In Friday night’s West Midlands derby, Brad Foster scored a unanimous decision over James Beech Jr to retain his British and Commonwealth titles in the 122-pound division. The judges scorecards read 116-113, 117-111, 117-111 to “The Blade,” who stretches his record to 13-0-2.
In an absorbing 12 rounds which saw shifts in momentum throughout the middle stanzas, Foster’s slick footwork and ability to change stance seamlessly allowed the champion stronger pockets of success in the fight. The champion was electric up close, and when doubling up on his jab was able to back Beech up and go to work.
The conditioning of both men was superb. Facial cuts didn’t deter either’s work rate down the stretch, with Foster just edging the success when they stood and traded. Referee Marcus McDonnell warned Foster twice about the use of the head – often a problem when Foster would switch stance in the pocket.
The experience of Foster shined through late as he rallied well in the championship rounds. This was Beech’s first time going the distance in a 12-rounder, and despite steely determination, it showed. My card read 117-111 for Foster.
“This was one of my goals coming into boxing, and now I’ve done it,” Foster told the BT Sport cameras following the 13th win of his career, and becoming the youngest fighter since Nicky Booth in 2002 to claim the Lonsdale belt outright.
“I didn’t feel like I woke up until the seventh round. I didn’t think I was very good. I’m a bit tired, I didn’t feel the best in there, but I got the win and took these belts home, and that’s the main thing.”
As UK boxing returned behind closed doors for the first time since mid-March, the event was carried out with safety the number one priority. Frank Warren announced that 104 coronavirus tests had been carried out on boxers and staff over the seven days before the first bell, all coming back negative.
Despite the lack of atmosphere, Foster and Beech’s adrenaline-fueled pace throughout the contest distracted the viewer from the desolate ring surroundings. Heckling and bellowing from trainers and cutman of both fighters acted as a well-received audio substitute, coupled with the benefit of being able to eavesdrop into the referee’s instructions throughout the 36 minutes.
Of course, there is no true substitute for fans, but after the nation has adapted so quickly to Premier League football behind closed doors, boxing will quickly follow suit.
“If all the fans had been here it would have been a cracking event,” Foster concluded. “I do feel tired. With this lockdown, all I have been doing is working and training, there is no play. You have to have a rest to go out with your mates, go have a dance, a boogie and I haven’t been able to do that. I don’t drink, so I just go out for a dance, a little two-step and I can’t wait to do that with my boys.”
After a 118-day absence, boxing’s successful return to the UK will open the floodgates for a busy summer of action. Frank Warren’s promotional rival, Eddie Hearn, has promised fireworks at “Matchroom Square Garden,” but Foster and Beech ensured that the sport returned with a bang despite the peculiar circumstances.