Ohio sons Easter, Warren put titles on line before home fans

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Robert Easter (L) shows his punching power as he beats Richard Commey by a 12-round split decision last September (AFP Photo/Drew Hallowell)
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Los Angeles (AFP) - Unbeaten Robert Easter hopes to put on a show in front of hometown fans in Toledo, Ohio, on Friday when he puts his lightweight world title on the line against Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz.

"I have a very tough fighter in front of me. Cruz is going to come to fight and put on a show, but I'm prepared to deliver a knockout," said Easter, who brings a record of 18-0, with 14 knockouts to the bout.

Cruz is 22-4 with one drawn and 16 knockouts.

Easter's punching power is well documented as he goes into his first fight since beating Richard Commey by a 12-round split decision last September.

That punishing bout saw Easter climb off the canvas to earn the decision in the late rounds.

Easter claimed the vacant International Boxing Federation world title with that win and he made it clear in Thursday's final pre-fight press conference he doesn't intend to give up the belt just yet.

"I can't wait to get into the ring for this fight," he said. "This is something I've been waiting on for years. I'm a world champion just like I knew I always would be."

On the same card, Cincinnati native Rau'shee Warren makes his first defense of his World Boxing Association bantamweight world title against mandatory challenger Zhanat Zhakiyanov of Kazakhstan.

After losing by split decision in his first world title shot against Juan Carlos Payano, Warren triumphed by majority decision in a rematch.

Now 14-1, with four knockouts, Warren says he's looking for a victory that could put him on a path to unifying the division.

"This is a very important fight for me. I'm a world champion but I have a lot more work to do," said Warren, who made three Olympic teams as an amateur but was never in medal contention at the Games. "I'm looking to grab more titles.

"My first obstacle is taking care of this mandatory. After I get him out of the way I'll be ready put my titles up against other champions," Warren, 29, said.

The 33-year-old Zhakiyanov boasts a record of 26-1 with 18 knockouts. He hasn't fought since a split decision victory over Yonfrez Parejo in Monte Carlo in November of 2015.

His lone defeat was back in 2008, but Warren sounded a confident note in looking toward the bout.

"My opponent is a pressure fighter. He's trying to come forward. With the abilities that I have, I'm going to try to make it look easy."