O’Shaquie Foster’s new journey begins as WBC junior lightweight king after beating Rey Vargas
Hall of Famer and former ex-con Bernard Hopkins once described it as the sound that never leaves you. It’s the metallic buckling prison doors make when they slam shut, and it becomes a part of anyone who’s ever done prison time.
It’s a sound O’Shaquie Foster will never shake. He did four months for aggravated assault in 2017—and somehow kept his focus on his future.
That determination could not have been rewarded any better than with his 12-round dominance over former two-division titlist Rey Vargas in claiming the vacant WBC junior lightweight title in a PBC event on Showtime from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Foster (20-2, 11 KOs) dominated from start to finish, winning by wide-margin scores from judges Tim Cheatham (117-111) Alejandro Rochin (119-109) and by closer decision from judge David Sutherland (116-112).
There was no doubt, however, as to who won and who’s a new player at 130.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Foster, who went into the fight as The Ring’s No. 6-rated junior lightweight but almost certainly will move up after this performance. “I know my mom, my uncle, my grandpa, they are all looking down on me. I’d love to unify [the division]. I think I have two mandatories. Garcia, [Emanuel] Navarrete. I’ll face anybody.”
Foster never deviated from what he needed to do: Stay in the pocket and take Vargas’ jab away.
It worked throughout almost the entirety of the fight.
“Dedication, hard work. I have a great team around me,” Foster said. “Getting away from the distractions and preparing myself mentally and physically. My preparation was very important. I saw a lot of tape. I threw combinations. I knew that he counter reacted to previous opponents. I tried to switch up my technique.”
Vargas (36-1, 22 KOs) suffered his first setback as a professional. He put some of that on moving up from 126. He said he knew there could be some potential problems.
“I respect the judges,” Vargas said. “I think this decision was not fair. I don’t agree with it, but I have to respect it. I thought it was much closer than they saw.
“The weight difference may have affected me tonight. In boxing, you can use your legs to be technical or use them to run. Foster used them to run. He ran all night. This is another step in my life. We might just go back to 126.”
Foster ruled almost every round, except for possibly the eighth and ninth. In both rounds Vargas tapped Foster, it seemed, more than he had in the previous seven rounds combined, putting together combinations to the body and head.
The brief rally, however, did not last long.
Foster closed strong, winning the championship rounds that Vargas traditionally dominated.
In the final round, Foster outlanded Vargas 20-5.
“My coaches kept telling me to pick it up, we are ready to go,” Foster said. “We can’t get them out, but I felt good in the later rounds. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a close fight. I didn’t think it was close. My coaches kept telling me not to let off the gas. I wanted to close the show.”
In the co-feature, welterweight Mario Barrios easily broke his two-fight losing streak by stopping the gutsy Jovanie Santiago at 1:42 of the eighth round.
It was not competitive.
It marked the return of the 27-year-old Mario Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs) after over a year hiatus from the ring after his loss to Keith Thurman last February. Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) lost for the third-straight time.
“It feels amazing. It took me a while to get that groove, to get that rhythm. I felt great,” Barrios said. “I wouldn’t say I was different [tonight], but definitely with a larger arsenal. I’m pretty thankful to have Bob [Santos] in my corner and my sister.”
Santiago says he may have started too late. He took a lot of punishment and it didn’t seem as if he started at all.
“I may have been a bit too conservative,” he explained. “I didn’t throw enough punches. That’s the bottom line. I waited around too much and I paid the price. Thank God that I’m OK. This is boxing, and now it’s time to regroup with my team to come up with a plan to redeem myself next time around.”
In the first TV fight, 2016 Cuban Olympic heavyweight Lenier Pero came back late to stop previously undefeated Viktor Faust at 2:28 of the eighth-round in a scheduled 10-round fight.
Pero (9-0, 6 KOs) was down on two of the three scorecards when the end came for Faust (11-1, 7 KOs), courtesy of a right hook to the body.
“It was a very difficult fight,” Pero said. “(Faust) is a great fighter, so we started to build up momentum and started to hit him and then we finally came ahead in the (eighth) round.
“I’m all about overcoming harder and harder challenges, and I came through after a hard fought fight. Now, I believe I deserve to go after the very best.
“I’m at their level. Setting my sights on England, actually. Let’s see if the Brits would like to come fight Stateside. I would welcome them with open arms. I’m talking Tyson Fury, Dubois…bring them on!”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
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