QUEENSBERRY promote at the York Hall on Friday night. BT Sport televises the show topped by a good-looking super-bantamweight 10-rounder between former British and Commonwealth champion Brad Foster and the dangerous Ionut Baluta.
The Romanian upset TJ Doheny and David Oliver Joyce and pushed Michael Conlan to a majority decision over 12 rounds last time out.
Foster-Baluta was set to take place at Derby County FC’s Pride Park Stadium on Saturday and was switched after Demetrius Andrade was ruled out of his top-of-the-bill clash against Zach Parker with a shoulder injury.
Though it’s a good fight and offers Foster (14-1-2) the chance to claim a good scalp, it’s not the fight the 24-year-old from Lichfield, Staffs, wanted. The fight Foster wanted was the rematch with Jason Cunningham. Last October, Cunningham took away Foster’s British and Commonwealth titles and kept his European belt with a unanimous points win in Birmingham.
Carl Frampton was one of several ringsiders who had Foster winning enough rounds in the first half of to be ahead at the final bell. The three judges saw a different fight, however, and had the Doncaster southpaw ahead by four, three and one point. Foster lost a point in the eighth for low blows and that was costly on the scorecards.
Cunningham joined Foster in the Queensberry stable after that, but a rematch doesn’t appear to be in their plans.
The Foster team have taken the approach that if they can’t get the Cunningham rematch, they will fight an opponent who they believe is better than Cunningham.
One of the sanctioning bodies has Baluta three places above Cunningham and PJ Rowson, Foster’s manager, believes Baluta’s CV is better than Cunningham’s.
The form the 28-year-old from Romania (14-3) has shown in his last three fights has been impressive. He upset Irish southpaw Doheny over eight rounds by hitting and moving and jumped all over 2016 Olympian David Oliver Joyce (12-1) to stop him in three. Those back-to-back wins over Irish fighters made a match with Michael Conlan sellable and Baluta pushed him before losing a majority 12-round decision.
Baluta isn’t going to be an easy night’s work for Foster, either.
He’s always moving, changing direction and then jumps in, to throw combinations. Baluta can look rather sloppy and has only three stoppage wins, but he’s never been stopped and is hard to get under control.
There were times when it seemed Conlan was going to get on top of him and take over, but Baluta would come blazing back.
Baluta describes himself as being “underestimated” and that is as good a word as any. But there is a question mark over the Spanish-based fighter’s stamina.
He faded against Kyle Williams and Conlan pulled away in the last two rounds after targeting Baluta’s body.
That could be crucial on Friday night. We know Foster as a fighter who usually starts and finishes championship fights strongly and Baluta will have to work hard to keep him off.
It was a shock to see Cunningham finish well against Foster.
Cunningham afterwards said he was surprised by the quality of Foster’s boxing and less impressed by his inside fighting.
Foster, who ended the Cunningham fight with a cut under his left eyebrow, has overachieved given he turned pro at 18 years old with no amateur experience. He won a Lonsdale Belt outright at 22 and can get a good win on his record on Friday night by outpointing Baluta.
There’s more 122lbs action on the bill, Andrew Cain (9-0) fighting Mexico’s Luis Moreno (10-2) over 10.
Cain, who tells Boxing News he will campaign at 118lbs in the future and will see this as a chance to send a message to Dennis McCann, was taken the full eight by Moreno last March. McCann dominated with his jab, dropped Moreno in the last. Cain, who has called for a fight with the Maidstone southpaw, may well win early. The 25-year-old is a puncher. Five weeks ago, he took out Argentina’s Pablo Ariel Gomez (15-10-2) in only 19 seconds. Gomez hadn’t been stopped for eight years.
Cain has seven wins inside three rounds and because he’s been so destructive, we have no idea yet if he can take a punch or has a Plan B.
Interestingly, Cain talked about his defence, rather than his punch when we rang him. He said his sparring partners struggle to find him and his sparring partners are of the highest quality. Cain shares the Everton Red Triangle gym with Peter McGrail, Bradley Strand and Nick Ball. Frankly, Moreno isn’t as good as them. He can punch a bit – has five wins inside three rounds – and showed willing against McCann. But Cain should win by the halfway stage.
The rest of the card is prospects versus journeymen.
The Verdict Foster with a chance to regain momentum.