By Gary Shaw
Stephen Foster jnr.’s hopes of a mouth-watering all-British world title fight against Glasgow’s Ricky Burns are in tatters after he lost his European super-featherweight title in emphatic fashion to Belgium’s Ermano ‘The Doctor’ Fegatilli at the Reebok Arena, Bolton, last night.
The 30-year-old from Salford was a strong favourite ahead of a contest that many saw as a routine defence against a man who wasn’t viewed as a powerful puncher, but the manner in which the 26-year-old Fegatilli out-fought the champion surprised everyone except the challenger and his camp.
Prior to the fight Fegatilli, who speaks five languages and holds a Masters degree in Economics, refused to disclose the plan he hoped would upset the odds, but as early as the second round it was clear his all-action, high-paced tempo was causing problems for Foster.
Already ahead on points by the eighth round, the Belgian floored Foster with a crunching body shot in the ninth. The brave but badly fading champion, whose trainer Maurice Core came close to throwing in the towel in the last two rounds, hit the deck another four times on his way to a unanimous points defeat.
Weight problems and an infection may have contributed to Foster’s lacklustre display, and he revealed afterwards that he had contracted a virus just a week before the contest. "I don't want to sit here mumbling and grumbling,” he said, “the guy won. He was tough, as tough as old boots in the end.
"I got some sort of virus on Monday and it's done me in. I thought I could do it. I had a week to recover, but the virus made it more difficult to make the weight because I couldn't get in the gym with it. I don't regret going through with the fight, the opponent just came through on the night."
By contrast, Fegatilli could barely conceal his delight at winning only his country’s second ever-European title. “It is really wonderful,” he said, “it's a dream. My first fight in England and I win. Foster is a great champion, a really big puncher and I could feel that.”
The 130lbs (59kg) super-featherweight division is one of the most competitive at the moment, with eight British fighters ranked in Europe’s top 20, and Fegatilli admitted that a return to these shores could well happen in the future. “There is a lot of good super-featherweights in England and I've beaten the best one,” he said, “so I hope I can fight some more.”
There was a further surprise on the undercard when St. Helens’ Craig Lyon drew with Barnsley’s Josh Wale - after only three rounds. Following a clash of heads both boxers were cut badly and, following advice from the ringside doctor, referee John Keane called the fight off. Due to new rules only introduced in British rings at the start of the year, the result was a technical draw – meaning Lyon was able to hold onto his English bantamweight title.