Foster on point in dominating win over Vargas for vacant 130 title
Barrios batters Santiago in TKO; Pero stops Faust with body shot
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In 2017, O’Shaquie Foster was incarcerated in his hometown of Orange, Texas, serving four months for aggravated assault with his life going nowhere.
Five years later — and still on probation from that conviction — he won the vacant WBC junior lightweight title to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Foster handily outboxed Rey Vargas, giving him the first loss of his 13-year career en route to a unanimous decision in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader on Showtime on Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
He beat Vargas to the punch throughout the fight, threw and landed more punches, and was sharp on defense, winning 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112 to claim one of the 130-pound belts stripped from Shakur Stevenson for missing weight before a defense versus Robson Conceicao in September.
Foster was in the mandatory position to challenge Stevenson but with the title vacated, he met Vargas, the WBC featherweight titleholder, who moved up one division in an effort to win a belt in a third weight class.
Foster, who had been a standout amateur, was overjoyed to accomplish his goal of winning a world title, which he hatched while he was jailed and watched Terence Crawford knock out Julius Indongo to become the undisputed junior welterweight champion.
“It feels great,” Foster said, with the green and gold belt on his shoulder. “It’s been crazy. I want to thank everyone that came out and everybody that helped me get here. I appreciate the opportunity.
“Man, I can’t even put it into words. I just know my mom, my grandma and my uncle, they’re all looking down on me. It’s been a tough journey but a great outcome.”
He credited “dedication, hard work” for his victory, adding, “I have a great team around me. Getting away from the distractions and preparing myself mentally and physically.”
Foster (20-2, 11 KOs), 29, was in control all the way. His hands were quicker, he appeared sturdier and he seemed to frustrate Vargas (36-1, 22 KOs), 32, who launched many long right hands that missed.
In the third round, an accidental head butt opened a cut over Vargas’ left eye to add to his problems.
While Vargas never seemed to land a truly solid shot, Foster landed many left hooks and counter punches. Vargas had better success in the middle rounds, but never could get any momentum going. By the ninth round, both of his eyes were marked up and his nose was swollen.
If there was any doubt about who was the boss, Foster closed the fight impressively, outlanding Vargas 49-20 over the final three rounds, according to CompuBox, including 20-5 in the 12th round. He held his right fist aloft to signal victory in the final 10 seconds.
“I didn’t think it was close. My coaches kept telling me not to let off the gas,” Foster said. “I wanted to close the show.”
Overall, Foster landed 144 of 625 punches (23 percent) and Vargas landed 101 of 524 (19 percent).
“I have to respect the judges,” Vargas said through an interpreter. “I thought it was a much closer fight (than the scores) but that’s the decision. It’s their decision. The weight difference may have affected me. In boxing, you can use your legs to be technical or use them to run. Foster used them to run. He ran all night.”
What Foster really did was use his speed advantage and lateral movement to avoid Vargas’ shots. He often stood in the pocket in front of Vargas and made him miss.
“My preparation was very important. I saw a lot of tape. I threw combinations,” Foster said. “I knew that he counter reacted to previous opponents. I tried to switch up my technique. I felt good in the later rounds. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a close fight.”
Vargas, a former junior featherweight titlist, won the WBC featherweight belt by split decision from Mark Magsayo in July, also at the Alamodome, and immediately moved up in weight to face Foster. But he still has the featherweight title and defending it seems to be in his future.
“This is another step in my life,” Vargas said. “We might just go back to 126.”
As for Foster, he hopes to eventually unify titles.
“I’d love to unify but we got two mandatories we got to fulfill,” he said. “But I definitely want to unify — (Hector Luis) Garcia, (Emanuel) Navarrete, the winner of (Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov-Joe) Cordina. I’m up for anybody. I feel I can beat anybody.”
Barrios punishes Santiago
In the welterweight co-feature, former secondary junior welterweight titlist and San Antonio native Mario Barrios ended a two-fight losing skid with a dominant eighth-round knockout of Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago, handing him his third consecutive defeat.
“It feels amazing. It took me a while to get that groove, to get that rhythm. I felt great,” said Barrios, who was with trainer Bob Santos for the first time.
