The IBF/WBC unification title bout between undefeated lightweight champions Robert Easter Jr. (21-0, 14 KOs) and Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) was a bout involving many x-factors prior to the first bell. Robert Easter Jr. entered the about amid much speculation. What was once an early career of highlight reel knockouts, has not been so in his most recent bouts. After questionable decision victories against the likes of Richard Commey, Denis Shafikov and Javier Fortuna, the boxing world was quick to paint him as a huge underdog against 4-division titlist Mikey Garcia. Ahead of the biggest fight of his career, Easter also entered the bout with a new trainer in Kevin Cunningham, following in the steps of his mentor and promoter Adrien Broner who also made the switch to Cunningham prior to his loss to Mikey Garcia last year.
Garcia has faced similar speculation in the build-up to the unification bout. There were murmurs amongst critics about his focus heading into the fight and that perhaps he was overlooking the IBF champion because of preliminary talks of a fight between him and reigning IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. Another question posed pertained to Garcia's ability to make the 135-pound lightweight limit after fighting at super lightweight in his previous two contests.
Easter started round 1 establishing his left jab, while Garcia looked off many of the early shots. Garcia only threw one punch during the first minute of the fight. Garcia appeared to be able to close the gap in distance a little in the final minute of round 1. However, it was still a relatively small punch output from him. Easter continued to extend his jab in round 2, but now using it to the body of Mikey Garcia. Mikey landed a thunderous right hand as Easter skated along the ropes, but that did not detour the longest reigning champion in the division from continuing to throw his jab. Garcia was able to get Easter on the ropes again in the final minute of round 2 and unleash a combination to the body. The early edge belonged to Easter Jr. but you could definitely sense that Garcia was beginning to pick up the pace and pressure against his much taller opponent.
Garcia finally began throwing a jab of his own in round 3. He was able to get Easter against the ropes on several occasions as he closed distance much easier. He landed a right hand followed by a left hook that put the IBF champion on the canvas towards the end of round 3. With the momentum on his side, Garcia remained calm and did not waste any punches early on in round 4 although Easter was stunned in the previous round. Easter was a lot more stationary and looked to counter against the mounting offense of Garcia. Garcia had his range down pat and also had the more effective jab throughout round 4 as Easter abandoned his own. Garcia pinned Easter against the ropes again at the end of round 4 and went to the body heavy as the round closed.
Easter was able to get his offense going in round 5. Standing stationary in front of Garcia, Easter threw effective combinations against Garcia. Finally unleashing his right hand behind the jab. It was a nice round for Easter who was beginning to look a little unconfident after suffering the knockdown earlier in the fight. Easter Jr. continued to control the pace in round 6, but he pawed a lot more with his jab and Garcia was able to leap in and land effective short, crisp combinations against Easter. A critical point in the round happened in the final 20 seconds as the referee allowed Garcia to work against the ropes while Easter attempted to hold.
It was a close fight to call heading into round 7 outside of the knockdown from Garcia. Easter was outworking Garcia in the round. Easter's jab was effective as Garcia waited patiently to try to land his left hand. He landed a right hand behind the guard of Easter in the last minute of the round that stalled Easter's output for a second. He landed another right hand in the final seconds of the round making it another tough round for judges to score. To this point, it was the higher output of Easter Jr. versus the sharper landing punches of Garcia.
It was more of the same in round 8 with Easter using his jab, but he was moving on his feet again, which was something he had abandoned in previous rounds. Garcia was unable to cut off the ring or land anything effective in the round. Garcia came out swinging with bad intentions in round 9. He got Easter against the ropes early and made the fight a little more physical. Easter perhaps was beginning to show his youth as he tried to exchange against Garcia in the center of the ring. Garcia landed several thunderous punches but Easter was able to answer a few times. Garcia attacked the body and was able to split the guard of Easter landing straight right hands throughout the round. Easter appeared weary as his technique began to crumble. One of the long criticisms of Easter Jr. is that he gives up his height, and it was rearing its ugly head again in round 9, as he was able to escape the round, but not without suffering a barrage of blows from the WBC champion.
Garcia continued where he left off in the following round. He was able to land several hooks to the body that slowed Easter's movement and eventually left him planted against the ropes for the majority of the round. Garcia's straight right hand continued to be effective splitting the high guard of Easter on the ropes. With momentum clearly in his favor entering the championship rounds, Garcia continued to work behind his jab as Easter could do very little to offset the confidence of Garcia. Easter continued with his jab but not following it up with anything else. Garcia was able to pick his shots, as Easter was reluctant to throw the right hand he was known for. He found a home a home for the left hook to the body and continued to land his straight right up top. Garcia closed the show in round 12 continuing to land more of the straight rights and left hooks to the body and head in the round as Easter looked to survive to the final bell.
Judges final scorecards read 116-111, 117-110, and 118-109 resulting in a unanimous decision in favor of the new unified WBC & IBF lightweight champion Mikey Garcia. In the post-fight interview Garcia was asked about making the jump to welterweight to fight Errol Spence Jr (who was in attendance). Garcia did not hesitate to respond stating he wanted that to be his next challenge. Mikey Garcia improves his record to 39-0, 30 KOs. In the co-feature of the card, highly avoided heavyweight Luis "King Kong" Ortiz inched his way back towards another title shot with a 2nd round destructive KO of Razvan Cojanu.