O’Shaquie Foster is only 29 years old, and he’s made the walk to the pro ring just 21 times, but as he approaches his first world title fight against Rey Vargas on Saturday, it feels like the Texan has been here forever, waiting for his shot at championship gold.

But for all the stops and starts of the last decade, he’s here now, and that’s all that matters.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Foster. “I had a couple setbacks and had to get focused and weed out the bad energy in my life. Now I’m ready.”

When it comes to everything inside the ropes, Foster has been ready for a while now. Winner of nine straight dating back to 2017, Foster has beaten quality competition like Frank De Alba, Jon Fernandez, Mickey Roman and Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov, received positive notices from the fans and the media, but outside the ring, promotional issues kept him from making the big moves he felt was on the doorstep when I spoke to him before the Roman bout in late 2020.

“I definitely feel like this fight is gonna open it up and let people know that I'm here and that the talent and everything is there,” Foster said. “It's a great opportunity for the world to see me and for the people that really don't know too much about me or have just seen a few glimpses of me. It's gonna be great.”

Foster knocked Roman out in the ninth round of their Ring City USA bout, and it should have been the catalyst for a big year in 2021, but the aforementioned promotional issues kept him sidelined until he returned last March to defeat the previously unbeaten Yaqubov. Not an ideal road to a title shot, but he’s faced adversity before 2021 and still moved forward.

“For me to be a better person, I had to separate myself from the crowd,” he said. “I moved away from my hometown five years ago and I only go back to see my family. I’m just focused on what I have to do in the future.”

That future is now, and while he’ll be in his home state when he fights at the Alamodome in San Antonio, the Orange native will likely be the B-side against the 36-0 Vargas, a Mexico City native who won the WBC featherweight title against Mark Magsayo in the same building last summer.

“It didn’t matter who I was facing,” said Foster. “I was ready for anybody. It just makes it better that he’s an undefeated two-time champion. He’s a current champion, so I should get all my props after the fight.”

It will be the vacant 130-pound title on the line this weekend, with Vargas chasing his third divisional belt, so all eyes are on him, not Foster.

“I don’t want to call this a dream, because I’m about to make it a reality,” said Vargas. “It’s a short list of three-division world champions and I want that to be part of my legacy. I like to do what’s unexpected. Who knows what we’ll do next? All I’m focused on is becoming a three-division champion on February 11.”

That’s fine with Foster, who isn’t necessarily chasing fame, but glory, and glory will come with a victory over Vargas, in Texas, no less.

“I appreciate Vargas for coming up and challenging me for the title,” he said. “We’re ready. I’ve had to take a lot of ‘0’s’ lately and Vargas is going to be another one on the list.

“I’ll be the first world titlist to come out of my city, so I’d be making history for Orange, Texas

and raising the bar for the next generation,” Foster continues. “I’m ready to show the world that I’m one of the top fighters.”

That’s always been the plan, but the business got in the way. But again, O’Shaquie Foster is here now, and all that matters is Saturday night, the moment when he can control his own destiny for 12 rounds or less. Before everything paused for him in 2021, I asked him what it would mean to take a world title belt home and he responded, “It's something I've been thinking about since I was a kid, and the road even got tougher, so once I do touch that belt, it's gonna be something that I can't even explain.”

He's had two years to prep that post-fight interview, and if he gets to deliver it, it should be a good one.

“It’s going to be fireworks,” said Foster. “We put in real work. Every fight I come in with a different style, so for this fight I’m bringing all the tricks. I’m going to show the world that I belong and that I’m here to stay.”