Undefeated, 4-division champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) successfully unifies two of the Lightweight world titles in a dominant performance against Robert Easter Jr. (21-1, 14 KOs) on Saturday night via a unanimous decision (118-109, 117-110, 116-111). The lively Staples Center in Los Angeles, California was filled with 12,560 fans; mostly for Garcia, however, Easter had his fair share of supporters in a venue so close to Garcia's home.
Although Garcia was favored to win, he had a considerable challenge with Easter's five-inch height advantage and eight-inch reach advantage. An exciting matchup for boxing fans as two undefeated world champions dare to be great in a unification bout that has not been attempted in the Lightweight division since the Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo bout in 2005.
Easter was well-prepared and determined to use his advantages in a hard-fought attempt to take home the IBF and WBC titles. His focus was apparent in the opening rounds, not losing sight of his technically sound opponent. Easter started off very quickly, being the first to throw and landed a good portion of his jabs in the first two rounds. Easter showing significant improvement from his last two bouts, fighting tall and keeping a steady pace with his output. The first few rounds for Easter were fought masterfully. He maintained control of the rounds using great lead-hand control.
As expected, Garcia kept a mid pace in the opening rounds and remained patient; feeling out his opponent, but also throwing enough punches to keep Easter busy. Garcia is known for being conservative in the first few rounds and eventually times his opponents, resulting in a dismantling of their game plan. Without fail, this was the case against Easter. Initially, Easter did well in blocking most of Garcia's jab output by catching the shots with his lead hand. This stopped Garcia from trading jabs, but by the end of the second round, Garcia made the adjustment and got around it with the left hook. This allowed Garcia to load up his aggressive shots and steer Easter to the ropes.
The Knockdown: By round 3, Garcia took over and dominated the fight. Easter began losing control and was often left out of position when moving away from Garcia's shots. This played into Garcia's strengths. Garcia was able to time Easter and set up his shot with the left jab to throw an impeccable right cross, leaving Easter out of position; Garcia immediately followed it up with a nice left hook that sent Easter flying across the canvas landing bottom first - a knockdown that had fans at the Staples Center roaring in excitement.
Easter quickly got up on his feet by the time the ref counted 4. He did not appear hurt, but he was definitely stunned by Garcia's power. His confidence appeared to quickly dissipate from that point forward.
The rest of the bout was a continuous boxing master-class by Garcia, with the 9th round having the most action. Although he was not able to put Easter back on the canvas a second time, his ability to methodically break down his opponent even with such a significant height and reach disadvantage was impressive. Although Easter came to fight and was not going to give up without giving his best effort, Garcia proved to be too much for the towering fighter.
Garcia's ability to stalk his opponent and put on the pressure while firing heavy shots seems to be too much for any fighter at Lightweight, regardless of height, reach and physical condition. Can the same be said for an opponent in two weight-classes above the Lightweight division? Garcia seems to think so as he's called out Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. various times and wasted no time in calling him out again in the post-fight interview. Spence was in attendance and nodded his head in agreement when the camera was on him.
With Garcia's victory over Easter now behind him, Garcia is more vocal about his desire to attain a title in a 5th division by taking on the hard-hitting Spence. Many believe Garcia is in over his head, but he is now fully supported by his family and is focused on making the fight happen.
Some may wonder why Garcia is no longer calling out WBA Lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko to unify the division even further. Garcia and his team have publicly stated that a fight against a Top Rank fighter would not be easy to make. Garcia has history with his former Top Rank promoter, Bob Arum, which led to Garcia having to take two and a half years off from his boxing career due to a dispute. It is expected that a deal will not be made easily between Garcia and any Top Rank fighter, which includes another high-profile Welterweight champion, Terence Crawford.
In light of these promotional challenges, the Spence fight is much more attainable. Both Garcia and Spence are free agents who work with advisor Al Haymon and both have deals with Showtime. It appears to be a large feat for Garcia, but he is vocal about his confidence to take on the motivating challenge. Both fighters are technically sound and have power advantages over their opponents.
Will Spence's power be too much or can Garcia make adjustments to overcome Spence's strength? It seems fans will find out soon as a bout in November or December is quite possible. Ringstar promoter, Richard Schaefer, confirmed at the post-fight press conference that they are looking into a Pay-Per-View fight in Las Vegas before the year's end. Fight fans are in for a treat!
The purse for Garcia and Easter were $1 million and $500k respectively.
Luis Ortiz vs Razvan Cojanu:
In the preceding co-main event, Cuban slugger Luis 'King Kong' Ortiz (29-1, 25 KOs) wins in stunning fashion in his comeback bout with a 2nd-round knockout over Razvan Cojanu (16-4, 9 KOs) of Romania.
Ortiz was received well in Los Angeles with the fans' roaring support as he made his entrance in the ring. It seems that Ortiz has gained many fans after his recent loss to Deontay Wilder, likely due to his impressive near-win in the 7th round before being TKO'd in the 10th. Ortiz has been vocal about his upsetting loss to Wilder and has expressed his determination to return to title contention.
Ortiz wasted no time in displaying his undeniable power in the ring against Cojanu. The first round was lackluster, but after a few premature boos from the crowd, Ortiz landed a powerful combination as soon as he saw an opening from the mostly guarded Cojanu. The bout ended quickly as Cojanu attempted to stand up too quickly, lost his balance twice and wobbled back onto the floor. The referee quickly waved off the contest. Although it appeared that Cojanu could have stayed on his feet if he had made it up, a knockout was imminent. An overjoyed Ortiz seemed to gain his confidence as he celebrated with his signature King Kong pounding-of-the-chest move.
In the post-fight interview, Ortiz became very emotional. After wiping away his tears, he reported the recent news that a cure was found for his daughter's condition. His wife had given him the news just five days prior as he was arriving to the states for his scheduled fight. Ortiz was elated receiving the long-overdue news.
When asked how difficult it was for him rededicate himself after the difficult loss to Wilder for the title, Ortiz replied, "I don't have a loss. In my mind, King Kong is not defeated".
He stated he wants the rematch with Wilder and wants another shot at the title. With Anthony Joshua tied up in scheduled bout in September against Alexander Povetkin, Ortiz has only Wilder to pursue for a title. It has been a tough road for Ortiz to challenge for a title as he is one of the most avoided heavyweights. Wilder has been the only title-holder willing to give him a shot and has stated he's more than willing to give him the rematch. Only time will tell as Wilder is due for a fight and is no sooner able to fight the opponent he's expressed a desire to fight the most....Anthony Joshua.
What's next for Cuban slugger? An announcement should be made soon.
Photos by Showtime