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Montana's Olympic boxer Todd Foster recounts his life in new biography

Todd "Kid" Foster won the hearts of Montanans when he boxed his way onto the 1988 Olympic team. Even though he didn't win a medal in Seoul, he was treated to a hero's parade through downtown Great Falls upon his return.

Throughout a subsequent nine-year professional career, Foster gave state residents their first professional title hopeful since Ronan's Marvin Camel won the world cruiserweight championship in 1980.

Now there's an authorized autobiography that documents Foster's boxing career, which began when a third-grade classmate asked the then 8-year-old, 52-pounder if he wanted to join the boxing team.

During the tryout, he knocked down his young opponent and was immediately hooked on the sport.

"I think he actually slipped," Foster said, laughing. "It kind of went to my head and I just loved it and I stuck with it."

And stick with it he did, compiling an amateur record of 200-19 including a loss at the Olympics to Australian boxer Grahame Cheney, which dropped him out of medal contention.

Before facing Cheney, Foster was forced to twice fight Chun Jin Chul, after judges ruled he'd knocked the fighter to the mat after the Korean dropped his hands thinking that a bell from another ring signaled the end of the round.

After hours of negotiations, the bout was ruled a no-contest, forcing Foster back into the ring several hours later.

While he knocked out Chul in the opening round, Foster later admitted that the second fight took more out of him than he realized.

With weak legs and a queasy stomach, he next lost the quarter-final decision to Cheney.

The judge's decision forever left a bad taste in the mouth of the optimistic American Olympian.

"I hate to talk about people that way, but 90 percent of the judges out there are incompetent," he said. "They think they know it all because they're a judge. I hate to badmouth people, but that's just the way I feel."

"What happened to me at the Olympics doesn't ruin the feeling that I have about being an Olympic boxer," said Foster. "I feel like I got the short end of the stick, but it's something that happened. It's in the past and I've moved on."

Foster's professional career saw him win 34 of 45 fights by knockout. Overall, he compiled a 41-4 record, but he counts the Olympic qualifier against Charles Murray in Las Vegas as his most significant victory.

"That put me on the Olympic team," he said. "It changed my whole life. It's something you can never put into words about what it does to you."

"It was so weird. I left for Seoul a good boxer and a good person and I came home a hero, a celebrity. … I couldn't believe it. Things were going crazy."

After several key fights and extensive prime-time television coverage, Foster was knocked out in the fourth round of a scheduled 12-round bout by former WBC lightweight and super featherweight champion Hector "Macho" Camacho in Atlantic City, N.J., in January 1995.

The match, for the vacant International Boxing Council's welterweight championship, prompted a disappointed Foster to retire.

But that wasn't to be the end of his professional career.

In 1996, although he'd accomplished most of his goals - he'd won several national titles and a National Golden Gloves Championship and had made the Olympic team - he'd failed to win a world championship, so Foster staged a comeback.

"It was something that I wanted to do," he said. "I set goals for myself and you try your best to try and achieve them."

But even after compiling an 8-0 mark on the comeback trail, Foster decided it was time to pull the plug and retired for good in January 1998.

"I gave it my best shot," he said. "I just had to look at myself and start thinking about the future and not so much at the present."

"You can't get into boxing shape unless you dedicate yourself to just boxing and take care of yourself and I wasn't taking care of myself," said Foster. "It felt like it didn't really mean that much to me, so I didn't do it anymore."

He admits professional boxing was a difficult gig, not only in the ring, but outside the ropes.

"It's a tough way to make a living," said Foster, now 33. "It's a tough game and a tough life to live."

Foster now works for a bricklayer.

He is excited about the softcover book, "Memoirs of a Champion," written by Darline McKnight and published by Jacobus Publishing of Missoula.

"Everybody wants a book written about them," he said.

A boxing exercise video also is due to be released this spring.

"It's the best workout that you can get. A boxer is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the world," he said.

But the video is meant for exercise enthusiasts, not for boxers.

"It a whole big thing when you start getting in shape and feel better about yourself," he said. "I think that is what it's all about."

Gregarious and friendly outside of the ring, Foster makes no bones about the fact he'd like to make an easier life for himself and his two sons, Tyce and Austin.

"He's quite an inspiration to kids," said McKnight, the book's author. "There was none of the drugs and alcohol. … This young man inspired so much."

Divorced from Joely, the mother of his boys, and remarried to Shannon, Foster carries the state's banner with pride and dignity.

"He's the picture of family and community," said McKnight. "He's that All-American boy. I think he's a great role model."

Reporter Mick Holien can be contacted at 523-5262 or at mholien@missoulian.com.

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