IBF World lightweight champion: (18-0, 14 KOs)Robert Easter Jr. vs Luis Cruz (22-4-1, 16 KOs) 12 rounds for ‘Easter’s IBF lightweight title’.

Robert Easter Jr. vs. Luis Cruz
Robert Easter Jr. vs. Luis Cruz, 12 rounds, for Easter’s IBF lightweight title Feb. 10, 2017

It’s successfully weighed in at 134 pounds on Thursday night for the title defense against world ranking #15 IBF Luis Cruz Friday on Premier Boxing Champions produced televised by Bounce TV from the Huntington Center, in Toledo, Ohio. Cruz weighed in at 134 ½ pounds.

Easter Jr. is one of the biggest punchers in the 135 pound division right now, and he’s facing a pure slugger in 31-year-old Cruz, who doesn’t know how to take a backwards step. Someone is going to get knocked out in this fight.

Easter Jr. has never tasted defeat before, but he had his moments of vulnerability in his last fight against Richard Commey last September in getting knocked down once. Easter Jr. did eventually win the fight by a 12 round split decision, but it was a very close one that was decided in the last three rounds. Commey had little trouble landing his big power shots against Easter.

The main difference between the two of them was Easter’s better engine in the last quarter of the fight.

Result:

IBF World lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (19-0, 14 KOs) kept his unbeaten record intact on Friday night in defeating #15 Luis Cruz (22-5-1, 16 KOs) by a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision on Premier Boxing Champions on Bounce TV at the Huntington Center, in Toledo, Ohio, USA. The judges scored the fight 117-108, 119-106, and 118-107.

Recap

Fighting in front of a raucous hometown crowd in Toldeo, OH, Easter Jr. came out of the gate patient, looking as though he was going to jab, feint and try to draw his opponent out and blast the straight right hand down the pipe in order to knock Cruz out and go home early for the celebration with the 10,000 Ohio-based fans.

For the most part, this went according to plan. Easter Jr. hurt Cruz a number of times, but, as has been the case with Easter Jr. in past contests, he couldn’t finish off his man when he had him on the hook. Cruz went down three times over the course of 12 rounds, once in the final round with a matter of seconds left.

Each time Cruz got up or was wobbled, Easter Jr. pushed him against the ropes, effectively smothering his own punches and ruining his own shot at finishing off a game fighter in front of his hometown fans.

Easter Jr., while the IBF Lightweight title holder, could face tough tests going forward if this chink in his armor isn’t taken care of. The judges scored the bout widely in favor of Easter Jr. and deservedly so. The bout was a one-sided decision victory that could have been ended much sooner had Easter Jr. been a bit more sharp on his punches.

Robert Easter Jr. vs. Luis Cruz Full Fight Video – February 10, 2017

Round by Round Result

Easter knocked Cruz down with right hands in round 11 and 12, but he was unable to finish him off. Cruz, 31, did a good job of taking Easter’s big power shots and retaliating with his own shots. Unfortunately for Cruz, he lacked the punching to take advantage of Easter’s leaky defense. Easter smothered his own work much of the time by choosing to fight Cruz on the inside when having him trapped against the ropes in rounds 9 through 12.

It’s unclear why the 5’11” Easter Jr. chose to fight in close because he was a much better puncher when he was on the outside getting leverage on his shots. It might have been a thing of courage on his part for Easter for him to be fighting on the inside. Whatever the case, it wasn’t smart. He made the job much harder for himself, and probably ruined his chances of knocking Cruz out.

Easter Jr. wanted to score a knockout by the 6th, but he wasn’t able to hurt Cruz with anything when he tried to go for a knockout in that round. Cruz was fighting back hard each time Easter Jr. would land a meaningful shot. Cruz was very tough. He took some really hard punches in the 11th and 12th rounds. The punches that knocked Cruz down likely would have knocked out most fighters in the lightweight division.

This was not the type of performance by Easter Jr. that compares to what Mikey Garcia did last money in stopping WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin. Mikey looked a lot better than Easter Jr. did tonight, and a lot more powerful. It’s hard to imagine Cruz being able to last the full 12 rounds against Mikey Garcia. Easter Jr. is going to need to up his game if he wants to be able to compete with the accomplishments of Mikey.

Easter Jr. does not look nearly as good as Mikey. If they were to fight each other right now, I’d have to pick Mikey to win, and I think most boxing fans would agree to that. Easter Jr. needs to learn how to fight at a distance in order to take advantage of his height and reach. There was no reason why Easter Jr. should have given up his two-inch height advantage over the 5’9” Cruz tonight. He didn’t need to do that, and yet he did in most of the rounds.