Undefeated IBF lightweight world champion, Robert Easter, makes his return to the ring tomorrow night, June 30th in his hometown of Toledo, OH, where he will take on Denis Shafikov in his second title defense. After a dominating performance in February against Luis Cruz, in which Easter scored three knockdowns en route to a unanimous decision victory Easter steps into the ring with Shafikov who is currently ranked the fifth best lightweight by The Ring Magazine. Shafikov has twice attempted to capture the IBF strap, once from Miguel Vazquez in 2014 and again in 2015 against Rances Barthelemy, with both fights going the distance but ultimately the judges siding with Shafikov’s opponent.
Well, unfortunately, the fight against Robert Easter shouldn’t end any differently than Shafikov’s two previous attempts at the IBF lightweight belt. In fact, given that Easter is fighting in his own backyard, and he has a 14 KOs in 19 fights (73.7% knockout percentage), I’m calling this fight a sure KO victory for Robert Easter. Many liken Robert Easter’s tall, rangy frame to that of the great Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, and I could not agree more. Easter likes to use his jab to determine the range at which the fight takes place and if he senses weakness or that his opponent is hurt, he ramps up the pace of the action. He will throw punches in bunches until the fight is halted.
Defensively, Easter is a disciple of Adrien Broner’s (who is a disciple of Floyd Mayweather) style of using the the shoulder roll and countering his opponents offense. However, Shafikov, who is clearly, Easter’s toughest opponent to date, is a southpaw that has lots of experience (38-2-1, 20 KOs). This won’t be an easy fight for Easter per se, but he is confident in his abilities.
“He doesn’t bring anything that I haven’t faced before,” Easter said. “And I’m a different breed compared to the guys that he’s faced. I wouldn’t put myself in the same category when it comes to the guys he’s faced. This will be different for him.”
But since the loss to Barthelemy for a vacant belt, Shafikov has won two fights in a row. He knocked out 2012 U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring in the 10th round last July and then won a split decision against Commey in December in a title eliminator to earn the opportunity to challenge Easter.
“I’m looking forward to this fight on June 30,” Shafikov said. “I know that I have a very tough opponent in front of me. I have been waiting for this opportunity to get this belt, and I plan on doing everything in my power to make it happen.”
Ultimately, the fight will come down to Easter’s ability to control the range, exert his length, as his reach of 76″ is far greater than Shafikov’s 68.5″, display his tremendous hand speed and throw accurate punches. But, if Shafikov can catch Easter slacking off and land some solid shots, then we are in for a real fight.
Tune in live tonight for Premier Boxing Championship on Bounce TV at 9PM EST / 6PM PST for all the action.