Easter Jr. defends lightweight belt against Shafikov

Easter faces a very rugged foe in Shafikov (38-2-1, 20 KOs), 32, of Russia, who is trained by the renowned Abel Sanchez. Shafikov is the former European junior welterweight champion and has twice boxed for lightweight world titles, losing unanimous decisions to Miguel Vazquez in Macau, China, in 2014 and Rances Barthelemy in Las Vegas in 2015.

Denis Shafikov, right, has lost his two title opportunities, including a defeat against Rances Barthelemy in 2015
Denis Shafikov, right, has lost his two title opportunities, including a defeat against Rances Barthelemy in 2015

But since the loss to Barthelemy for a vacant belt, Shafikov has won two fights in a row. He knocked out 2012 U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring in the 10th round last July and then won a split decision against Commey in December in a title elimination bout to earn the opportunity to challenge Easter.

Shafikov, a southpaw, said he thinks his third time fighting for a title will be the charm.

"I believe that this is my time. It's my third title fight and this will be the time that I take home the belt and reach my dream," Shafikov said. "I give 100 percent every time I step into the ring. I know that this will be an exciting fight but I also know that I have to do whatever it takes to win the title.

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