Robert Easter Jr. outpoints Javier Fortuna to retain lightweight title

Robert Easter Jr., left, won a split decision against Javier Fortuna to retain his lightweight belt in January. Photo provided by Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment

NEW YORK -- With the stakes greatly reduced, Robert Easter turned in a very shaky performance against Javier Fortuna and appeared lucky to escape with a split-decision victory on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Win or lose, Easter would have retained his lightweight world title on the Errol Spence Jr.-Lamont Peterson undercard because Fortuna failed to make weight at Friday's weigh-in.

Two judges scored the fight for Easter, 115-112 and 114-113, and one had it for Fortuna 114-113. ESPN.com also scored the fight for Fortuna 115-112. The crowd booed loudly when the result was announced. Without a point deduction from Fortuna in the second round, the fight would have been a split draw.

"It was a tough fight," Easter said. "He's a former world champion for a reason. We made it tough trying to counterpunch. He wasn't throwing much, and it made it difficult for me to chase this guy around. I couldn't get the knockout, but we got the win, and that's all that matters. I knew he was going to run once he felt my power. He just wanted to grab and hold the whole fight."

But even though Easter got the victory, he hardly turned in the kind of performance that will make anyone demand the unification fights he wants against Mikey Garcia or Jorge Linares.

"I want to fight the champions and unify this belt. Fights like these aren't in my game plan," Easter said. "I'm ready for Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares to sign the contract. No one can beat me. He just ran and held all fight. I apologize that I didn't get the knockout, but the win is all that matters."

Fortuna, who had never weighed more than 133 pounds for a fight, was unable to make the 135-pound limit and weighed 136.4 pounds, so he was not eligible to win the title, and Easter, who was 134.5 pounds, could not lose the belt.

It's not the first time Fortuna, a former junior lightweight and interim featherweight world titleholder, missed weight for a title fight. In 2013, he was set to make the first defense of an interim featherweight belt against Miguel Zamudio but was stripped of the title at the scale for weighing 126.75 pounds for a fight with a limit of 126 pounds.

Despite Fortuna's weight issues, the fight with Easter (21-0, 14 KOs), 26, of Toledo, Ohio, who was making his third title defense, went ahead anyway. Fortuna seemed to dominate the late rounds, but came up just short on the scorecards.

"The public knows what happened here. They booed because they know that I won this fight," Fortuna said through a translator. "If he's a man, let's fight again at 135 pounds. I will definitely make the weight. I didn't give myself enough time to train."

In the second round, Fortuna was warned again for holding and hitting behind the head. When he continued to do it, referee Ricky Gonzalez docked him one point.

Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from the Dominican Republic, didn't let the penalty deter him from being aggressive. He attacked Easter in the third round with combinations and snapped Easter's head back with a powerful straight left hand.

Fortuna's game plan appeared to frustrate Easter, as he darted around the ring, slowing down only long enough to lunge at the much taller Easter and connect with quick combinations before moving away. Easter tried to use his longer jab and hit the body when they were in close and found a home for those punches in the fifth round.

The sixth round was close until Fortuna closed very strong. He backed Easter up and nailed him with clean punches, including a pinpoint straight left hand.

Easter began to come on in the eighth and ninth rounds, connecting with straight left hands against a Fortuna whose wild movement from earlier in the fight began to wane.

Late in the 11th round, when they were locked in tight in a corner, Fortuna unloaded numerous unanswered punches against Easter, who had no notion of defense. It was Fortuna's biggest offensive moment of the fight.

Not much changed in the 11th round as Easter buried his head in Fortuna's chest for long stretches but took far more of a pounding that he dished out.

There seemed to be little urgency from Easter in the final round, even after Fortuna caught him with a stiff straight left hand. Fortuna continued to go after Easter, who never was able to really establish himself in the fight but got the nod from two of the judges anyway.

Kownacki KOs Kiladze in slugfest

With a raucous cheering section of fans dressed in the red and white of the Polish flag cheering him on, heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki (16-0, 13 KOs) won a thrilling war with Iago Kiladze (26-1, 18 KOs), knocking him out in the sixth round.

