Robert Easter Jr. wanted to make a statement Friday night by being the first man to knock out former 130-pound champion Algenis Mendez. Consider that statement delivered—with authority.
After hurting Mendez with a counter left hook in the fourth round, Easter finished off his opponent in the fifth with a blistering, head-swiveling right hand that resulted in a technical knockout in their 135-pound bout before a screaming, sold-out crowd at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C.
Robert Easter Jr. (17-0, 13 KOs) earned his fifth consecutive stoppage victory by taking down Algenis Mendez (23-4-1, 12 KOs) on the undercard of a Spike-televised main event between four-division champion Adrien Broner and Ashley Theophane.
"My performance was OK. I could have done better, but I'm happy," said Easter, a 25-year-old native of Toledo, Ohio. "I got touched more than I expected. Once I settled down, I knew I was going to catch him. I had to stay patient.
"Two boxers makes for a boring fight. I wanted to go in there and brawl, but be smart. I knew when I stepped on the gas I would put him to bed, and that's what I did.”
The 6-foot Easter, who was coming off a third-round TKO of Juan Ramon Solis in October, pumped the jab from range in the first round, made effective use of his three-inch height advantage, moving in and out and firing rights to the head and body of his 5-foot-9 opponent.
Over the next three rounds, Easter engaged more toe-to-toe and exchanged to the head and body against Mendez, even absorbing and walking through an occasional overhand right to the temple.
The toll began to show on Mendez in the fourth round, when he was staggered by a counter left hook. The 29-year-old Brooklyn, New York, resident was able to maintain his balance from that shot, but not when Easter unleashed a swift, broadside right hand late in the fifth.
After getting struck with the blow, Mendez slowly sunk to the canvas. He was able to his feet, but referee William Johnson looked into Mendez’s eyes and didn’t like what he saw, waving an end to the fight.
“He was definitely the toughest opponent I have faced in a shorter fight. He is a former champ, and he came in ready,” said Easter. "This was a huge opportunity for me. Toledo, Ohio, showed up tonight in D.C., and I'm just happy I got the knockout."
Said Mendez: "For what it's worth, I feel good … at least physically I do. I’m pretty disappointed because of the way things turned out, but boxing is a difficult sport. “I don't have any excuses, [and] I honestly don't really remember what exactly happened.”
For Easter, the victory moved him another step closer to earning a world title opportunity. It also further validated his boxing career, which began with bathroom tissue on his fists and Vaseline on his face.
“As a child, living in the ghetto, I watched my mom, Robin Ellis, struggle with seven kids,” he recalled. “I was third born and one of five boys and two girls.
“I would go to the gym with my father and run around when I was like 4 or 5 years old. I would come home, go to the bathroom, wrap toilet paper around my hands and put Vaseline on my face and shadowbox for hours. It was natural for me. It was like I was born into boxing.”
Easter’s amateur success led to a near run-in with Broner at a junior Olympics tournament in Broner’s hometown of Cincinnati.
“I was 10, and luckily Adrien was 11 so we were fighting in two different divisions,” Easter said. “I fought first and I stopped my guy, who was actually from Cincinnati. Then I saw this broad-shouldered kid with these nasty braids in his hair. He looked like an adult beating up on kids.”
At that point, Broner and Easter formed a bond, one that remains strong today.
“My protégé, Robert Easter Jr., does things that amaze me,” Broner said prior to Friday’s fight card. “I know what he’s capable of. I’m happy for him to get this challenge against a former world champion.”
Having fully taken advantage of that challenge in front of a sellout crowd and national TV audience, Easter seems to have made that all-important leap from prospect to contender.
For complete coverage of Easter vs Mendez, head over to our fight page.
Gervonta Davis, Anthony Peterson cruise to easy victories
Baltimore southpaw Gervonta Davis (15-0, 14 KOs) followed up a fifth-round knockdown of Mexico’s Guillermo Avila (16-6, 13 KOs) with a series of vicious uppercuts that led to a sixth-round technical-knockout victory in a 135-pound bout. It was Davis’ sixth consecutive stoppage win.
Davis used a third-round uppercut to open up a cut that flowed blood from beneath Avila’s left eye, then broke him down with a blistering fourth-round body attack and battered him along the ropes with both hands as that round ended.
After the knockdown in Round 5, Davis came out firing in the sixth, landing blood-spattering, neck-snapping punches that led referee Michelle Myers to stop the fight 29 seconds into the final round.
"I knew he was a strong opponent,” said Davis, whose first win as a pro came in February 2013 at the DC Armory. “He kept bouncing back, and I actually thought he was going to get up at the end, too. “He brought out the best in me. There is always room to get better and better, but this is another step toward my dream.”
In an earlier clash of Beltway-area fighters, Anthony Peterson (37-1, 24 KOs), of Washington, D.C., failed to get his third straight stoppage, yet still managed a comfortable unanimous decision win over Samuel Kotey Neequaye (22-2, 15 KOs), a native of Accra, Ghana now living in Baltimore.
“It felt good to get touched and get some work in. I haven't gone 10 rounds since March of 2014,” said the 31-year-old Peterson, the younger brother of Lamont Peterson, a 32-year-old former 140-pound champion who watched from ringside. “A fighter is lying if he says he wants rounds.”