Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat never gets old.
According to Showtime’s Steve Farhood on Twitter Monday, what O’Shaquie Foster did to post his first defense of the WBC 130-pound title was a little more special than that. According to Farhood, “There have been thousands of world title fights, but on Saturday night, O'Shaquie Foster became only the 14th fighter in a title fight to trail on points going into the last round and score a stoppage to win.”
That’s a hell of a stat.
It was a hell of a fight.
Foster was down (though not by as much as the judge who had it a shutout) in what was an entertaining fight that went nova in a fantastic eleventh frame. Anyone who hasn’t seen it is encouraged to check DAZN’s highlight reel on YouTube where basically the whole round is included. Foster had challenger Eduardo “Rocky” Hernandez in big trouble until he didn’t. Hernandez found a shot to turn the tide and the heat rose in the arena.
There is a moment during a thrilling exchange when Foster waves Hernandez on and both men trade, pun intended, clean shots worthy of a “Rocky” movie. It was guts personified from both men and, for Hernandez, a valiant last stand. It was easily the best three minutes of boxing so far in 2023.
Foster dropped a spent Hernandez twice in the twelfth and final round, securing the comeback his title with a statement show closing rally. It was a hell of a ride.
Futures: Foster won his then-vacant belt by becoming the first man to defeat featherweight titlist Rey Vargas with a smart, efficient boxing performance. Now we see a deeper level of fire in the man and it gives some life to a junior lightweight class looking for an identity.
Junior lightweight has hosted some fantastic talent over the years, including epic runs from Alexis Arguello, Azumah Nelson, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather. When it doesn’t have those sorts of titans, it has also been home to some thrillers. The early 80s saw Bobby Chacon and company turn out Fight of the Year winners regularly. Arturo Gatti made his initial reputation in the class. Foster-Hernandez was a worthy addition to that warrior tradition. Unification fever hasn’t abated in boxing and after his last two fights Foster versus any other titlist in the class (Joe Cordina, Hector Garcia, Emanuel Navarrete) looks like a winner on paper.
Another winner on paper last weekend was Amanda Serrano. Before the bell even rang, the simple fact that she was defending her featherweight crown for a scheduled 12 rounds, at three minutes each, was a victory. Then she went out and pitched a shutout over Danila Ramos.
Serrano has now gone more than two years without a knockout but only Katie Taylor was able to narrowly beat her in this stretch. She remains one of the best in the world, but what is out there to test her place among the elite?
Futures: Serrano doesn’t have a compelling opponent for the moment. The Taylor rematch fell aside and became the Taylor loss to Chantelle Cameron and now the Taylor-Cameron rematch. Alycia Baumgardner is probably the next best option but the lineal junior lightweight queen tested positive for PEDs over the summer and that creates a logical obstacle. Win or lose in the Cameron rematch, the best option for Serrano is still probably a Taylor rematch in 2024. At 35, the clock is probably ticking for Serrano to find another big payday or two. For now, her hold on the featherweight division doesn’t appear to be in any imminent danger soon.
It’s impossible not to mention the Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou fight last weekend. The heavyweight king got the win and this corner didn’t see it live. Boxing/MMA clashes lost their appeal a long time ago here. It’s not something worth dumping on and for those who have enjoyed the spectacles, including the whole Jake Paul thing or KSI or whoever, more power to them.
It’s usually not serious boxing so it was easy to ignore.
This can’t be ignored. Tyson Fury is a tale of two fighters. On his best nights, he’s the guy who upset one of the great heavyweight champions in Wladimir Klitschko and the guy who won the best heavyweight trilogy since Bowe-Holyfield versus Deontay Wilder. A big downside is Fury the public personality, an often-obnoxious figure whose media posturing long ago grew mundane.
No you’re not.
He was due a humbling and having to sweat out a decision that including getting dropped on his keister is a loss even in victory. Some apologists have pointed to Fury’s inactivity but that’s absurd. He was fighting an MMA champion without a scrap in almost two years and zero professional boxing matches. Viewing post-fight highlights, kudos belong to an Ngannou who whipped himself into shape and gave a hell of an effort.
But the real story is how embarrassing the whole thing should be to Fury. The love handles that are normally there looked like overstuffed luggage this time around. Failure to take an opponent seriously can make for a serious opponent. That appears to be what happened last week and Fury will have to be a lot better, and more professional, if and when the Oleksandr Usyk unification actually happens.
Considering how hard it was to get Fury to honor contractually obligated rematches with Klitschko and Wilder, don’t be certain we’re going to find out.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com