on SHOWTIME triple-header (9:00 pm, ET/6:00 pm, PT), live from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
It’s his first bout since October 26, 2019, when he made his 140-pound debut with a thrilling 10-round decision over Adrian Granados. The win, however, feels like it occurred eons ago.
During a 2020 where the world was shaken to its core by the outbreak of COVID-19, Easter, the former IBF Lightweight champion, could not secure a bout. Although it was discouraging, he did his best to keep his eyes on the prize.
“It was definitely frustrating, but it put a focus back in my eyes on just straight boxing,” said Easter in an interview with Round By Round Boxing. “I knew that a lot of people was out of the gym, couldn’t get into gyms, so I pretty much had to stay focused on the goal whenever we got another opportunity to fight. I was training, training, training. It was frustrating, but I kept that focus.”
Besides doing what he could to remain in shape and keep his skills sharp, Easter also used the time off to spend with family and friends, including his three-year-old son, Robert Easter III. Becoming a father has inspired the 30 year old to add new wrinkles to what can already be considered a successful career.
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Robert Jr. was born into boxing, learning from his father/trainer Robert Easter Sr. Those skills have translated to lucrative paydays on the big stage. With a few more, he could set up a whole new lifestyle for the next generation of Easter’s.
“I talk to my son every day; he calls me on FaceTime,” said Easter. “Watching him grow is making me grow. I just know I’ve got a bigger task at hand dealing with him. I’ve got more motivation, and it just gives me an extra drive.
“Before him, I was a little careless and reckless. But now, I have to be there for him, so there’s some things I had to let go. Especially being a role model to him, there’s certain things I had to stop doing and stuff like that.”
“E-Bunny” will soon get to put that motivation to use in a live setting when he and Martin square off Saturday night in their 10-round Super Lightweight bout. Their rivalry dates back to 2012 when Easter outpointed Martin during the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament.
It’s also an opportunity for Easter to display the skills he spent the past year improving upon. Easter has surrounded himself with a trusted team of highly skilled boxers and coaches, including former four-division world champion Adrien Broner and former Bantamweight titleholder Rau’shee Warren.
Broner, a long-time friend of Easter’s, will headline Saturday night’s SHOWTIME card. The two Ohio natives met when they were just 10 and 11 years old, respectively, at a Junior Olympics tournament in Cincinnati. Shortly thereafter, they became training partners and remain so to this day.
Over the past few months, Easter and Broner have continued to sharpen each other’s tools, preparing for fight night at Centeno’s Sweatbox Boxing Gym in South Florida. Theirs is a bond that Easter holds near and dear to his heart. He credits “The Problem” for aiding in the growth he’s experienced.
“Every day we train in the mornings and in the afternoons, and whatever extra we do, we train together,” said Easter. “It’s been going great. He’s been keeping me focused; I’ve been keeping him focused. We’ve been pushing each other.
“There’s a lot I’ve learned from him. He took me under his wing as soon as I turned pro. Just different things I had to do coming from the amateurs into the pros. He was already world champion by the time I came, so he taught me a lot of things.”
Having trusted—and accomplished—friends and colleagues by his side every day in the gym pushes Easter to raise his game. And given how 2020 played out, he wants to make up for lost time.
“I wanna fight three times this year and get to the title as soon as I can,” said Easter. “It don’t matter who has the title, who I have to fight. I’m coming to get the victory. However I’m gonna get it, I’m gonna get it.”