Lightweight titleholder Easter Jr. to get 'biggest challenge yet' from Shafikov

Lightweight world titleholder Robert Easter Jr. will make the second defense of his belt against mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov on June 30 in front of a hometown crowd at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, Premier Boxing Champions announced on Thursday.

The fight will headline a PBC card on Bounce TV (9 p.m. ET).

"This is going to be Robert's biggest challenge yet," promoter Ravone Littlejohn of About Billions Promotions said. "Shafikov is a tough fighter, and this is exactly the type of fight Robert needs as he steps up to the next level of championship boxing. This fight is going to prepare him for his future, and we're excited to be back in Toledo for it."

The 26-year-old Easter (19-0, 14 KOs) won a vacant 135-pound belt by split decision against Richard Commey in September in Reading, Pennsylvania, before returning home to the Huntington Center to make his first defense on Feb. 10, when he scored three knockdowns on his way to a lopsided decision victory against Luis Cruz.

"I am always happy to fight at home, but I think the excitement in Toledo will be even bigger this time and I can't wait," Easter said. "I also have a baby on the way, and the due date is June 5, so I will be able to fight knowing my son is here and I am extra pumped because of that. I know that I have a tough opponent, but I am not afraid of any fighter. This is what boxing is about. Shafikov is coming to take my belt, but I know that I will be victorious once again."

Shafikov (38-2-1, 20 KOs), 31, of Russia, is as experienced as opponents get. The former European junior welterweight champion has twice boxed for lightweight world titles. He dropped unanimous decisions to Miguel Vazquez in Macau, China, in 2014 and Rances Barthelemy in Las Vegas in 2015 in those world title bouts.

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 eliminator to earn the opportunity to challenge Easter.

"I'm looking forward to this fight on June 30," Shafikov said. "I know that I have a very tough opponent in front of me. I have been waiting for this opportunity to get this belt, and I plan on doing everything in my power to make it happen."