O’Shaquie Foster was surprised when he learned Rey Vargas will be the opponent he will face for the unclaimed championship that Shakur Stevenson lost at the scale four months ago.
Mexico’s Vargas won the WBC featherweight title by defeating the Philippines’ Mark Magsayo in his last fight, a 12-rounder in which Vargas got up from a ninth-round knockdown to win by split decision July 9 at Alamodome in San Antonio. Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) decided to fight Foster (19-2, 11 KOs), rather than making his first featherweight title defense, because it’ll afford him the opportunity to become a three-weight world champion in this “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event.
“Honestly, it didn’t matter who it was,” Foster said recently during a virtual press conference. “I’m ready. I’m ready for anybody. You know, it just makes it better that he’s a two-time champion and that he’s 36-0, so it won’t be any excuses, you know, after the fight. … He’s a champion, he’s a current champion, so I should get all my props after the fight.”
Foster, 29, is the WBC’s number one contender in the 130-pound division. The Orange, Texas native has won nine fights in a row since he lost an eight-round split decision to Rolando Chinea (then 12-1-1) in a fight Showtime televised in July 2016 as part of its “ShoBox: The New Generation” series from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
The 32-year-old Vargas views Foster as a versatile opponent who can box and bang. Vargas predicted, though, that the ambidextrous Foster will try to “steamroll” him in Vargas’ debut at the 130-pound limit.
“I mean, if he try to box me, good luck,” Foster said. “If he try to walk me down, good luck. You know, so we’ll see what he brings. And it’s a lotta, you know, talk about what he thinks I’m gonna do. He need to worry about what he need to do.”
Vargas, also a former WBC super bantamweight champ, said he wants to thrill fans by delivering a fan-friendly fight. Foster isn’t sure he believes Vargas, despite that oddsmakers have installed Vargas as a slight favorite.
“He say he want a action fight, but he also sound like he gonna run, too,” Foster said. “So, we gonna see what he bring to the table. I’m ready for it.”
Showtime will air two bouts before Vargas-Foster as part of a tripleheader scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET.
Mario Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs), a former WBA world super lightweight champ from San Antonio, will oppose Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature.
Their welterweight fight will be Barrios’ first action in more than a year. Barrios hasn’t fought since last February 5, when former WBA/WBC welterweight champ Keith Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC) beat Barrios by unanimous decision at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The opener of Showtime’s telecast is a 10-round heavyweight bout in which Cuban southpaw Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs) will encounter Ukraine’s Viktor Vykhryst (11-0, 7 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.