O’Shaquie Foster Had Everything Against Him and Delivered like a True Champion, “Shocking” Hernandez in a Modern Classic
In the sport of boxing, the “B-side” fighter tends to have several hurdles that they must overcome if they want to secure an upset over the “A-side” or “home” fighter. Normally the fighter with these advantages happens to be a prospect on the rise, a contender who is a certified draw or a reigning world champion. O’Shaquie Foster (21-2, 13 KOs), despite coming into the fight as the WBC super featherweight champion, found himself behind the 8 ball on every level last Saturday night.
Foster fought against rising contender Eduardo “Rocky” Hernandez (34-2, 31 KOs), making the first defense of his WBC title that he beat Rey Vargas (36-1, 22 KOs) for in February. “Shock” (Foster’s nickname) is a promotional free agent, so his mandatory defense was sent to a purse bid and the rights to host the fight were won by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. As a result, Foster was forced to travel to enemy territory and fight a Mexican in Cancun, Mexico with basically everyone in the arena rooting against him.
Two variables that worried me coming into the fight were the ring size and judging. As soon as I tuned into the undercard the first thing I noticed was that the ring was without a doubt smaller than the traditional 20×20 design. This favors the front-foot fighter Hernandez and hinders a boxer like Foster’s ability to use lateral movement and maintain distance. Because scoring a boxing match is so subjective and it seems like each person has their own different criteria, you never know what to expect from the three people who are in complete control of the outcome of a fight and that was certainly the case in this fight.
The bout was highly competitive throughout with both men having their moments. The DAZN commentary made it seem like Hernandez was in full control of the fight, but other members of the boxing public along with myself disagreed and saw Foster have several rounds go in his favor. The eleventh round was one of the most action-packed rounds that I have ever seen. Foster controlled most of the round and had Hernandez out on his feet and on the verge of being stopped. Rocky then lived up to his nickname and rallied in a way you expect to see in a movie, getting Foster against the ropes and landing quality shots of his own on the champion in the last minute of the round. The round is already unanimously regarded as the 2023 Round of the Year, if you have not seen it or want to watch it again I have attached it below.
Heading into the last round I had Foster slightly ahead but knew that it was anyone’s fight. Being in enemy territory you can never assume the judges have you ahead if you are the “away” fighter. Bobby Benton, Foster’s head trainer, gave the perfect advice to Foster letting him know that this fight is up for grabs and that he needs to close the show strong. Foster did just that. He dropped Hernandez with a straight right hand just over a minute into the final round, and that was the beginning of the end for the hometown favorite. Another right hand sent Hernandez to the canvas once again with a minute remaining, and with just thirty seconds left in the fight a flurry from Foster that included two uppercuts forced referee Hector Afu to intervene and award Foster the twelfth round TKO victory.
As soon as the fight was over, boxing fans all across the internet were anxiously awaiting to hear what the official scorecards looked like entering that final round. Though I had Foster slightly ahead, anyone who had Hernandez ahead by a point or so would have had an acceptable card as well. Judge Jorge Luciano Gorini had Foster ahead by a score of 106-103 (seven rounds to four), while the other two judges were in favor of Hernandez. What amazed me was not that Foster was trailing on two of the official cards, but it was the margain that he was behind and the fact that even with multiple knockdowns Hernandez would have won a split decision had he been able to survive the round. Judge Ed Pearson credited Foster with only three rounds and had him down 107-102. Judge Nicolas Hidalgo had the most controversial card, inexplicably scoring all eleven completed rounds for Hernandez including the eleventh round that he was out on his feet for the majority before a late rally.
Teddy Atlas has always said that bad judging comes down to two things, incompetence and corruption. Although I don’t agree with the 107-102 score, the fight being in a venue with the Mexican crowd cheering on every punch from Hernandez could have led to Ed Pearson believing that Rocky was being more effective than he was. But Nicolas Hidalgo’s scorecard is corruption and there’s no way around it. Had this fight gone the distance and Hernandez been awarded a split decision win it would’ve been another great fight that got overshadowed due to horrific official scoring. Thankfully, Foster was able to keep the outcome of the fight in his own hands and avoid getting outright robbed.
With the victory, Foster now has a successful title defense and is right at the top of a 130lb division that is starting to heat up. He now looks toward a unification bout with IBF champion Joe Cordina (16-0, 9 KOs). Cordina first has to come out with a win against Edward Vasquez (15-1, 3 KOs) this upcoming Saturday, but if he does Eddie Hearn has said that they plan on unifying the two titles early next year. O’Shaquie Foster is an easy fighter to root for. He’s resurrected his life, taken a ton of tough fights, and is the latest example of a fighter who takes their losses as lessons and comes back better because of it. He has long been talented but unheralded, and he has now arrived as an elite level world champion. I truly believe that the best is yet to come for the thirty-year-old Houston native.