The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Boxer carrying friend’s spirit into ring Friday
They packed up in New Haven at 6 p.m. Wednesday and took off on the drive for Philadelphia. After the Thursday weigh-in, Charles Foster will climb into the ring Friday night to face another undefeated light heavyweight named Alvin Varmall Jr.
“Friday’s my birthday,” Foster said. “I’ll be 28. Me, Luis (Rosa) Jr., Edwin Soto, we grew up together. We’re all the same age. We were always together.”
Charles “The Truth” Foster will bring his dreams into the eight-round bout at 2300 Arena on Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation.” He also will bring three precious words: “KO King Lives.”
The boxing trunks are gold and red and white. They are kind of gaudy and altogether spectacular. The lettering is as bold as the man he honors.
“I had those trunks specially made,” Foster said.
The accident happened in the early hours of Jan. 14 in West Haven, near the intersection of Meloy Road and Baker Street. Luis Rosa’s Honda crossed the center line and crashed into another vehicle heading in the other direction. Luis “KO King” Rosa Jr., an impressive featherweight, would not live to see his 27th birthday on April 27.
“It was five in the morn-
ing when I got a call from Nate Green, a friend of both of ours, and a boxer,” Foster said. “He told me what happened. Luis was gone. I was in shock. I went to the family’s house and spent five, six hours there that morning.”
The ride to Philadelphia on Wednesday night would take fewer than six hours, but the family was there. Luis Rosa Sr. is Foster’s trainer. Marilyn Rosa is his manager. The two founded the Boxing in Faith gym on Grand Avenue in the Fair Haven section of New Haven in 2009. Boxing is their passion. Their boxers are their joy. Luis Jr. was their son. So too, in a real sense, is Foster. He calls Luis Sr. and Marilyn his second set of parents.
“It’s emotional for all of us,” Marilyn said. “For the boxers, they are looking for ways to cope. Some days my husband and I think we’ve come to terms and are saying, ‘OK we have to move forward.’ Then there are days we can’t see out of our eyes because we’ve cried so much.
“We all are continuing to keep his memory alive. That’s the best thing we can do while we try to understand this. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I do know we’ve got to wake up every morning and thank God and say, ‘Lord have your way.’ ”
Foster, who lives in West Haven, first wore those gold trunks into the ring at Mohegan Sun on Feb. 24 when he won the vacant North American Boxing Association title with a unanimous 10-round decision over Justin Thomas. That victory left him 15th in the WBA world rankings.
“My last fight was my first title fight, and when they asked me how I felt afterward I got really emotional,” Foster said.
The night before at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., Soto, a super welterweight, had defeated Ray Oliveira Jr. for the World Boxing Union Canadian American Mexican title. As an amateur, Foster was a four-time Connecticut Golden Gloves winner. He was the 2007 Ringside world silver medalist and national PAL silver medalist. These are guys who have trained and fought together more than a decade — as Foster puts it, they’re a brotherhood.
“The gym was going through a lot of emotion,” Foster said. “Luis’ family is strong, very strong. They went through what they went through, but they kept the gym open. They kept the motor going and told everybody they still had to fight. Luis Sr. was there every day training us, getting us ready, even though something so terrible had happened. We all kept it together.”
Soto wore black trunks with “KO King Lives” embroidered on them. The next night Foster wore them in gold.
“Luis affected all our lives,” Foster said. “I met him when I was 13 years old. We went to all the national tournaments together. We were a brotherhood, me, him and some of the guys.
“His demeanor, his drive for success, his hunger, his confidence in the ring always made him stand out. Boxing depends on your character. One thing I’ll always remember him saying before I’d fight, ‘Never let your opponent be your weakness.’ ”
Murphys Boxing and Ken Casey promotes Foster and he had the opportunity to be the main event on a card that included his younger brother William on April 28 at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Mass. But the national TV slot opened up. Casey, of the Dropkick Murphys, got into boxing promotion a few years ago. Hey, the band has songs about John L. Sullivan and Micky Ward, so maybe there’ll be one about “The Truth” one day. In the meantime, the Foster group shipped off to Philly, not Boston, on Wednesday night.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I need the world to see me on TV,’ ” Foster said. “So I took this fight.”
Foster is 15-0 with eight knockouts. Varmall is 15-0-1 with 12 knockouts. Make no mistake: This is an important non-title fight for Foster.
“Varmall is coming in confident,” Foster said. “He has trained hard. But I’m putting together my game plan and coming out on top. Training is hard with Luis Sr. I’ve trained with him a long, long time. He always switches it up, to make it that much more interesting.
“We want to beat this guy, take his undefeated record and put it under our belt.”
The hope is to use a victory to push into the Top 10 of the world WBA rankings.
“Charles adapts quickly to his opponent, so I’m excited to see how he’ll make the fight his fight,” Marilyn said. “We want to stay undefeated, continue to take on any belt that’s presented to us. Become champion of the world, that’s the ultimate goal for any fighter.”
Marilyn Rosa laughed softly when asked about meeting the 13-year-old Charles Foster.
“He always has been taller than me,” she said. “He was one of my big young guys. He was always well-mannered. He was a little heavier as a young boy. He never thought he could get the weight off. He always felt he wouldn’t be fit and as strong as the other guys.” He was wrong. Charles Foster is strong enough to go 15-0. The truth is he’s strong enough to carry three precious words into the ring. KO King Lives.