PBC on Bounce: Fishy scores favor Robert Easter Jr. over Denis Shafikov
With scores of 120-108 twice and 116-112, Robert Easter Jr. received a unanimous decision win over Denis Shafikov, to successfully defend his IBF lightweight title a second time. However, those absurd scorecards overshadowed an extremely tough, competitive fight, Friday night in Toledo, Ohio.
Easter, the hometown fighter, seemed relieved once the decision was read, knowing he had just been given his toughest fight to date. The 26-year-old gave his performance a B-minus in the post-fight interview on Bounce TV, and gave off a disposition that didn’t reflect the two egregious scores of 120-108. While the scoring of the fight wasn’t his fault, it was a blatant disrespect of the effort given by the Russian challenger and leaves a gross stench in a fight, in which Easter also displayed his toughness.
Shafikov, 38-3-1 (20), was undersized physically but made up for it with tremendous determination. After Easter kept his difference with a busy jab in the opening round, and began to land big combinations in the second, Shafikov wasn’t afraid to take a punch in order to get inside and throw plenty of home run left hooks in the process. Remarkably, Shafikov’s jab got him there, starting in the third round, and the southpaw forced Easter into exchanges that better suited his style. Rounds were close but, after a fifth round, in which Shafikov had perhaps his best in the fight, the 32-year-old was certainly starting to take control, as the fight strayed from simply being a boxing match.
It was an all-out action fight up until the seventh round, in which Easter began to rely on his jab more, a stick-and-move effort to keep Shafikov in pursuit and use his length. He kept at it through the eighth round, and it seemingly started to seem like Easter could keep this up, en route to a decision win, but Shafikov didn’t let that happen.
Easter, 20-0 (14), began to ditch the jab for the second time in the fight, in the ninth, and was lulled back into an inside scrap by Shafikov’s sheer dedication. For much of the time, the fight was fought in a phone booth and Easter’s back was touching the ropes. Not exactly a good look, as the close rounds persisted, and with Shafikov’s left hand to the body and head being so persistent, it seemed like he was getting the better of Easter. Even the crowd seemed nervous, as the fight progressed, a vast difference from their disposition in the opening rounds. That said, to his credit, Easter hung tough with the rugged Russian, and never shied away from the fight being brought to him.
It was seemingly all square going into the championship rounds and the fight’s intensity rose, a clear sign that both men knew the win still hung in the balance. After a close 11th round, with good exchanges on the inside, the fight stayed there in the 12th and Shafikov ended it on a higher note. Simply put, when the fight was engaged on the inside, Shafikov got the the better of Easter and that’s where the majority of the fight took place.
The nervousness of the crowd at the Huntington Center couldn’t be hidden as the scores were tallied. In the end, they had nothing to worry about but that was a clear indication of what transpired through 12 rounds. Easter certainly did enough to edge a win but scores like that have to be heartbreaking for Shafikov, who also put forth an effort deserving of a victory. In the end, the judges missed a tremendous fight, and managed to usurp that headline.
In the co-feature, Julian “J Rock” Williams stopped Joshua Conley in the seventh round to earn his first victory since getting stopped by former IBF junior middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo last December.
Williams, 23-1-1 (15), looked strong but was patient against an opponent who hid behind his guard for much of the bout. A left hook from Williams in the fateful round forced Conley to a knee for a knockdown. Conley, 14-2-1 (9), grabbed his eye right after the perfectly placed shot and, soon after action resumed, his corner threw in the towel as he continued to absorb more punches.
In the opening bout of the Premier Boxing Champions production on Bounce TV, Jamontay Clark got a unanimous decision (79-73, 77-75 twice) over Ivan Golub in a result that foreshadowed the bad scoring in Toledo on this night, and left a bad taste after another tremendous fight.
Clark, 12-0 (7), who fights out of Cincinnati, found himself in a war with the Ukrainian fighting out of Brooklyn, New York. For eight straight rounds, the two partook in an absolute war. Golub, 13-1 (11), wasn’t reacting how Clark did, when eating a big punch. In the fourth, Golub hurt Clark badly and although Clark was on the canvas as the round ended, no knockdown was ruled. Clark’s rabbit punches were also ignored by referee James Howe and, even though he was pushed and shoved constantly, Golub didn’t let the rough physical aspects of the fight deter him from landing his big, straight lefts.
Unlike the main event, the result of this bout was clearer and, in a battle of unbeaten welterweights, Clark got the benefit of every doubt, leading to an egregious robbery for Golub. Not a good night for the officials in Ohio.