There are stats.

And then there are stats that make you say, “Wow, really?”

O’Shaquie Foster’s KO of Rocky Hernandez last fall is surely the latter.

It seems impossible to fathom, but did you know that Foster’s dramatic stoppage win in defense of his WBC title at 130 pounds was just the 14th time in the history of modern championship boxing where a fighter trailing on points rallied for a finish in the final round.

You have IBHOF inductee and longtime boxing brain Steve Farhood to thank for that little nugget. 

And as for how the guy who pulled it off comes up with an encore, we’ll see Thursday night.

Foster returns to the ring atop an ESPN broadcast to defend his hard-earned and harder-kept strap against once-beaten No. 12 contender Abraham Nova at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

It’s a first trip to the combat mecca for Foster, 30, who’ll arrive with a new multi-fight promotional pact from Top Rank in tow thanks to a deal signed a few weeks after the Hernandez theatrics.

“It's always been my dream to fight at Madison Square Garden, and what better promoter to make this all happen than Top Rank?” Foster said. “As a kid, watching all the greats fight at MSG inspired me to want to be a part of the history that comes with fighting at such a legendary place. I'm ready to put on a show and keep proving that I'm the best fighter in the world."

It’s also a chance to extend an 11-fight win streak that began in 2017 after a split-decision loss to Rolando Chinea at Foxwoods in Connecticut and the subsequent 17-month hiatus that included a relocation to Houston to train with Bobby Benton at his Main Street Boxing & Muay Thai gym.

The partnership began with a first-round squash of Andrew Goodrich and hadn’t slowed on the way to Foster’s title-winning decision over Rey Vargas a year ago at the Alamodome. 

He won eight, nine and 11 rounds against Vargas and followed with the stirring rally against Hernandez, who had leads of five and 11 points on two scorecards and was a half-minute away from snatching Foster’s belt when the fight was waved off by referee Hector Afu.

The fight was on nearly everyone’s short list of the year’s best.

"I knew we were down," Benton said. "I didn’t think we were down, but we knew we had to knock him out. ‘Shock’ went out there and did it."

Another firefight is possible with Nova, who’s spent most of his career at or near 130 pounds but dropped down to featherweight for his lone loss, a fifth-round KO by Robeisy Ramirez in 2022.

He rebounded with defeats of Adam Lopez (UD 10) and Jonathan Romero (KO 3) in 2023 and carries a near-70-percent KO rate into his first career championship opportunity.

He’s been a Top Rank client since 2020.

"My team and I have earned this opportunity to bring a world title back home," he said. "You know what I bring, and you know what I’m about. No fear, no doubt."

Though Foster called for a match with IBF champ Joe Cordina in the aftermath of the Hernandez win, his subsequent deal with Top Rank presumably brings another unifcation, with WBO champ and Top Rank commodity Emanuel Navarrete, into play.

Navarrete is ranked first at 130 by Ring Magazine, a spot ahead of Foster and two up on Cordina.

He held titles at 122 and 126 before rising to beat Liam Wilson for the vacant WBO crown last February and defended twice later in the year against Oscar Valdez (UD 12) and Robson Conceicao (D 12).

Foster, upon signing with Top Rank, listed Navarrete, Valdez and Nova as his three most-desired foes.

“He showed himself to be nothing less than a champ (against Hernandez),” SiriusXM host Randy Gordon said. “I do think he can beat Navarrete, would love to see it. It could be one of this year's great fights.”

Regardless of what’s to come, the fighter is grateful.

“The whole turnaround. Not becoming a statistic,” he told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel, when asked what he’s most proud of. “I look back and think about how far we’ve come, being here. I was in the hood. 

“I was in and out of jail, kept losing people, my loved ones. It was just hitting me hard. Just to be here, in this position. Man, it’s just a blessing.”

* * * * * * * * * * 


This week’s title-fight schedule: 


IBF junior flyweight title – Oaxaca, Mexico

Adrian Curiel (champion/No. 3 Ring) vs. Sivenathi Nontshinga (No. 5 WBO/No. 6 Ring)

Curiel (24-4-1, 5 KO): First title defense; Scored one of five career KOs to win title in November

Nontshinga (12-1, 9 KO): Fourth title fight (2-1); Held IBF title at 108 pounds (2022-23, one defense)

Fitzbitz says: Nontshinga’s propensity for KOs slowed once he got to the title level but his abrupt loss to Curiel was still a surprise. The guess here is that he gets revenge. Nontshinga in 10 (55/45)

WBC super featherweight title – New York, New York

O'Shaquie Foster (champion/No. 2 Ring) vs. Abraham Nova (No. 12 WBC/Unranked Ring) 

Foster (21-2, 12 KO): Second title defense; Undefeated in 11 fights since 2016 (11-0, 5 KO)

Nova (23-1, 16 KO): First title fight; Lost only previous fight in New York City (KO by 5, 2022)

Fitzbitz says: Nova is a tough customer with a significant number of KOs against decent opposition, but it seems like Foster is on the rise and the momentum won’t stall here. Foster by decision (85/15)

Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Lopez) 

2023 picks record: 50-19 (72.46 percent) 

Overall picks record: 1,301-427 (75.28 percent) 

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class. 

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.