O’Shaquie Foster probably wasn’t supposed to be in a ring fighting for a world title on Saturday night. The once-promising fighter from Orange, Texas, nearly threw it all away.
Foster got off to a great start in his professional career, winning his first eight fights in dominant fashion before stepping up and losing to Samuel Teah on ShoBox back in November of 2015. Foster bounced back from that defeat by winning his next two bouts. Then, once again, in a step-up fight on ShoBox, Foster blinked, this time losing a split decision to Rolando Chinea.
Suddenly, O'Shaquie Foster was an unceremonious 10-2 and looking more like a suspect than a prospect, despite all his obvious talent. Foster’s fast hands, clean boxing skills, footwork, and defense didn’t hold up when the lights got bright.
Then things got worse.
Having lost two fights and the glow of his fast start having dimmed, Foster found that many of those who were so interested in his promise had less interest in him as a person. People left him. Then his closest cousin was murdered. Foster was essentially out of boxing when he was arrested for attempted murder in March of 2017. After his conviction, you could take away the “essentially.” For the next four months, O'Shaquie Foster was locked up in his hometown. The sentence would have been decidedly longer (up to twenty years) had the charge not been reduced to aggravated assault.
While I would never excuse an out-of-the-ring act of violence, I do believe in rooting for people to get their lives together. None of us ever wants to be reduced to the worst thing they ever did, and I’m not going to do that to Foster. Not without walking in his shoes. Foster grew up poor and rough. Orange, Texas, is an impoverished town where drugs and crime are prevalent despite its small population. He lost his mother to cancer when he was just twelve. He is the kind of person who finds a way out through boxing.
The sweet science is a sport made up of con artists outside of the ring and (mostly) kids of color from broken homes inside of it. Foster was one of those kids. He found a path to a better future through the fight game and then gave it away. If he was going to get it back, he’d have to do it as an adult and an ex-con. If the road to get under the lights was tough, I imagine the trek back is even tougher.
Apparently, O’Shaquie Foster is pretty damn tough. After leaving his jailhouse uniform behind, Foster reeled off nine wins in a row, picking up the WBC silver super featherweight title in 2018 along the way. A lower-level belt, but one that put the rest of the division on notice. Despite his success upon his return to boxing, Foster still had to wait nearly five years to get his first title shot against the previously undefeated two-division champion Rey Vargas, who was stepping up in weight. During that half a decade of waiting for his shot, Foster stayed dedicated and kept himself out of trouble, earning his way back to the bright lights. On Saturday night, he got back.
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) February 12, 2023
But would Foster blink again? That was the question. One O'Shaquie Foster answered early in the fight by landing clean shots, showcasing great defense, and managing the ring like he was Sherman on the march.
For all his experience and pedigree, Vargas could not find Foster often enough when on offense and couldn’t avoid him nearly enough when Foster came forward. While fights are never just a tale of two faces, all you needed to do at the end of their bout was look at Vargas’ bruised and bloodied mug versus Foster’s incredibly clean appearance to know how the fight went.
As the final bell rang, the decision was turned over to the judges. While anyone with a decent set of eyes would have scored the fight easily for O'Shaquie Foster, those of us who have been following the sport for years know not to get ahead of ourselves. Thankfully, the judges proved to be sighted and declared Foster the winner by clear unanimous decision.
Foster didn’t just make his way back, he’s done that and more. He’s now a champion, and the question is no longer regarding Foster’s ability to reach his potential but how good he can actually be. While the Super Featherweight division is not what I would call fully loaded, there are plenty of good fighters in the weight class. By my eyes, Foster (still only 29, after all, he’s been through) can hang with and beat any of them.
His slick defense infuriated Vargas, as did Foster’s ability to change tempo and give his opponent different looks. (CLICK HERE to read the recap of the clash.) Foster can fight going backwards and forwards. With his style, he’s not likely to score many knockouts against the division’s elite, but he has plenty enough power to keep anyone honest. He’s not just a threat, he’s a promise.
O’Shaquie Foster has come a long way in the last five years since telling his fellow inmates he was going to be a champion while watching a Terrance Crawford fight from inside prison walls. As I said earlier, Foster probably wasn’t supposed to be there in the ring on Saturday night. Because our penal system is so poor at reform, it would have been much easier to imagine Foster struggling to stay on the straight and narrow after his release. As we know, so many ex-cons have a difficult time keeping the “ex.”
O’Shaquie Foster has kept the “ex,” and as it turns out, he was exactly where he was supposed to be Saturday night, becoming champion of the world.