IT’S never easy rebounding from a first professional defeat, which is perhaps why so many boxers decide to schedule a so-called ‘easier’ fight on their return to the ring. For Walsall’s Brad Foster, however, this was never an option. Rather than book a soft touch, his first fight as a no-longer-unbeaten fighter takes place this Friday (May 20) against Romania’s Ionut Baluta, a man who specialises in travelling to Britain to upset the applecart.

If a red flag for lesser men, Foster, to his credit, has acknowledged the danger Baluta presents and then moved towards, not away, from it.

“It’s easy to just do a routine six-rounder against someone you’re supposed to beat up and stop, but it doesn’t mean anything, does it?” he told Boxing News. “I want to beat someone who is a proven and good fighter and this Baluta is a very good fighter. He’s been in there with Michael Conlan and gave him a real good fight.

“I don’t want an easy fight. I want a fight that is meaningful and will progress my career. I also want to entertain the people who come and watch me and this fight against Baluta will be a very entertaining fight, I think. We’re both action-packed fighters and these are the fights I want. These are the fights you will be remembered for.

“I’m back at York Hall as well, which is good. That’s where I fought Lucien Reid and defended the British title, so it holds lots of good memories for me.”

Baluta, currently based in Madrid, is 14-3 (3) as a pro and spent the first three years of his career fighting in Spain before, in 2019, showing up in Wolverhampton, England to defeat Kyle Williams over 10 rounds. That was a victory he then bettered in his next fight when he outpointed Ireland’s TJ Doheny, a former IBF super-bantamweight titleholder, over eight rounds in March 2020.

Not content with that, Baluta also stopped another Irishman, David Oliver Joyce, that same year before pushing Michael Conlan hard in 2021, losing a majority decision after 12 rounds.

“It’s the name I’m fighting that gets me the props,” said Foster. “He’s been in there with some really good fighters and never been stopped. He’s no mug. He’s also come over here and caused a few upsets.

“He’s a wicked fighter, if I’m honest, and does a lot well. He comes forward, he’s got a very erratic style, and he’s fast. But I just see myself smashing him. That’s my goal: to smash him. I’m very confident I’ll be able to do that. I do many things better than him and I believe I’m a much better boxer than him.”

Keen to look forward rather than back, Foster is nevertheless conscious of the fact that Doncaster’s Jason Cunningham, the first man to beat him, will be a name he is still asked about, due, primarily, to the close nature of their fight last October. After all, not only did that loss blemish Foster’s unbeaten record, it also left the door open for the pair to reunite at some point in the future.

“I’m not a bitter guy,” said Foster, 14-1-2 (5). “I wish Jason all the best with his career. I do still think I won that fight, as did many other people, but you’ve got to move on in life. I’ve got a big fight coming up this week against a dangerous fighter. Jason’s doing his thing and I’m doing my thing. I need to win this next fight to get a good ranking and progress my career. I can’t be thinking about the past or worrying about what Jason’s doing with his career.”

Be that as it may, should the pair now make a habit of winning, a rematch seems inevitable either this year or next. “He wants big fights and the rematch between us is always going to be a big fight,” Foster agreed. “In the future maybe that can happen. But, as I said, my career doesn’t depend on Jason Cunningham. I’m moving at my own pace and taking my own path. It starts with Baluta in the next fight and then we go from there.”

In terms of where Foster should go should he claim the scalp of Baluta, one can only assume all roads will lead to a gradual climb up the world rankings. He has, don’t forget, already won – outright – the British super-bantamweight title, beating Josh Wale, Ashley Lane, Lucien Reid, and James Beech Jnr in title fights, and also picked up a Commonwealth title along the way. So, while there is, for Foster, some unfinished business at domestic level, he will, if victorious on Friday, likely allow himself to dream of bigger and better this weekend.

“I want to be a world champion,” said the ambitious 24-year-old. “I know I’ve got the ability to do that and, however I can do that, I have to take the opportunities to get me there. I know I’m only a young lad, but I still believe I can achieve it at this age. I don’t need a few years to work towards that world title. I believe I can get my hands on it now. I’ve been fighting since I was eight or nine and it’s all I really know, to be honest, so I have to take any opportunity I get with both hands. I’m living the dream right now.”