Holy Toledo! Easter will arrive in June this year.

Robert Easter, that is. The unbeaten lightweight titlist will defend his strap in his hometown of Toledo when he takes on mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions on Bounce from the Huntington Center on Friday, June 30.

Easter (19-0, 14 KOs) last defended his title there on Feb. 10 when he knocked down Luis Cruz three times en route to a unanimous decision.

“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,” said Easter. “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, 31, from Russia, hopes to capitalize on his third title shot. Shafikov (38-2-1, 20 KOs) was unbeaten in his first 34 fights and lost tough IBF title challenges to Rances Barthelemy in 2015 and Miguel Vazquez in 2014, both by unanimous decisions.

In his last two fights, Shafikov rebounded to defeat then-unbeaten former U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring and then earned his title shot by beating Richard Commey in December. Commey is the one common opponent for the fighters, both of whom defeated Commey by split decision.

“I’m looking forward to this fight on June 30,” said Shafikov. “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.”

Easter, 26, the lanky 2012 Olympic alternate, had won five in a row since the beginning of 2015 before earning his shot against then-unbeaten Commey in September 2016. Easter was successful in holding off the unbeaten Commey as he was able to earn a split-decision victory in a memorable fight. It’s fair to say that Shafikov is Easter’s toughest opponent to date.

“This is going to be Robert’s biggest challenge yet,” said his promoter Ravone Littlejohn. “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.”

Source: Bob Velin/ USA Today