Highlights: O’Shaquie Foster beats Rey Vargas to win first world title

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O’Shaquie Foster won his first world title tonight in San Antonio, beating Rey Vargas by unanimous decision to claim the previously vacant WBC junior lightweight (130 lbs) title.

Judges scored the fight 116-112, 117-111, and 119-109 for Foster, who was a mild underdog on the sportsbooks. Bad Left Hook had it 118-110 and 118-110 on two separate unofficial scorecards.

Foster (20-2, 11 KO) has now won 10 straight fights since his second loss in 2016, a point in his career where it looked like he might flame out at “ShoBox level,” never quite graduating. But he’s been able to grind and get his career more than just “back on track,” and now is the 88th fighter to emerge from ShoBox rings and win a world title.

“Dedication and hard work. I’ve got a great team around me, and just getting away from the distractions, getting myself mentally and physically right, and now I’m on top, man. It’s crazy,” Foster said after the win.

Foster, 29, was giving up height to Vargas (36-1, 22 KO), as pretty much everyone always does, but a key difference was that at 130 lbs, Vargas simply didn’t have the reach advantage he’s so often enjoyed at 122 and in his one fight at 126.

That meant that Vargas was not able to control the distance the way he’s normally enjoyed, and it made a huge difference. Foster landed 57 jabs compared to 35 from Vargas, and landed them at a higher percentage (17 percent to 12).

Overall, Foster landed 144 of 625 (23%) total punches and 87 of 286 (30%) of his power shots, and he also seemed to back Vargas down with some of those punches throughout the fight, while Vargas’ power — which has never been a strength of his game at higher levels, despite a solid KO percentage — just never made a difference.

Vargas landed 101 of 524 (19%) total punches and 66 of 225 (29%) power punches. He did out-land Foster significantly to the body, 62 to 14, but it didn’t really help him much in terms of winning rounds.

There did seem to be a point in the middle rounds where perhaps Vargas was clawing back into it after a slow start, but Foster put his foot down in the final three frames, and in the 11th and 12th took the fight to Vargas, not letting his opponent form any decent possible argument, not that it would have made an actual difference on the official cards.

“My coach just kept telling me, ‘Pick it up, he’s ready to go.’ We couldn’t get him out but I just wanted to pick it up in the later rounds and not make it close,” Foster said. “I didn’t think it was close, but my coaches stayed on me to not let off the gas, not make it close. I wanted to close the show.”

Asked what he’d do next, Foster said, “I would love to unify, but I think we’ve got two mandatories we’ve got to fulfill. But (Hector Luis) Garcia or (Emanuel) Navarrete, the winner of (Joe) Cordina and (Shavkat Rakhimov). I feel I can beat anybody.”

“We have to respect the judges. I felt it was a much closer fight, but that’s their decision,” Vargas said via an interpreter. “The weight might have been a little difficult, maybe the power’s a little different. But I said from the beginning, it’s more the legs and stuff.”

Vargas said that a headbutt early in the fight didn’t affect the outcome. He also still holds the WBC featherweight title, and said he “might” go back to 126, which seems like the smartest idea. Most likely, Vargas will have to defend that WBC belt against the winner of the March 4 bout between Brandon Figueroa and Mark Magsayo.

Vargas vs Foster highlights

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