It may have been a sanitised environment, but the action was anything but sterile as Brad Foster showed finesse and firepower to outscore a plucky James Beech Jr. to retain his British and Commonwealth 122lbs titles and earn the treasured Lonsdale Belt outright at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, East London. Scores were 117-111 (twice) and 116-113.

This was British boxing’s long-awaited return after the intervention of the Covid-19 Pandemic and, with stringent health and safety measures in place, this five-fight Frank Warren promotion brought a welcome distraction amid confusing times.

Still just 22, Foster (13-0-2, 5 KOs) started and finished strongly after the unsung Beech impressed in the middle rounds with his skill and industry. The switch-hitting champion’s heavier hands and crisper shots usually held sway though the spirited challenger showed enough to hint he may return to this level.

Photo: Queensberry Promotions.

Beech suffered a cut left eye in the fourth and did well to withstand Foster’s thudding body blows before taking advantage of a drop in the champion’s pace and pressure. His neat boxing and work-rate brought him back into contention at the midway point until the greater strength and snap of Foster returned in the championship rounds. 

A resurgent Foster pushed for a stoppage in the final session. A left uppercut to the body demonstrably hurt a fading Beech (12-1, 2 KOS) and sent him backpedalling to the ropes. But he held on grimly and richly deserved to hear the final bell.

Photo: Queensberry Promotions.

Foster is now looking forward to a break after a long, gruelling run of five British title fights in 16 months as well as working nightshifts at Tesco at the peak of the pandemic.

“This was one my goals coming into boxing and I’ve done it tonight, it means the world,” Foster told BT Sport’s Steve Bunce. “I’m a bit tired now. I didn’t feel the best in there, but I got the win and I took these belts home, that’s the main thing. To be honest, I didn’t feel like I woke up until the seventh round. The seventh round and onwards was when I felt I was getting my distance right.”

In the chief support, highly-rated 154-pounder Hamzah Sheeraz (11-0, 7 KOs) looked pleasingly sharp after his Covid-19 enforced hiatus to gradually work over Dundee’s gutsy Dave Kean before the Scot was withdrawn just before the start of the seventh round. 

Kean (12-2, 1 KO) showed plenty of heart to survive a first-round knockdown after shipping a stiff right hand and survived a prolonged assault with his inherent toughness. He enjoyed some brighter moments in the fourth before Sheeraz reeled off flashy combinations in the fifth and broke his resistance with snapping shots. It was a relief to see the brave Kean pulled out as the contest ventured into a one-sided beating.

Sheeraz is now being ‘mentored’ by former WBO featherweight champion Colin McMillan and afterwards explained ‘Sweet C’s’ impact on his development. “He has been a massive influence,” Sheeraz told BT Sport. “To get the insight of a former world champion who has been at the pinnacle of the sport and has the utmost respect of everyone, you can’t go wrong learning off him.

“He comes in the gym every day, watches our session and for about half an hour afterwards I will sit down with him. It’s more mentoring than anything else. He tells me what I can do and what to work on.”

Daniel Dubois’ regular sparring partner Dorin Krasmaru (3-0, 2 KOs) had a decent four-round workout against a resilient Phil Williams (3-25-1, 1 KOs). The Ukrainian heavyweight had Williams in trouble early but couldn’t budge the generally sturdy Swindon man to travel the full course for the first time. Referee Michael Alexander scored it 40-36.

Portsmouth lightweight Mark Chamberlain (6-0, 4 KOs) brought British boxing back with a bang as he demolished ‘Little Canelo’ Stu Greener in just 55 seconds of the show opener. Chamberlain, a fluid, natural puncher, dropped Greener (3-5, 1 KO) early with a blistering opening assault and finished his man shortly afterwards on the ropes where referee Alexander intervened.

Ladbroke Grove prospect David Adeleye (2-0, 2 KOs) halted Midlander Matt Gordon (2-3-1, 0 KOs) inside two rounds in a heavyweight four-rounder. Former ABA champion Adeleye, who helped Tyson Fury prepare for his rematch with Deontay Wilder, dropped Gordon with a string of right hands in the second when referee Alexander waved it off.