It's a good thing nobody told Robert Easter Jr. and Denis Shafikov that the scorecards for their lightweight title fight would be filled out in advance. Had they been tipped off, the fans would have been denied a fun-filled scrap between two styles that meshed well, which is exactly what took place until the scorecards were announced. What's also interesting were the boxing betting lines for the fight @ Denis Shafikov +245 & Robert Easter -335.
Fighting for the second time in his hometown, Easter Jr. turned away a scrappy Shafikov to retain his lightweight title in a horrendously scored 12-round unanimous decision Friday evening at Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.
Judge Carlos Ortiz Jr. was the closest to reality, although the Queens (New York) ring official's score of 116-112 was perhaps a bit too wide. The same cannot be said for judges Eugene Grant (New York) and Jamie Garayua (Ohio), whose matching tallies of 120-108 deserve to be the subject of a thorough investigation conducted by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC).
The horrible scores aside, the bout played out according to the scouting report which meant an entertaining evening for fans in attendance and viewers watching at home on Bounce TV or streaming through the network's Brown Sugar online service.
Easter (20-0, 14KOs) struggled early to keep the shorter Shafikov at bay, a development that prompted his corner—manned by his father Robert Easter Sr. and renowned cornerman Mike Stafford—to simply box. When the unbeaten 5'11" lightweight remembered to do that, it made for a tough night's work for Shafikov, a squat Russian southpaw in his third attempt at a major title.
The visiting challenger made a serious go of it, having his say throughout the contest and making a strong case for having deserved a close decision win. Most fans and viewers expected it to come down to a split decision or a fighting chance on the cards, but the judges reminded him of an old ugly cliché in boxing of having to dominate a champion in his hometown just to get a fair shake.
For Easter, it's the second successful defense of the title he claimed in a 12-round thriller over Richard Commey last September. Friday's feat comes some four months after bringing the first-ever title fight to Toledo in a 12-round whitewash of Luis Cruz, which played in this same venue (to a much bigger crowd) and also airing live on Bounce.
As for Shafikov, the third time just wasn't a charm. He falls to 38-3-1 (20KOs), with all three losses coming in title fights - in fact, all three for the IBF lightweight title. He previously dropped 12-round decisions to Miguel Vasquez and Rances Barthelemy.