That’s how Robert Easter Jr. described the last 16 months, most of which were spent wondering when he would find out his next fight would take place. It’s an all-too familiar sight in boxing nowadays, even among the sport’s top stars.
After waiting for more than a year, Easter is now set for action, returning to Showtime for a bout against once-heralded prospect Ryan Martin on February 20.
But prior to the pandemic, the former world champion was coming off a very successful start to his new career fighting at junior welterweight. His impressive outing against Adrian Granados in October 2019 was proof that Easter was going to be a player at this new weight class. Then, COVID-19 struck and the sport was shut down for months.
Easter spent most of his days last year staying in the gym and not doing much else. His father works at a hospital as transporter and then helps him train after work. Easter couldn’t even bring himself to watch a lot of fights last year.
“It’s been frustrating. We had to stay focused and stay in the gym and stay at home because we knew one day we were going to get that call… It’s been frustrating watching people fight on TV. I don’t even watch them, but it’s been motivating and I had to stay focused and train like crazy,” Easter said.
The once-beaten former world champion was looking forward to make 2020 a year he would really stand out in the junior welterweight division. A world title reign at lightweight ended at the hands of Mikey Garcia in a unification bout in Los Angeles. But the end of his time at lightweight came a fight later with a critically-panned matchup against Rances Barthelemy that ended in a draw.
Even with his run at lightweight not ending on a high note, Easter has no regrets over how it ended.
“I don’t regret anything. It helps build my character and mentally. I just had to keep going harder, staying focused and get back to working to be a two-time world champion. An impressive win puts me back in the spotlight for another world title. We’re taking it one fight at a time. I’m just here to fight and ready to show the world what I’ve been working on,” Easter said.
With his sights set on becoming a two-division champion, Easter knows a win over Martin puts him on a short list of fighters who could contend for a title in the near future. The division is primed to have just one titleholder with unified champion Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez set on a collision course to crown an undisputed champion.
What comes afterwards is anyone’s guess. Easter isn’t concerned with the distant future, not when he has an important fight coming up. A win over Martin is the next step to ensuring his career at junior welterweight is just as successful as his career at lightweight.
“It really doesn’t matter. Whoever is the winner, it doesn’t matter. It’s about taking it one fight at a time and we’ll see what happens. I’m very comfortable, I’m feeling very strong and healthy at 140 so I have a lot more energy now. I’m locked in at 140 now,” Easter said.
Easter vs. Martin takes place February 20 in Uncasville, Connecticut and airs on Showtime (9 p.m. ET).
Video Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHqJ8PhuMKU