Given recent headlines and social media exchanges, it's been apparent that Robert Easter Jr. has been eager to settle business within his boxing family.
His next title defense is a big step in that direction, even if not the exact fight he was seeking.
The unbeaten lightweight titlist once again returns home as he next faces mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov on June 30 in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. The bout will air live on Bounce TV as part of the network's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Bounce: The Next Round series, providing the same network and city as his last ring appearance - a 12-round win over Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz.
Respective camp members for Easter Jr. and Shafikov were ordered to negotiate terms for their ordered title fight. ESPN.com senior writer Dan Rafael was the first to break the news that a deal had been reached between their teams, thus avoiding a purse bid hearing. FightNights.com has since learned from PBC officials that Bounce TV will serve as the network of choice.
Easter Jr. (19-0, 14KOs) won the lightweight title in a spirited 12-round decision over Richard Commey last September at the Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania. The venue was the very same setting where Shafikov handed the first career loss to Easter Jr's close friend and stablemate, 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain Jamel Herring who suffered a 10th round stoppage at the hands of the Russian contender last July.
Shafikov (36-2-1, 20KOs) now moves on to his third attempt at winning a major title. He came up short in decision losses to Miguel Vasquez and Rances Barthelemy, but moved back into contention following the aforementioned win over Herring and a 12-round nod over Commey in their title eliminator last December.
It's not quite the revenge that Easter Jr. had in mind, as the 26-year old rising young star was willing to do the heavy lifting for stablemate and promoter Adrien Broner who has recently chosen to take Gervonta Davis to task. Their remains unresolved issues with the two, as Broner was the first to "discover" the former amateur standout, looking to sign him to his About Billions promotional outfit in 2015. That changed when Floyd Mayweather Jr. decided that he was going to take Davis under his wing, as the unbeaten Baltimore-based boxer - now a 130-pound titlist - joined the Mayweather Promotions stable.
Broner chose to resurrect the supposed beef with Davis, although Easter Jr. has taken to his social media accounts to call for his own showdown with the fellow young rising boxing star. Instead, he gets to handle a different type of family business first. He will do so in a community that has rallied behind his cause, with his win over Cruz playing to a jam-packed and lively crowd of nearly 9,000 strong at the Huntington Center in Toledo, the likely venue for his next ring appearance.