Brad Foster: From packaging to boxing in the times of Covid-19

Brad Foster has faced the same logistical issues as every boxer participating in the first events since the Covid-19 outbreak. A lack of gym facilities during lockdown, a shorter training camp and reduced sparring. However, Foster has also had another factor to contend with: working the nightshift in Tesco, packing home delivery orders. 

Starting work at 2am whilst preparing for a title fight is far from ideal, but the laidback 22-year-old has taken it all in his stride as he prepares to defend his British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles against James Beech Jr. on July 10 (live on BT Sport).

“I’m a key-worker,” Foster (12-0-2, 5 KOs) told Boxing Social. “It keeps me busy when I haven’t got a fight coming up. When I’ve got a fight coming up, I just cut down my hours a bit to focus on the fight and get some more training in.

“It has been difficult. I sleep until two in the day, wake up and train from then on. I’m well tired most of the time, but that’s life. For these fights, you have to work hard so when you get in there you are prepared. It’s just life, you have to work and train.”

The restrictions over the past few months have impeded his training slightly, but Foster has not been perturbed by his unusual preparations.

It is hardly surprising given that Foster’s career has been anything but conventional to date. ‘The Blade’ began kickboxing at 8 years old and lost just three of his 59 contests, winning nine world titles across four weight classes. Despite the proliferation of titles in the sport, the statistics are undeniably impressive.

At 17 and with no amateur background, Foster opted to venture into professional boxing. Midlands-based manager PJ Rowson was asked to cast his eye over the youngster. Rowson has a reputation for seeking out talent in places others would not wander, he discovered Nick Blackwell boxing in a snooker hall, and as such he went to check out Foster. That night, Foster – then a flyweight – sparred 13 rounds with middleweights. Rowson was suitably impressed and signed him to a managerial deal.

Their working relationship became fruitful fast, as in just his 10th contest Foster captured the Midlands Area super-bantamweight title against Leon Gower (WRTD6). That victory earned him a shot at the vacant British title against veteran Josh Wale.

The gritty Wale was expected to have too much for the then-21-year-old, but Foster produced a display of maturity beyond his years to claim a unanimous decision win.

Given that he himself upset the odds to capture the strap, Foster is not taking 4/1 underdog Beech lightly.

“I know he’s a good, come-forward fighter and I know he’s coming to win,”  said Foster. “He’s a double-Midlands [Area] champion [at featherweight and super-featherweight], so he’s got nothing to lose in an opportunity like this, so that’s why I’ve got to be on top of my game. I can’t really tell you how the fight will play out until I get in there. I just know that I’ll prepare for everything and I know the outcome is a Brad Foster win.”

Foster vs Beech is the first event to be held in the UK since the Covid-19 lockdown.

Foster is acutely aware of the precarity of his position. As a champion, an off-night or a single mistake can result in the loss of your titles. Last September, Foster produced an underwhelming performance, by his own high standards, against Lucien Reid. 

After 12 highly competitive rounds, two out of the three judges scored the bout even, with the third turning in a card of 116-112 in favour of Reid. Despite the fact he retained his belts, Foster was left frustrated.

“I was disappointed because it’s never the way a fighter wants to keep his British title,” he said. “You want to get in there and win the fight, you don’t want to keep your title because it was a draw.

“I’d say in the first Lucien Reid fight, I was a bit burned out. That was a learning curve. These are the things you learn in boxing, you learn things that make you perform better on the night.”

It was evident that Foster had taken the lessons on board when the pair met again three months later. On the night that Tyson Fury halted Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas, in a rematch after their first fight ended in a draw, Foster produced his own eye-catching performance on the other side of the Atlantic, forcing Reid to retire after the sixth round at York Hall, Bethnal Green.

The bookmakers had made Reid the favourite ahead of their second fight, which gave Foster extra motivation to silence the naysayers.

“I got the job done, which I should have done the first time,” he said. “I was the underdog the second time, so I was happy doing it there in front of all his home fans, him thinking he was going to win, and I proved everyone wrong. I was happy with that performance and I done what I should have done in the first fight, but everything happens for a reason.”

Victory against Reid means Foster requires just one more win to capture the Lonsdale belt outright. If he is successful against Beech, he will become only the sixth super-bantamweight to have won the belt outright and the first since Jason Booth in 2009.

It is an achievement Foster is eager to add to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.

“This will be the last one to win it outright,” he said. “That’s my motivation to get in there and have that belt for keeps, which I’m confident I will.”

Now that he is on the verge of owning the Lonsdale belt permanently, it would be understandable if Foster was casting one eye towards European or world level, but instead he remains resolutely focused on the job at hand.

“We’ll think about that after this fight,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got to get through this fight first. This is the most important one to win it outright. James Beech is still a fighter, he’s got two hands so anything can happen. Let’s focus on this one and get the win.”

Main photo: Paul Harding, Press Association.