Barrios (27-2, 17 KOs), 27, lost his belt at 140 pounds in his second defense by 11th-round knockout to Gervonta Davis in June 2021 and then moved up to welterweight and lost a lopsided decision to former unified titleholder Keith Thurman in last February. Now he’s back on track after running through Santiago (14-3-1, 10 KOs), 31, with ease.
Barrios had a big third round and an even bigger sixth round in which he unloaded many clean punches, causing referee Mark Calo-oy to look closely at a possible stoppage.
After the round, Santiago’s corner told him he needed to get going and threatened to stop the bout. He showed tremendous heart to make it through the seventh, during which he was staggered by a right hand.
But in the eighth round the punishment mounted. Santiago, whose face was bruised and bloody from a cut on the bridge of his nose, was hurt by a Barrios left hook early the round, and then Barrios dropped him with a left hand to the body.
Santiago beat the count, but as Barrios punished him with damaging shots when the fight resumed, Santiago’s corner signaled for it to be stopped and Calo-oy waved it off at 1 minute, 42 seconds.
“I knew Santiago was coming with it and he took the fight in my backyard,” Barrios said. “That says a lot about him. He’s a hell of a warrior. I tip my hat to him. I felt (a stoppage) was close. I felt myself breaking him down little by little,” Barrios said. “I just had to be patient. I knew it was coming.
“My counter right hand is something that we’ve been working on at the gym in (Las) Vegas. Thankful to Bob, thankful to my sister Selina for guiding me in the right direction.”
Santiago lost a third fight in a row having previously dropped a heavily disputed 12-round decision to Adrien Broner in February 2021 followed by a one-sided sixth-round knockout to Gary Antuanne Russell in May 2021.
“I may have been a bit too conservative. I didn’t throw enough punches. That’s the bottom line,” Santiago said. “I waited around too much and I paid the price. Thank God that I’m OK. This is boxing, and now it’s time to regroup with my team to come up with a plan to redeem myself next time around.”
Pero stops Faust in 8th
Heavyweight Lenier Pero stopped Viktor Faust in the eighth round for his biggest victory in a fight between unbeaten big men.
It had been a competitive fight but one Faust was leading going into the eighth round when Pero (9-0, 6 KOs), 30, a 2016 Cuban Olympian fighting out of Miami, suddenly ended it with a body shot being the key blow.
The southpaw Pero nailed Faust (11-1, 7 KOs), 30, of Ukraine, with a right to the body followed by a left to the head that sent him to the ropes. Pero followed with four more shots — left, right, left, left — to the head, causing referee Rafael Ramos to intervene at 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Faust was holding his side where the body blow landed when the fight ended, indicating that it was that shot that did the damage. He was taken to the hospital following the bout due to possible broken ribs.
“It was a very difficult fight. He’s a great fighter, so we started to build up momentum and started to hit him and then we finally came ahead in the final round,” Pero said through an interpreter. “Since the first round, we were trying to find his liver, trying to go to his body. His punches weren’t that powerful, so we kept working and then we found that final shot.”
Faust, who lost an amateur fight to Pero’s brother Dainier, was ahead on two scorecards, 68-65 and 67-66, while Pero was up 68-65 on the third card at the time of the stoppage.
Pero, who was a vastly experienced amateur with multiple wins over Frank Sanchez and bouts against Oleksandr Usyk, Filip Hrgovic and Bakhodir Jalolov, got off to good start and seemed to take the first two rounds but Faust got back into with a hard counter left hand that rocked Pero in the final seconds of the third round.
Photos: Amanda Westcott/Showtime
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Good to see PBC matching unbeaten prospects, though neither did themselves any favors. Wouldn't invest much in the future of either Pero brother or Faust, even though he appeared to be on his way to winning.
Soooo glad Vargas lost. I do not enjoy watching him fight, and him without an unbeaten record or a title should relegate him to some place I don't have to see him!
As for Barrios, and his unfortunate neck ink, I'm sure PBC now considers him a top contender and will slide him into a meaningful fight where he will once again lose clearly. Ugas maybe?
Great to hear how boxing can still help a young guy to turn his life around.
Foster has clearly dedicated himself over the past 5 years and really deserves his success.
If he continues to dedicate himself to the sport, and avoids the many distractions, he may achieve even more success - good luck to him.