O’Shaquie Foster (20-2, 11 KOs) of Houston outpointed Rey Vargas (36-1, 22 KOs) of Otumba, Mexico, for the vacant WBC junior lightweight title at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
After a feeling-out first round with both fighters jabbing and retreating, they began opening up a little, with neither gaining any discernible advantage. Foster appeared to drop Vargas with a left to the body while stepping on his foot in the second round, but the referee ruled it a slip. In the early rounds, it was a messy affair with both awkwardly swinging and missing, Each attempted to set traps neither, but neither took the bait.
Both fighters opted for the cross-armed, shoulder-roll posture for much of the bout. While Vargas favored the double jab-right combo, Foster often foiled his offense with the pull-counter.
Vargas got busier in the middle rounds letting his hands go, attempting to force Foster to go on the defensive but Foster deftly sidestepped, dipped, and ducked to evade most of the incoming shots. While both fighters for off their share of punches, Foster’s seemed to jolt Vargas harder than vice versa.
As Foster began to figure out Vargas’s herky-jerky style, he applied more pressure and forced Vargas on the retreat. Vargas counter-punched well sporadically but resorted to clinching when Foster got too close and aggressive for comfort. Vargas attempted to capitalize on his reach by jabbing, feinting turning to the circle-and-ambush strategy with fleeting success as the fight moved into the later rounds.
Almost on cue, Foster up-shifted a gear or two in the championship rounds by turning up the pressure and fighting with more urgency like he needed a knockout to win. He dominated the final round, stunning Vargas on several occasions with solid shots.
To his credit, Vargas, a seasoned veteran, was wily enough not to stay in one the same place long enough for Foster to clobber him with more than one shot at a time and finished the fight on his feet.
The scores were unanimous and lopsided at 116-112, 117-111 and 119-109. Foster, though, said he was a tad peeved he didn’t get the stoppage.
“I’m definitely not satisfied with my performance,” Foster said. “I feel like I could have done a lot more.”
Vargas took the loss graciously and remained uncertain if he would remain at 130 or move back down to 126 where he is still a titleholder.
“We have to accept the judges’ decision,” Vargas said. “It was a close fight.”