Mikey Garcia, Easter to unify lightweight belts July 28

GREG BEACHAM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lightweight champions Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter Jr. will meet in a title unification bout July 28 at Staples Center.

The unbeaten champs announced their upcoming fight Saturday before Leo Santa Cruz's rematch with Abner Mares in downtown Los Angeles.

Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) grew up in nearby Oxnard, but he hasn't fought in California since 2011. He is moving back down to 135 pounds after defeating light welterweight Sergey Lipinets in March to win a belt in his fourth weight class.

''I wanted to get a fight here at home, and it happens to be the biggest fight of my career,'' Garcia said. ''Right now at lightweight, there's no bigger challenge than Robert Easter.''

Garcia is considered one of the world's top pound-for-pound fighters despite taking a 2 1/2-year break from competition between January 2014 and July 2016 while engaging in a dispute with his former promoter, Top Rank.

He is 4-0 since returning to regular competition, including a unanimous decision over Adrien Broner last July. With his subsequent victory over Lipinets, Garcia joined Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only boxers to win titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds.

For all of his accomplishments in his 12-year professional career, the 30-year-old Garcia has never held multiple major championship belts in a weight class.

''I could have taken an easier fight than Easter, but that wouldn't help my legacy,'' Garcia said. ''This is my first chance to unify a division and to fight another champion.''

While Garcia is seeking another career superlative, Easter (21-0, 14 KOs) is looking for a career breakthrough.

The Toledo, Ohio, native has held the IBF belt since September 2016. Easter earned a rocky split decision over Javier Fortuna in January after Fortuna came in overweight.

Garcia represents a major step forward in competition for the 27-year-old Easter, who will have significant advantages in height and reach.

''I've been waiting on this for so long,'' Easter said. ''The best fighting the best. This is what boxing is all about.''

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