It takes a lot to catch junior lightweight contender O’Shaquie Foster off guard. A little snowstorm in New York City the week of his fight with Alberto Mercado can do the trick.
“Oh man,” laughs the Texan, who estimates the last time he set foot on some snow was three years ago when he was in Virginia. “I ain’t got no big jackets either. I’m gonna have to come padded up.”
Luckily, by the time Foster laces up the gloves at Terminal 5 in Manhattan, the little over an inch of snowfall will be history. And if not, well, it’s appropriate weather for a guy nicknamed “Ice Water.”
“Perfect conditions to ice somebody in.”
It’s a little over a year since the biggest win of the former amateur standout’s pro career, a lopsided decision over previously unbeaten Jon Fernandez in September 2018. The ShoBox bout was supposed to be a coronation for the Spanish phenom, but after 10 rounds, it was Foster who left Oklahoma with the win and Fernandez’ WBC silver belt.
“I saw it as something that was special and that would definitely put me on the map because of the title that he had and that he was one of the top prospects,” recalled the Houstonian. “So I knew it would put my name into contention. But I knew from the beginning he wasn’t gonna be a problem for me. I knew that with my boxing skills and the all-around arsenal of what I can do, he wouldn’t be able to really touch me, so going into the fight I was really relaxed.”
Then he got into the ring.
“The only thing that got me was that when I got in the ring, the ring was super small. It was like 15x15.”
In other words, made for a puncher like Fernandez.
“I adjusted to it pretty quick,” Foster said. “I realized that they wanted me in a phone booth in this fight.”
That was no problem for Foster, who lived up to his nickname with a cool, clinical performance in which he didn’t just outbox his opponent, but outpunched him. The win introduced the Texan to the casual fight fan, but to the diehards, it was a reminder of what Foster could do when he was focused and his head was right.
It wasn’t always that way, but through it all, he always came back to boxing.
“I always loved the sport,” he said. “The frustrating part was the business end. But boxing has always been a part of me. When I was younger, coming up, it kept me out of trouble. I was always traveling, so my friends would get in trouble but I was on the road. And it helped me keep disciplined. It controlled my anger, had me thinking before I did anything. It helped me a lot and I applied the stuff in boxing to life. It was really good for me.”
Now it’s his ticket to a life he couldn’t have imagined growing up in Orange, Texas. There have been hiccups, notably losses to Samuel Teah and Rolando Chinea that were followed by a four-month stay in jail due to a shooting incident. But once he relocated to Houston and began working with respected coach Bobby Benton, it’s been smooth sailing to the tune of six straight wins since the 2016 loss to Chinea.
But with such success comes a downside, and for Foster, that downside after beating Fernandez has been the lack of action on his cell phone.
“Before that Fernandez fight, I was getting calls from everywhere,” he said. “I was getting calls from Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, and I think I had even got a call from Gervonta Davis. And as soon as we beat Fernandez, we couldn’t get a call back. It stopped ringing. It’s moving along and I’m trying to stay patient, but ain’t nobody trying to take chances with me anymore.”
That’s got to be a backhanded compliment of sorts, right?
“It comes with its good and its bad,” Foster said. “I can see that I’m a guy that’s real respected in the ring and outside of it, so those guys aren’t really jumping towards fighting me, but it hurts because I want the big paydays and the big fights, and it’s been hard to get ‘em. It’s frustrating, but whenever I do make it there and they give me that title fight and I win it, I can say that it wasn’t handed to me like the rest of these guys.”
To compensate, Foster is simply staying busy. He halted Fatiou Fassinou in three rounds in February, then added the WBA Fedecentro title to his trophy case when he knocked out Jesus Bravo in July. Now it’s off to the Big Apple and Mercado, and despite being favored to win, he knows just how costly a loss would be at this point in his career.
“I’m taking this fight as serious as I take any other fight because this is a guy that I cannot lose to,” he said. “It would definitely be, not 10 steps, but 20 steps backwards. It would flip my career all the way back upside down, so I’m definitely coming in focused and ready for Mercado. We’re definitely not looking past this guy.”
And if this last year taught him anything, it’s that when he does get to where he wants to be, he will always answer the call to fight the best opposition possible.
“I want all the big names,” Foster said. “I’m not really interested in taking fights just to take them. The game, for me, is to be great and to make the biggest paydays. And for me to do that, I will have to get the biggest names in the ring. So when I get my belt, I’m not gonna be like these other champions that run from each other. I’m going after them and I want to unify 130 and then go to ’35 and do the same thing.”