At some point, promoters will have to stop throwing their prospects in front of William Foster III. Three times, Foster has sent a rival home with the new designation “formerly undefeated,” and he’s looking to do it again this Saturday in Lake Tahoe, Nevada on ESPN+.
Foster (16-0, 10 KO) is the only blemish on the record of Edwin De Los Santos, claiming a split decision victory on a ShoBox card in January of 2022. Since then, De Los Santos won a dramatic upset of Jose Valenzuela, ultimately earning an title shot against Shakur Stevenson scheduled for later this month.
Foster hasn’t gotten his own chance at a world title yet, but he has won every fight that’s come his way. This Saturday, Foster gets his fourth opportunity to soil someone’s perfect record, when he takes on Henry Lebron (18-0, 10 KO) on ESPN+. It’s a potential show-stealing matchup in support of Efe Ajagba vs Joe Goodall, and a fight that Foster says he has the plan and the talent to win.
Bad Left Hook spoke with Foster about consistently fighting and winning against previously unbeaten opponents, what he expects from the Lebron fight, and the mentors who prepared him for success as a professional.
Our full conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
BAD LEFT HOOK: You have a big fight and big opportunity coming up on Saturday. You’re fighting Henry Lebron in what’s arguably the best fight on this weekend’s ESPN+ show. Have you been anticipating a fight with Lebron? Or is this an opportunity that came by surprise?
WILLIAM FOSTER III: Oh, yeah. We wanted to fight him before, but something happened. It wasn’t good for him at that time, so I guess we just postponed it until now. We wanted to fight him way back, early in my career.
Do you remember how far back that was? How long ago did this matchup first get mentioned?
Oh, this was in the beginning of our careers. Maybe five or six years ago, I believe.
Lebron is a highly regarded guy, rising like yourself. And he’s a Top Rank guy, on a Top Rank show. Does being a fighter from outside the promotion change your approach? Do you think about fighting a bit more aggressively than you would on a neutral show?
Yes, but let me put that in perspective. I’m not going to say that they play favorites, but you have to look out for your guys sometimes. I believe they will be fair in the judging, so I’m not worried about that. But, it did dawn on me that it’s his promotion’s show. It’s not going to change the fact I’m going to do my best and leave it all in there in the ring.
This Lebron fight is the fourth time you’ll face a fellow undefeated fighter. Do you see any differences when you fight guys who are undefeated versus ones that have lost to someone else before?
Oh, most definitely. They seem hungrier, they don’t know the meaning of losses. They have more pride, trying not to lose that “0.” It’s a big factor, I believe. And it makes the intentions [of the undefeated fighters] more pure. They don’t want to lose it. It’s all or nothing [in that situation].
Other than coming in with that confidence, any other differences? Particularly when you’re the one having success in the fight, does that change things for the guy you’re facing? For the three previously undefeated fighters you’ve beaten, did you notice at any point that they got anxious or desperate when the fight wasn’t going their way?
Oh, you better believe it. Once you feel like it’s not going your way? Because normally it does, and you start to feel like every fight should go your way. It makes you anxious. After a while, it makes you accept defeat. I can see it in their faces. They get like, ‘alright, I don’t think I’m gonna win this one, but I will leave it all in here,’ which they did.
I can see it in their face, though. After the fight, the regret is all over their face. It’s just the way it is.
So far, they’ve all gone your way. But, have you ever felt in the middle of a fight that you needed to throw things into another gear because you were up against someone giving a harder challenge than you expected?
Because I’ve always heard that you’re a very confident guy, but not an arrogant one, and I’m curious how you stay level-headed when you run into more adversity than you might have anticipated.
Oh, yes. You’d best believe that I always have to make sure that I’m calm. All calm, at all times. Every single thing, even if I get hit with a big shot. I make sure I’m calm, completely composed for what I’m trying to do. I can’t stop thinking of the game plan, and what I’m trying to accomplish at the time.
But, I’m quick to adapt. It’s the benefit of having advanced sparring at a young age with pros. When I was still an amateur, still growing into a pro fighter, I was practicing with a bunch of different styles. So, I understood what I’m looking for from each type of fighter. In those situations, I have to stay calm and composed, make sure I’m doing what I want to do inside that ring.
Well, since you mentioned the guys you trained with when you were still an amateur, is there anyone specific you feel gave you high-level work, someone you were able to watch and emulate as a professional, or just anyone that worked with you who you’d like to call out as having helped you along the way when you were younger and just learning?
