Robert Easter Jr. hopes to dance his way to center stage
If you’re a follower of Adrien Broner on social media, you’ve definitely seen Robert Easter Jr. Almost everywhere A.B. goes, his pal is typically right there with him, often in matching “About Billions” attire.
Those who jet in and out of the sport or just know Broner because he’s somewhat of a hip hop cultural figure would be forgiven if they thought Easter was just a hanger-on in the ever-growing posse of the junior welterweight contender. But those actively involved in the sport don’t seem to know much about Easter either.
In June of 2015, NBC produced a one-hour preview show leading up to Broner’s bout with Shawn Porter titled “Corner to Corner.” The first time Broner appears on camera, he’s getting into a car with Easter, whom the narrator indicated that he is “headed to the gym with his trusted friend and protege, Bunny.” No implication that he’s a fighter was ever really made.
Just to be clear: He’s a fighter. And he’s for real.
He’ll finally have a chance to prove that on Friday night, when he faces Argenis Mendez in a 10-round lightweight bout, which will serve as the co-feature to Broner’s bout with Ashley Theophane on Premier Boxing Champions on Spike.
Easter (16-0, 13 knockouts) has mostly been overshadowed throughout his competitive career. Though he had over 200 wins as an amateur, he not only never won a national title, but seldom won a big-time tournament, always “losing in the semis or the finals.” The reasoning for that, and for his lack of attention thus far as a professional is mostly the same. He was a part of a talent-laden U.S. amateur era that, while short on success at London 2012, has produced a variety of current stars.
“I believe I had the talent, but I fell short of making the Olympic team, I was an Olympic alternate. There were a lot of guys from that team making a lot of noise, and I knew I had to be right on the same page as those guys to get noticed,” said Easter, 25, Toledo, Ohio.
These days, he’s on another stacked team, at the Headbangers Gym in Washington, DC, which includes Broner, as well as Lamont and Anthony Peterson. Now that he’s in the pros, taking losses with headgear is just called training, something Easter is as obsessive about as anyone. For this camp, he and Anthony engaged in a sparring session consisting of one 33-minute round.
“I stood my ground with those guys and came out with a learning experience from world-class talent,” said Easter, who thinks the duration of that session is much longer than he’ll have to work this weekend. “I don’t really think it’s going 10 rounds, I think I’ll get the stoppage, but I’m prepared for anything.”
Lengthy workouts have been a part of Easter’s life for as long as he can remember. It was simply part of the lifestyle growing in a boxing household in Toledo, with a fighter for both a father and a grandfather.
“When I was younger I used to put toilet tissue around my hands, because I’d go to the gym and see guys wrapping their hands, but I didn’t know what it was. So I went home and put toilet tissue around my hands and I’d shadowbox for like an hour or so,” said Easter.
Just as he eventually discovered tape and gauze, on Friday he’ll get a taste of the real thing as well. The former world champion Mendez represents by far his biggest step up in competition, although he has mostly dispatched of the parade of journeyman he’s been readying himself against rather quickly, and in devastating fashion.
After those knockouts, Easter has put his moves on display, always having a rehearsed celebratory dance, which he takes requests for on Twitter and Instagram.
“I don’t know if I wanna do the dab, a lot of athletes have been doing the dab,” said Easter, who claims he has a dance called “The Ballroom” to unleash if he floors Mendez.
If he can execute that plan, perhaps people will know him for more than just his dancing, and he won’t be riding in the passenger seat much longer.
Corey Erdman is a boxing writer and commentator based in Toronto, ON. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.