Kownacki, 28, a Poland native fighting out of Brooklyn, and Kiladze, 31, a native of the Republic of Georgia also fighting out of Brooklyn, went at it with reckless abandon from the opening bell, but Kownacki, despite bleeding from his nose and mouth for most of the fight, was the stronger fighter, and he broke Kiladze down in a slugfest.

Kownacki was coming off by far his biggest and most impressive victory in July, when he scored a fourth-round knockout of Polish countryman and former heavyweight world title challenger Artur Szpilka.

Although he came into the fight with Kiladze at a flabby 260 pounds, 18 pounds heavier than the fight with Szpilka, his power was too much for Kiladze.

Both fighters were bleeding by the end of the opening round, and the action rarely relented. In the fourth round, Kownacki floored Kiladze with a flush right hand to the jaw, and it was surprising that Kiladze was able to continue. Kiladze was losing steam as the fight went on, and in the sixth round, Kownacki hammered him with a right uppercut and a right hand to the head to knock him down again. He barely beat the count, but referee Shada Murdaugh had seen enough and waved it off at 2 minutes, 8 seconds.

"I think I made the fight a lot harder than I should have," Kownacki said. "It's another learning experience and I got the win. That's all that matters. This win helps me move towards where I need to be. I want to be in the top 10, and I think I'm close to that. My training was good, but I could have made the fight easier. I caught him with the shot on the knockdown and broke him down from there."

The Freddie Roach-trained Kiladze came into the fight having won six bouts in a row since a second-round, knockout loss as a cruiserweight against then-unbeaten contender Youri Kalenga in 2013. But he saw that streak come to an end with another KO loss.

Also on the undercard:

  • Light heavyweight contender Marcus Browne (21-0, 16 KOs) annihilated Francy Ntetu (17-2, 4 KOs) by first-round knockout.

    Browne, 27, a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Staten Island, New York, was way too much for Ntetu, 35, a native of Congo fighting out of Quebec, who got knocked down face first by a right-left combination. Ntetu beat the count, but Browne, a southpaw, went right after him and pounded him along the ropes. Ntetu was not throwing punches back, so referee Arthur Mercante stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

    "He walked into a sure shot, and I made him pay," Browne said. "The overhand left caught him, and that was the beginning of the end for him. I knew he was hurt. I need a world title shot. I'm ready to take on any of the champions. I don't have any preferences."

  • Junior middleweight Ivan Golub (14-1, 12 KOs), 29, a Ukraine native fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, rallied from a first-round knockout against Monterrosa (38-16-1, 30 KOs), 29, of Colombia, to knock him out in the second round.

    Monterrosa dropped Golub to a knee with a right hand, but he rallied to knock down Monterrosa twice in the round with body shots. Golub knocked him down twice more in the second round, and he appeared far more hurt than he was in the first round, causing referee Eddie Claudio to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 48 seconds.

    Golub bounced back from an eight-round upset decision loss to Jamontay Clark in June. Monterrosa has been knocked out inside three rounds in his past three bouts.

  • Ridgewood, New York, welterweight Matthew Gonzalez (3-0, 2 KOs), 22, rolled to a shutout, four-round decision against Alexander Serna (1-2, 1 KOs), of Queens, winning 40-36 on all three scorecards in an entertaining scrap.

  • Bantamweight Dylan Price (5-0, 5 KOs), 19, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, hammered Nestor Ramos (7-8-3, 7 KOs), 26, of Mexico, throughout the first round. He took so much punishment that referee Murdaugh called off the fight with Ramos still on his stool five seconds into the second round.

  • Washington, D.C., junior welterweight Anthony Peterson (38-1, 24 KOs), 32, the chronically inactive younger brother of main event fighter Lamont Peterson, cruised to a shutout decision against Luis Eduardo Florez (23-8, 19 KOs), 30, of Colombia, in a methodical performance. Peterson, who has boxed sporadically in recent years against lesser opposition and was fighting for the first time since April 2016, won 100-89, 100-90 and 100-90.

  • Washington, D.C., welterweight Keyshawn Williams (1-0-1, 1 KO), 20, and Denis Okoth (1-0, 1 KO), 24, of Kenya, battled to a split draw in the show opener. One judge had it 39-37 for Williams, one had it 39-37 for Okoth and one scored the fight 38-38.