IF YOU see a brand-new Dodge Charger Hellcat cruising through the streets of Houston, then there’s a good chance it will be O’Shaquie Foster behind the wheel.
Or Ice Water as he is also known. Or Shock, as his close friends call him.
Growing up in the small Texan town of Orange, he went by his birth name of O’Shanique. But everyone, even the MC who messed up his amateur debut and announced him as O’Shaquie, now know him as the same thing: the new WBC super-featherweight belt-holder.
The car is Foster’s gift, to himself, after he expertly outpointed Mexico’s two-weight sanctioning body titlist Rey Vargas in San Antonio earlier this month, for the vacant belt.
Foster’s unanimous victory not only announced him as one of the leading 130lbs fighters in the world, but also marked a return from the depths he plumbed only a few years ago.
Tales of redemption run through boxing as a common thread, but their frequency doesn’t make each story any less powerful than the ones before. And, in that regard, the 29-year-old’s is remarkable as most.
His childhood was shattered after he watched his mother die of cancer, at home, alongside his brother, aged just 12. On the day of her funeral, Foster fought through the grief to win one of his two Golden Gloves amateur titles.
Edged out in the US Olympic trials for London, the hiccup of an unexpected first defeat in the pros, a 2015 points loss over eight rounds to Samuel Teah, became something more alarming when he stumbled again, the following year.
Just days before that defeat to Rolando Chinea, again over eight, Foster’s cousin, with whom he was especially close, was shot in head.
By now, the tentacles of the “streets” had pulled him into life that would, eventually, lead him to jail in 2017. A charge of attempted murder would be lessened to one of aggravated assault and, after four months of being locked up, Foster was released. But that time behind bars allowed him to move away from the darkness. Metaphorically and, as he explains, literally.
“I was in a 12-man unit, no security guards, just you, the walls and the other inmates,” Foster tells Boxing News.
“You lose all control. That wasn’t my first time being locked up, but they wouldn’t bond me out, because they said I was a flight risk. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas at the same time, and they wouldn’t evacuate us. The lights went out for a week or two, and because there were no sign lights, just the brick walls, you couldn’t see anything. It was crazy. You lose control of everything. And you have guys in there who don’t like each other, and they’re in the dark with each other. I had a guy who didn’t like me. It wasn’t even that serious, it was over a dominoes game, but it went from there. That is how quickly it started. You have got to keep your head on a swivel.”
Foster, with one of the world title belts around this waist, now has control of his destiny – or at least as much as boxing ever allows anyone.
And while he needed eyes in the back of his head during that prison blackout, he instinctively began looking over his shoulder, just days after defeating Vargas.
“I know they are coming for me now,” Foster said of his rivals at super-featherweight. “And even though I’ve won the world title, I’ve kept that chip on my shoulder. Anyone around the weight could be a threat so I’m paying attention to them now.
“I don’t have any room for error, and I want to make sure that any opportunity that I come across, I am ready for it, and I take full advantage. So that keeps me focused and my mind on the task.”
Foster already knew about Emanuel Navarrette, Shavkat Rakhimov and Hector Luis Garcia but used his first week as champion, not to relax, but to study the WBC’s mandatory challenger, Eduardo Hernandez, and Joe Cordina, Wales’ former IBF king.
“A couple of days ago, I wanted to see what Cordina brought to the table, just in case his name comes across the table,” Foster, who is trained by Bobby Benton, said.
“I didn’t really know too much about him until he knocked out Ogawa but he’s a hell of a fighter, he’s got speed, he’s got power, he’s got good ring generalship. It would be a good fight between us.
“They all have a mixture of styles but with my skills, I can beat anyone one of them. I’d love to fight all of the champions, to become the first undisputed champion at 130lbs and I feel like my style is superior to theirs.”
Foster, now 20-2, makes no bones about how that 2017 stint in jail shaped his outlook and left him with laser focus, where once he had allowed it to slip.
“It was a big part of it, most definitely,” he said.
“We managed to watch the Terence Crawford fight, when he fought Julius Indongo, in jail, I was sitting there and thinking about my options. I knew I could be in and out of here for the rest of my life and burn my dreams. But I understand that boxing has a timespan and it ain’t something you can do forever, so being locked up changed my mindset. I knew I needed to give boxing all I had before it was too late.”
The WBC have said Foster must face the big-punching Hernandez, in a mandatory first defence of his title, but the American still holds out hope for unification matches before too long.
“I want to stay busy and be an active champion,” he said. “Let them call my name and I’m going to keep checking them off the list!”
Whichever of Foster’s names they choose to use, he’ll get the message. He’s ready and waiting.