Late knockdown, superior stamina propel Foster past Nova by split decision

A virtually even chess match in the first half of the fight gave way to a display of superiority by O’Shaquie Foster in the second half, as he turned back the challenge of Abraham Nova and once again retained his 130-pound belt with a late rally. The result was a split decision for Foster, and a knockdown from a counter left hook with 20 seconds left on the clock proved a useful exclamation point.

Judge John McKaie scored 114-113 for Nova, but was overruled by Mark Constantino’s 115-112 and Kevin Morgan’s 116-111 for Foster. This marked the Texas native’s second successful defense of his alphabet title; last October, he trailed on two scorecards when he TKO’d Eduardo “Rocky” Hernandez in the 12th round of a thriller.

Friday night’s fight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, and certainly wasn’t as entertaining at the outset. According to CompuBox, just 40 punches were thrown in the opening round, and Foster and Nova combined to land just six.

They seemed to trade rounds over the fight’s first half — though most weren’t easy to score — and the 30-year-old Foster took control and threw Nova off his game whenever he switched to the southpaw stance. After four rounds, Foster, as much as a -1100 favorite before the fight, was down to just -130 on the ESPN BET app.

In the fifth, Foster hurt his right biceps muscle when Nova landed an elbow on it as they exchanged punches, but the beltholder shook it off. By the next round, Nova’s blonde beard was turning red with blood from his lip, and he began to fade soon after that.

By the eighth, Nova, also 30 years old, was showing real signs of fatigue, and his punching technique noticeably worsened. Foster remained sharp and grew increasingly confident and wobbled Nova with a lead right in a relatively one-sided ninth round.

The 12th round began with an extended timeout due to Nova’s corner dropping a water bottle in the ring and taking their sweet time cleaning up the spill. But the time bought for their fighter didn’t help him. Foster’s technique and conditioning were clearly separating him throughout the final round, and a beautiful counter hook in the waning moments lifted Nova off his feet and deposited him on the canvas. It was only a flash knockdown, but the 10-8 round made the winner clear to all but judge McKaie.

“I’m a 12-round fighter, and I know how to make adjustments throughout the fight,” Foster, 22-2 (12 KOs), said afterward. He acknowledged struggling to make the weight and suggested he would likely hire a nutritionist next time — though his display indicated he was in excellent condition despite the weight-cutting issues. “It wasn’t my best performance,” he said, “but we got it done.”

Nova, 23-2 (16 KOs) and now 0-2 in title tries having been stopped by Robeisy Ramirez in 2022, welcomed a rematch — though he wasn’t confident Foster would grant him one. 

Asked where he would go after this setback, Nova said, “We keep working, we keep grinding. This [loss] is nothing, it was a close fight.”