Of course. There were a lot of great guys at my gym. Luis Rosa Jr, he taught me how to fight people who are constant pressure fighters. He pressured me all the time when I was a kid. Edwin Soto, another guy from my gym. Great power puncher, and counter puncher. Nate Green, a great slickster. Just straight technician, everything that he does. Even my big brother, sometimes I’d spar with him fighting southpaw, and he’s not a normal southpaw, so it’s very unique the way he fights [from that stance]. He’s bigger than me, but he didn’t go too hard on me.
I fought other people outside my gym like Toka Khan, Tramaine Williams, a lot of people that jumped in and helped me [learn] when I was starting out as a pro. Those were some of the people that stood out to me, helped me the most and that I looked up to the most. They were all older than me, so I tried to make sure I understood how they fought and why they did things so I could capitalize on it.
It’s interesting that you mentioned dramatically different styles of fighters there. As you prepare for Lebron… A lot of prospects who take the prospect path that he’s on tend to fight in a way where they do what they do, until they run into someone that they can’t do it against anymore. Their talent, their style, is all they really need for most of their early opponents.
But, fighting someone with your talent, he may have to adjust to what you can do, and what you want to do, in a way that maybe he hasn’t before. Are there any things you’re preparing for that he does, or anything you’re thinking you can do that his previous opponents couldn’t?
I believe that he fought some great competition already, but I don’t think [his opponents] were the same experience as what I’ve fought before. I’m thinking that he’s going to feel me out and try to work his game plan. But, I have ways to make sure his strengths turn into weaknesses. I’m going to make him see and feel things that he’s never felt before. I’m going to exploit his weaknesses as I see fit, and after a while I believe I’ll start to break him mentally. It’ll be smooth sailing from there.
I will not downplay any of his capabilities, because I see a great fighter. I’m just saying that my game plan is to make him feel uncomfortable, and to have him second guessing himself in the ring. That’s what I’m looking for.
I think we’ve seen you do that before, because another opponent who was undefeated until he ran into you was Edwin De Los Santos. There were times in that fight where he was very unhappy, you got a nice decision against him on a ShoBox event… How much do you think that boosted your profile for opportunities like this one?
Oh, it boosted it up very well. Especially after we fought, because he fought [Jose] Valenzuela and some other top guys after that, which just gave my name that much more credibility. It skyrocketed me, with people asking, “Wait, who beat him?” And it was me, before he got more famous.
It just shows my ability as a fighter, not to be second guessed, and I’m really excited at the opportunity to go on ESPN and fight on Saturday night. And I’m going to make sure it’s a good show.
De Los Santos moved up in weight, and now he’s fighting Shakur Stevenson in about two weeks. What do you make of the fact that a guy you beat is fighting a unified champion three fights later? Does that do anything for your confidence?
I’m really proud of what he’s doing right now. Congratulations to him. Everything that he’s going for in his career, I hope he keeps getting those opportunities and winning them. And me, I’m going to keep grinding, keep establishing my boxing abilities, and making sure I have my shots, too.
You’ve fought on ShoBox, FITE, ProBox, and now you’re on ESPN+. Have you heard anything from your management about what makes you appealing to broadcast outlets that keep offering these opportunities? Because there are a lot of guys who are dangerous fighters like you, and the phone never rings for them. Is it because you’re putting on good shows?
Man, I don’t know. I guess I’m entertaining to watch. I smile and laugh a lot when I’m in there, because I’m having a great time. I don’t know. I’m grateful, even though I don’t really know how to answer that. I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’m happy that it’s happening now, and I’m looking forward to the future.
Any of those major televised shows stand out to you in your career? I know the first time on TV is usually a big deal for fighters, the first time you’re on a main card, your first time as a main event… Any particularly special ones that stand out to you?
Well, all of my fights were very important to me. They all helped me grow as a professional fighter, to make me comfortable and loose in that sort of world. I love every fight I’ve ever been in.
Don’t get me wrong, the TV fights are tremendous. I love to fight on TV. I would love to fight on TV every time. But, I’m not going to downplay the times I didn’t. Because every fight was important.
Any final thoughts you want to share? Anything you want people to know about you that might be seeing you for the first time on Saturday?
I’ll see to it that they get one hell of a fight. I hope I make new fans after this ESPN show. I hope they enjoy the fight.