By Gary Shaw
Salford’s Stephen Foster jnr. faces an unconventional but determined challenger in the shape of Ermano ‘Il Dottore’ Fegatilli in the first defence of his European super-featherweight title at the Bolton Arena tonight.
Foster, who won the title in devastating fashion with a third round stoppage of the dangerous Armenian Levan Kirakosyan at the same venue in October, is a strong favourite, but is taking no chances with his atypical opponent.
“At the end of the day it’s boxing and you can’t take nothing for granted,” the 30-year old Mancunian said. “It’s happened to so many people. When they become champion they think they’re unstoppable but I’m not thinking that. I worry about all my opponents. I don’t go in thinking ‘I’m European champion.’ I’m keeping my game face on and doing my thing. I am going in there with the mind-set like I am a challenger and training harder than ever.”
Of Italian heritage, Fegatilli is not your typical boxer. ‘The Doctor’ can speak five languages, has a Masters Degree in Economics and lists his main interest as the economic and quantitative analysis of competition law, so his IQ could almost be as high as his poundage – 130lbs.
More importantly however, the 26-year old is a national champion, comes with a game plan and boasts a record of 22 wins from 26 contests.
From a family of boxers, the mandatory challenger sees many similarities between his academic career and the boxing ring. “It takes more than intelligence to pass the exams I had to pass,” he said in perfect English. “It takes discipline and spirit, the exact same values you need in boxing.”
Citing his relative obscurity as a positive factor, the relaxed and affable Fegatilli rates Foster but says he and his trainer are confident they can overcome the odds and return to Liege University Hospital – where he is a consultant – with the European belt. “Foster is a typical English fighter, tough, hard and busy, but we believe we have a plan to win the fight.”
The show is Hatton Promotions first of the year, and Ricky Hatton is confident Foster can retain the title and set up a mouth watering all-British showdown with Glasgow’s Ricky Burns for the latters WBO belt.
“Steve showed he was world class knocking out Kirakosyan to win the title last year,” said Ricky.
He added: “By taking that fight he proved he would take on anyone. Fegatilli is the mandatory contender and there were no complaints when Stephen was told he had to fight the leading contender before looking at a voluntary defence. The European title is bringing him overdue recognition, but he can go even further in the future.”
Foster has flirted with glory since his pro debut in 2001, but the inverse logic of the sports’ politics has at times been frustrating for the former WBU featherweight champion.
“Boxing is a bit of a horrible sport,” he said. “Sometimes nothing at all goes your way and politics is involved. I’m just taking one fight at a time, enjoying myself and seeing what happens from here. I’ll get this fight out of the way and then who knows what can happen.”
Chief support sees St. Helens’ Craig Lyon defend his English bantamweight title against Barnsley’s Josh Wale whilst former WBC super-middleweight champion Robin Reid returns to the ring after a three and a half year absence.
Stephen Foster jnr v Ermano Fegatilli for the European super-featherweight title – LIVE on Sky Sports 1 tonight at 8pm