The fighters stood up for their staredown, for the picture that shows them glaring eye-to-eye.

Nothing ever happens, now that Mike Tyson has retired. It’s all garnish. When they did it, Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley could barely keep from laughing.

The only problem comes when your stink-eye can’t find the other guy’s stink-eye.

Mikey Garcia confronted Robert Easter Jr. last month and realized he had to look up. And up.

Easter is 5-foot-11. Garcia is 5-foot-6. Garcia has the WBC lightweight belt (135 pounds) and Garcia holds the IBF version. Both belts are in the middle of the table at Staples Center Saturday night.

Garcia (38-0) is heavily favored to chop down Easter and head toward Vasyl Lomachenko or Errol Spence or whomever brings the most business.

But Easter’s reach exceeds Garcia’s by 8 inches. This could be bothersome, if not threatening. Judging a safe distance is what boxing is all about.

“I want to fight champions,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to fight the 8-9-10 guys in the weight class. Robert has the height advantage but sometimes he gives that up to fight. He has the heart, he doesn’t take no for an answer. That’s what makes a great fight.”

Below that heart, Easter has some prominent ribs for Garcia to attack. He escaped with a split-decision over Javier Fortuna in his most recent defense, although Fortuna missed weight and wasn’t eligible to win the belt.

Easter (21-0) does have 14 knockouts, but hasn’t finished anybody in his four championship bouts.

So what do you see when you finally find Easter’s eyes?

Well, he has a little Paul Williams in him. Williams was a true outlier, a 6-foot-1 beanpole of a welterweight who for years had no problem making the 147-pound limit. Williams beat Winky Wright, Sergio Martinez, Erislandy Lara and Antonio Margarito, and won the WBO championship twice. He would be a very big star today if not for the motorcycle accident that paralyzed him in 2012, when he was 31.

Most fighters churn through the weight classes as they age. But Easter weighed 137 for his pro debut, a 4-rounder at Staples in 2011. He’s comfortable at 135.

Mikey Garcia is coming back
Mikey Garcia is coming back
His father was a boxer as well, before he became a transporter at a Toledo, Ohio hospital, a job he still holds.

Young Robert was a successful BMX racer as a kid and performed from coast-to-coast. “He had some pretty good crashes, too,” Robert Sr. said.

But Junior also was wrapping his hands in Kleenex, imitating his dad, when he was four.

To him, Glass City Boxing Gym became home, at least until the townspeople became so intrusive that Easter had to move his camp to West Palm Beach, Fla., where he works with new coach Kevin Cunningham.

Easter represents the place he lives. That’s becoming a welcome trend in boxing. The sport can’t rely on Las Vegas and New York. It needs widespread roots, and needs fighters to fight in the heartland and develop fans.

Terence Crawford has planted those roots in Omaha, and Jose Ramirez has done so in Portland. Easter’s two championship flights at the Huntington Center in Toledo were major events.

“It’s kinda overwhelming at times, being there,” Easter said. “They look at you like the hometown hero. I can’t let them down. One slip-up, and it would be like shattering other people’s dreams. That’s what keeps me on my feet. I want to play a big part in the city.”

Overall Toledo is a crowd waiting for a pleaser. It is the template for the great American manufacturing city, the place where people built Jeeps, Chyrslers and GM cars and worked at the big glass factories such as Owens-Corning and Libby Owens Ford, the “LOF” you used to see emblazoned on your car windows. Like so many Great Lakes towns it had to put Rust-Oleum on itself.

Toledo is in the Detroit and Cleveland TV markets, which means that, every four years, it takes the most torrential buffeting of political ads in America. It also is the home of Tony Packo’s Hungarian hot dogs, and 10 percent of Toledo’s 280,000 residents are of Polish extraction. Easter refers to Toledo as “the Mud,” and of course the Triple-A team is the Mud Hens. His friends call him the E-Bunny. It’s a place with identity, which won’t recede no matter how many storefronts close.

“People from back there started booking their plane flights to L.A. before the tickets even went on sale,” Easter said.

The winner gets two lightweight belts, with Lomachenko and Ray Beltran holding the other two. Garcia could run into risky business with Easter. At least he can’t overlook him.

Source: PE