Dave Oakes previews Saturday night's Sky Sports show.
Not so long ago Stephen Foster Jnr was contemplating retirement, he’d followed his WBO title defeat to Alex Arthur with a routine six round points victory over Jason Nesbitt and was expecting another title chance to materialise shortly afterwards.
The title shot was slow in coming though; he spent over a year out of the ring, waiting for a chance that wasn’t certain to arrive. His trainer Maurice Core helped him to stay positive when he was becoming disillusioned with his lack of opportunities but Foster has admitted it was a tough period for him.
He told the Salford Advertiser: "I was wondering what I’d done to deserve it. I’d been expecting a title shot after I proved I could live with that class against Alex Arthur, but they kept falling through.
"But when you’re a boxer you don’t have much choice. You can either keep ticking over in the gym or get a nine to five – and I didn’t want to do that."
The turnaround in Foster’s fortunes came about after he signed with Hatton Promotions, who quickly secured him a shot at the European super-featherweight title against the heavy-handed Leva Kirakosyan.
Having brutally demolished both Scott Lawton and Carl Johanneson on previous trips to England, Kirakosyan was the clear betting favourite. The feeling amongst most boxing fans was that it was either going to be Kirakosyan early or Foster late or on points. Foster had other ideas though, taking out the champion with a beautifully timed left hook in the third round, a sensational punch bringing a sensational result.
Foster makes the first defence of the title at the Reebok Stadium this Saturday when he takes on Ermano Fegatilli, an opponent who he shouldn’t pose too many problems.
Fegatilli, 22-4 (5 KO’s), is a smooth boxer who likes to circle his opponent before occasionally stepping in and throwing a flurry of fast punches. He’s a reasonable operator but has failed to win every time he’s taken a step-up in class, most notably against Vitali Tajbert, the former world champion winning on points after eight one-sided rounds.
The Belgian is said to have a solid chin, but a quick glance at his record shows that he’s never been in with anyone who hits as hard as Foster does. He doesn’t punch hard enough to dissuade Foster from mounting his own attacks, so it’ll have to be a case of hit and run from Fegatilli if he’s to secure a win.
There’s a feeling that Foster is entering his prime, all the ups and downs of his career have been learning experiences and the year long hiatus he endured seems to have reinvigorated his hunger and provided him with a new determination to succeed.
It’s hard to envisage anything other than a Foster victory; he’s at least a level or two above Fegtilli. The only question is whether or not the victory will come inside the distance or not. One senses that Foster’s bodywork and accurate blows will start to have an effect as the fight progresses, and with that in mind, I’m picking Foster to secure a win somewhere around the eighth round.
The pick of the undercard sees Craig Lyon defend his English bantamweight title against the always entertaining Josh Wale.
The unbeaten Lyon will be giving away considerable height and reach advantages to Wale but shouldn’t have any problems getting on the inside; Wale likes to exchange punches rather than boxing at long-range. This should be a crowd-pleaser, both boxers are come forward types and both throw a lot of punches. It looks most likely that it’ll go to the distance, with the more skilful Lyon taking a comfortable decision after a hard-fought battle.